Opinion: Celebrating the little victories

Christina Bucciere is a senior journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

Christina Bucciere

As a wise man once said, “Why give yourself a pat on the back when you can give yourself a punch in the face?” That wise man was my dad, and his glib analysis of the typical type-A personality put my attitude in perspective.

Let me give you some context. I had just cried in front of a room full of aspiring prosthetists who were grilling me about my limb-loss story. This was the exact opposite of the impression I wanted to make. I wanted to be strong, to show them my “I-am woman-hear-me-roar-blah-blah-blah” attitude about life. But instead, I cried like a newborn and made a lame joke about how bad my “allergies” had been acting up. The joke was well-received, but I’m fairly certain they just felt bad for me and might have been mildly concerned for my mental health.

It had been two years since I got sick. I wasn’t supposed to have any tears left. Well, I certainly proved that theory wrong at the conference and on the way home in my dad’s car. My dad tried to explain to me the tears were actually a good thing for the aspiring physicians to see. “It will help them understand the human aspect of their patients’ struggles,” he said consolingly.

But embarrassment is a powerful emotion, and I was quick to shut down any protestations of the fact that I had just humiliated myself in front of nearly 100 people. And now, I thought, they’re probably creating mocking hashtags in my honor. I could practically see it: #getagripchristina, or perhaps #crybabycentral.

But then my dad laid that little gem on me about the typicality of my reaction. He was so right. When I fail, I fall down a tunnel of complete devastation. But even when I succeed, and in retrospect this scenario was a success in a twisted sort of way, I would much rather give myself a nice punch in the face than a pat on the back because, to me, nothing is ever good enough.

This was one of those moments where you can feel a shift, the proverbial “click” that causes you to change instantaneously.

This is the moment I started to pat myself on the back more. My nose needed a break. Every day is filled with a combination of successes and failures, but I made the mistake of looking at them through a wide lens. I viewed my successes in a larger context than necessary, comparing them to previous successes to see how it stacked up. Were they successes? Maybe. But I could have done better here, so really it’s a failure dressed in a success disguise. This is my brain. This was not working.

I think it is important to be honest with ourselves about areas in which we could improve. We all have room to grow, and we should be able to recognize our progress areas. We learn from our failures, so of course we shouldn’t pretend they don’t exist. But we limit our ability to progress if we consistently wallow in our shortcomings. Creating a balance between identifying our problem areas and allowing ourselves to be proud of our victories is essential to personal development and personal happiness, of which we all could use a little more.

So, maybe you didn’t ace the test. Recognize that, make note of the areas in need of better understanding. But instead of punching yourself in the face for every incorrect answer, maybe this time give yourself a pat on the back for every answer you got right. Maybe you ate five cookies. Identify this as a poor eating habit and commit to making better choices in the future, but instead of breaking your nose another five times, give yourself five pats on the back for not going for that sixth cookie you were seriously considering. This may be a personal example.

It’s these little victories that deserve their proper respect. Because they are just that, little victories in a day filled with mistakes, problems and bad choices. What we need to remember, however, is that we’re human. Those mistakes are inevitable. But those successes are inevitable, too.