Praise IS better than Prozac!
The greatest praise you can give an author is to engage with them, in their books. I have been meaning to ask you, “What do you think about books and how we interact with them? Do you “own” your own books?”
It seems to me that every book needs to be owned – its margins written in and phrases underlined. At first, the idea of ‘defacing’ a book by adding your own thoughts to it might shock you, but there is nothing so sad as a book that isn’t loved, owned and cherished! (unless it belongs to your local library, of course – or the school or your best friend, or … well, you get the idea.)
In between flights in Sydney a few years ago, a chance purchase of Susan Mitchell’s book “Be Bold! and Discover the Power of Praise” has proven to be one of those casual moments that changes your life. It has gems of fabulous advice on raising the self-esteem of children and adults. It is full of brilliant, inspiring ideas and practical ways on how to make yourself and those around you feel good – for a lifetime. It is a book that has become a friend.
Every person you know (and you, too) has a ‘down day’ or two – when it is so easy to find nothing that makes you feel happy or worthwhile. And without an intense effort to change those feelings, they can lead to real mental pain and anguish. Indeed, the spectre of mental depression walks with all of us, throughout our lives – sometimes just a nearby shadow, sometimes enveloping us.
When the topics of depression, mental illness and suicide are in all the media, there are usually few reports of ways to achieve positive outcomes in life. With the tragic losses in the floods in Queensland, and remembering the loss of my daughter Annette, it was making ME feel so depressed, I just had to write about this!
The power of praise is one of the most positive attributes of personal relationships – including the one we have with ourselves. Being generous with praise is a great gift to have. It speaks well of the giver – even while they need praise themselves. Generous, regular helpings of praise are a powerful way to build self-esteem and self-reliance in those we love and ourselves. Recognition of achievements, big and small, is praise of the highest order and should be given often.
Susan Mitchell writes: “Praise is better than Prozac.” She says “you cannot praise a child too much or encourage them too much. This does not mean that you do not balance this with honest feed back, but it should always be framed in a positive way.” It is okay to recognise your own success, too. Like the comment I have scribbled on the bottom of page 62 “lying curled up under a pepper tree in Como is NOT the same as lying on the beach at Club Med.”
Humour, recalling personal moments of joy and encouraging risk taking to achieve a goal are all ways of giving praise. My handwritten margin notes say “Praise is unsolicited and unexpected – but it is deserved.” This begs the question – why are we so stinting with praise? Is it our own lack of self-esteem that makes us so uncomfortable in telling others how good they are? How well we think they are doing? How much we admire what they achieve?
As Susan Mitchell questions: Is it because we raise our own children with the same conflicting messages we were taught? “Self praise is no recommendation” vs “There’s no point in hiding your light under a bushel.” and “Don’t sing your own praises” vs “If you don’t believe in yourself no-one else will.”
Dr. Dale Carnegie believes that we all crave praise, recognition and appreciation almost as much as we crave food. This craving can make us feel guilty about wanting and needing to be praised. So, we may feel uncomfortable, even jealous, when we help fulfil the needs of others while we are starving from the lack of our own personal praise.
Marianne Williamson said, “We ask ourselves ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Praise is not the tool that leads to prima donnas and spoilt brats – because praise is offered with love, consideration and a genuine desire to encourage and support. Praise is not flattery that deceives and manipulates. Praise does not pander to self-opinionated, overblown egos, because it uplifts and builds those who need it. Self-confidence is a great attribute to help build in those for whom we truly care and in ourselves.
Like Erica Jong, I love being an assertive, uppity woman. Erica asks, “what’s the alternative? The alternative is being depressed…..” So small a thing as a smile is a gift of praise you bestow upon those you meet. Assertive, uppity women smile a lot. When you visit Stories My Nana Tells recognise our achievements and smile. Praise this assertive, uppity woman – who will praise you by smiling back.
Sharing is a form of praise – for you are telling your friends that they are worthy. Worthy of your thoughts, your caring, your attention. So, please, share this with your friends. Feel free to write in the margins, too.
Footnote: Marianne Williamson’s wonderful speech has many times been attributed to Nelson Mandela. In her praise, let’s put the record straight. Acknowledgement by Nelson Mandela
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