10. 2. 2022

English Version | Self-Celebration: Fire(works)

by Sara Andrade


Works, meaning, we have to work on it: we don't need much to smoke out the celebration of ourselves, just need to do it more often.

What do you mean, we don't celebrate our accomplishments? Of course we do: we sigh with relief that that task is done and move on to the next item on our to-do list. Spoiler alert: this is not celebrating – at best, it deserves an encouraging pat on the back. We live in fast-forward mode, we make excuses for not taking the necessary pause to pamper ourselves, claiming that we don't have the time, that victories are part of the job description, or that there are no extraordinary feats te be praised. This film stops here. Especially because celebrating ourselves has positive effects on our health and well-being, and everyone knows that this affects all spheres of life, both personal and professional. So why are we still reluctant to applaud ourselves and our accomplishments? “Firstly, because we are not educated for self-recognition and self-worth, but for self-judgment and self-questioning”, explains Filipa Jardim da Silva, a clinical psychologist with an enviable background in coaching. “A child, when is well behaved, doesn't get feedback from his parents and caregivers at school. However, when he does something that doesn't meet the expectations of the adults around him, is immediately reprimanded. This shows that our focus is usually on what doesn't go well. Thus, we learn to be critical in a destructive way, pointing out failures and errors, often without making a bridge to the learning that is hidden in them, and we don't nurture the habit of praising ourselves, recognizing merits and overcomings”, she adds.

If we add to that the fact that we live in an era that seems to have only one speed – high speed –, in which time-saving technology simultaneously adds items to the to-do list and instills in us a sense of constant competition, a society in which when we say we've won the silver, someone asks us why not the gold, a time when conquering one goal is, after all, just a pitstop to move on to the next, it's easy to see why these moments of self-congratulation don't happen often. “One of the factors that makes self-deserving difficult is precisely permanent dissatisfaction and a dominant autopilot”, warns Filipa. “We live to define new goals and as soon as we conquer one objective we jump to the definition of the next one, devaluing what has been achieved, trivializing this achievement. We compare ourselves with each other and, at times, the goals set are to prove to the world around us our value, and not exactly for us. This pattern tends to generate a life that is out of alignment with our values ​​and strengths and weakens psychological well-being. Some anxiety and mood disorders set in when there is no sense of competence and personal worth.” Which, in extreme situations, can lead to burnout: “The main ingredient that generates a condition of burnout is precisely the absence of limits and self-care. When we merge with doing, no matter how exciting and satisfying the activities we are involved in, there is a brain and a body that lack other needs, such as pleasure, guilt-free leisure, socialization and quality rest.” , she warns. “The non-fulfillment of these needs and the non-protection of the personal dimension generate physical and mental illness. We are not just doers of things, we are human beings who need to be and to feel, not just to do. Most people rest in the little time they have after doing everything they think they have to do. Most people prioritize obligations to others and neglect time with themselves. Most people put tasks and appointments with others on their agenda, and nothing of the personal dimension. This leads to a life that is filled and at the same time empty in what is core: self-care.”

Self-care  is, in fact, closely linked to the idea of ​​celebrating ourselves, as is self-love. But while they are all essential, they are not the same thing. “Celebrating our achievements is a component of self-love and self-care. They are interconnected, but not synonymous. Self-love is the ability to appreciate ourselves as we are, in overcoming and failing. Self-care defines the set of practices that supply our physical and psychological needs.” It is no wonder that, after so much talk about self-love and self-care, self-celebration is a term with its own dimension: Sarah Powell, motivational speaker, created the Celebrate Yourself movement because, according to her, we should “celebrate the person we are now, not our future self or the one we would like to be” – associating the concept of self-celebration with the idea of ​​acceptance and gratitude, that is, applauding the self of the moment, without demanding too much of ourselves. A kind of carpe diem of our personality, which ends up acting as if we have a cheerleading, or a fan club, all the time, inside us. The results pay off. When we take the time to recognize each enjoyable or challenging achievement, we create a barrier against negativism and, as a result, we gain resilience. “Researchers have identified that we are all motivated by three universal psychological needs: competence, relationship and autonomy”, says Filipa Jardim da Silva. “When satisfied, these three needs enhance self-motivation. But when emptied, they lead to a decrease in motivation and well-being. According to this motivational theory (self-determination theory), a person is able to update his or her potential when a social context satisfies these essential psychological needs. Thus, by celebrating our small and large achievements, we reinforce the need for competence and autonomy. When we relate to ourselves with self-compassion and respect, we become more capable of creating connections with others of higher quality, based also on respect and admiration and not on comparison and competition. The way we put captions on a daily basis determines our quality of life and our chemical balance.”

