It’s been a while since I wrote something deeply personal so I figured I should output some pondering I’ve been doing.
The concept of self-worth is sometimes not apparent to ourselves unless it is made clear by outside entities. To say that in english: Compliments make us feel valuable, necessary and validated. This is all the more necessary when you are somewhat self-depreciating and are skeptical of praise coming from people who have no idea about what they are complimenting you on.
For example, when the average person tells a painter they like their work, the painter will most likely thank them but wonder what it was that they liked about it. Were they impressed with the subtle references to the great works of Picasso? Did they think it was a daring venture from their previous conservative works? Or did they just think it was “pretty”? All are valid reason for sure, but if that same comment came from the curator of the museum, I believe it would carry more weight.
This is even more relevant when you deal with technology related projects. Once you have left the domain where the average person can even comprehend what you are doing, praise is going to ring hollow. If you look at my CPU I designed last term for EE476 you will most likely not even know it was a CPU unless I told you. It’s just 10 files of code that is about 1000 lines all told. When you simulate it on the computer, you see a bunch of lines that look similar to those seen on heart monitoring machines. It’s like that scene in the Matrix where Neo talks to Cypher as he “watches” the Matrix from the real world. Neo only sees the green characters scrolling down and Cypher says that once you get used to it, you can see past the code and see “a blonde, a redhead and a brunette.” I wish I saw that in my code, but I do see the functions of the CPU in some level of detail. I look at my friends’ code and I see their work come alive. When other people see it, I get comments like, “… uh… That’s cool, I guess…” It’s nice to hear an honest comment. 😉
What I’m getting at is, I wish I could get some approval for my efforts besides a hollow grade. Sometimes I wish I had gone into arts where I could flex my witty prose machine and get some verbal praise from people that know what I’m talking about. This doesn’t exist in engineering. At least, not in my field of it.
Where does this desperate seeking of approval derive from? I wasn’t sure for a while. I thought it was just a tick of mine for the longest time and I can still argue that to be true. But beneath that, there must be something which caused that tick to manifest itself. I believe this to be the loss of my mother. She was the encourager and the motivator for my early works. I remember playing a song I wrote on the guitar for her one night. She said, “Well, you have become quite the little musician haven’t you? I’m very impressed.” I felt fuzzy for a week.
Sometimes I would sit in my room on my computer and listen to her on the phone. I would strain to hear when she began to discuss me in any fashion. My belief is that whatever people say about you when they don’t know you are there is the honest, unguarded truth. This kind of praise is the kind that can move mountains in a person’s soul. (Or destroy people forever if negative… but that didn’t happen in this case.)
The other kind of Golden Praise that can inspire a somewhat down person is random encouragement. The kind that can be bestowed on you by a complete stranger. Last week some guy stumbled onto my blog and was genuinely impressed with my writing. Not content with simply posting a comment saying, “U = roX0r” like Pie Man tends to do sometimes *wink*, the guy adds me to his MSN and lets me know “in person.” In person of course meaning real time rather than a static post. It made me want to write more. Like I am… right now… Strange…
Now I don’t mean for this post to shame people into false praise. This is just something about myself that I wanted to say somewhere. I also wonder if others feel the same way in their lives. Like we are all walking by each other seeking others approval unable to realize we are withholding it from others. It could be enough to keep them from giving up something they are gifted in.