But it's not always so. “When we spend our days criticizing ourselves, we deplete our levels of dopamine and serotonin and that will necessarily translate into a more depressed mood. When we spend our days racing against the clock, with the feeling that we never do enough or that we are always lacking, we favor the release of cortisol, which will tend to weaken our immune system and potentiate states of greater anxiety. Thus, the ability we have to practice gratitude for who we are and to recognize our small and large overcomings and daily learning, is crucial for our psychological health”. And you don't have to wait for big occasions, everything can be celebrated, guarantees the psychologist. “When we turn failures into opportunities for growth and celebrate each mistake as each success, both as sources of development, we become more confident, more capable of taking risks and above all more available to engage in activities with more focus and less ego. This confidence, audacity and focus tend to be attractive to others and also to positively influence our performance. That is why it is natural that, in social and professional circles, people who trust themselves, who are not afraid to make mistakes and who live focused on their journey without permanently connected 'comparometers', are more attractive, more admired and therefore attract more people. and also more professional opportunities.”

Having established (or reminded of) its importance, how do we put this concept of self-celebration into practice? Talking is easy. And doing it is also easy: it's obvious that you can celebrate something in a traditional way, with those who are close to you, but it is just as valid to do as something that you do for yourself. The first step is to identify the moment, what you are proud of, what you have achieved, what you consider a victory. The next thing is to get out of your rut, even for a few minutes, to acknowledge it and, finally, to celebrate it – either through a silent acknowledgment, or by doing something as sort of a reward, like a toast, an indulgence, a virtual high-five... Filipa Jardim da Silva agrees: “We can put this celebration of the self into practice, which doesn't literally imply a party, in moments of self-observation, in which we allow ourselves to recognize what is present, what we have just achieved and mentally notice it; in moments when we practice gratitude, taking a moment at the end of the day to give thanks for two or three things in our life; in moments of outcome of the day, when we identify something we were good at and something we were not so good at and what we can learn from that. We can practice this celebration of self with an inner dialogue, lead by respecting ourselves and not being judgmental and aggressive. We can practice this celebration in moments of self-care when we pamper ourselves, when we pause to rescue ourselves from autopilot, in surprises that we make ourselves.”

The most important thing, she emphasizes, is to take into account that “celebrating the self implies making mental and physical space for ourselves. To see ourselves in perspective, to know ourselves, take care of ourselves, feel ourselves, to be and exist fully.” Which is not to be confused with self-centeredness, which is one of the reasons why we are often reluctant to applaud ourselves because we think others might assume we are cocky. “Culturally, our society also doesn't reward recognition and self-worth. Someone who starts talking about their achievements is quickly criticized as being conceited. Someone who shares one's struggles is supported. This shows how Judeo-Christian influences, in which humility is confused with punishment, are still very rooted in our education and functioning”, points out the psychologist. But there are nuances that differentiate one thing from another: “When we celebrate our achievements and our strengths, without reducing ourselves to them or elevating ourselves in relation to others, we are maintaining self-celebration in a positive and healthy dimension”, she argues, distinguishing the self-celebration of this idea of ​​arrogance. “Just as we're not our failures, we are not our successes either. Differentiating our identity from our performance is critical.”

We already know the why and the how, it is important to note the where, because, more than ever, we live in a world that demands this kind of celebration. Stress and technological advances “have clouded this predisposition to not celebrate even more so, because for two years we have been in a state of alert, with permanent tension, at whatever level, at least the vast majority of us”, points out Filipa Jardim da Silva. “Two years in which our freedom was conditioned, in which a set of automatic movements and habits were relearned and conditioned, in which physical affection became synonymous of danger. Of course, this conditions our willingness to look at the glass half full, because we are always on the lookout for the next potential danger, the next routine change that will occur, the next loss that will arise. Interestingly, this pandemic is also an opportunity to humbly embrace the vulnerability of life and to become aware that from our earthly experience we do not take things, but experiences, so our health is the most precious asset we have.” And to maintain that health, no prescription is needed, just self-celebration. Because it just depends on our predisposition, it just depends on putting your mind in the right place, from an early age: “celebrating the self is waking up every day grateful for [being] who you are and for what you have, with a heart and mind open to challenges and opportunities of each day, with a focus and commitment to acting in line with who we are and what we want to be. For this, it is necessary to ensure internal dialogue and self-observation with quality attention. Celebrating the self is, in a simple way, ensuring space to be and feel in everyday life and not just collapse into doing and having.”

Originally translated from the Celebrate Yourself issue of Vogue Portugal, published February 2022.
Full story and credits on the print issue.