Missing: Sense of Accomplishment

I want to be proud of the things I do well. I should be proud of my accomplishments. We all should, big and small. I have this bad habit discounting the positives. I dwell on the negatives and sweep my accomplishments under the rug, like they don’t count. I always regret it later, much later. Like my M.Sc. for instance. I graduated in 2010. My parents had to drag me to my graduation, I didn’t treat myself at all and I refused to let anyone throw me a party. Isn’t part of being happy savouring the good moments and being proud of yourself? Shouldn’t I at least be celebrating the positives as much as I beat myself up over the mistakes? I regret not celebrating my Master’s degree now. Looking back, it was a big mile stone, but at the time, I felt like I didn’t deserve the celebration.

Last week, I found out that I was awarded a research fellowship from the Quebec government. I was thinking I’m going to do better this time. I got an award, I’m going to be proud of myself and celebrate the accomplishment. At first, I felt relieved. Getting this fellowship meant getting a salary. Things have been difficult financially over the last year while I’ve been in school without an income. This fellowship will give us some breathing room. I thought maybe after the financial stress had lifted a bit, I’d feel proud of myself. I’ve been going through the motions, doing the things you are supposed to do when something good happens. I told all the important people in my life instead of waiting for them to drag it out of me. I’ve posted my good news on my blog and on Twitter. I’ve accepted congratulations from many people and flowers from my supervisor. My husband and I got a giant cupcake over the weekend to celebrate. I feel empty though. I’m missing that sense of accomplishment. I don’t understand why. I’m wondering if my sense of accomplishment is being overshadowed by negative emotions….like stress, anger and frustration.

I think an achievement causes me stress because it raises the bar. When expectations become too high, dissatisfaction sets in. There is more room for failure. It’s probably part of my perfectionist attitude too, nothing is ever good enough. Now that I have a fellowship, it is expected that my research will go forward without a hitch, that I will find something of note and obtain my Ph.D. What if that’s not what happens? What if all I do is prove my hypothesis wrong?

Also, I am angry and frustrated at myself for not getting this fellowship sooner. Since I’ve got it now, I know that I’m capable, why didn’t I work harder to get it sooner. I applied in 2012 and 2013 and did not get the award. This year was my last year to be eligible. If I had gotten it sooner, I would have been funded for longer.

So instead of feeling pride, I’m stressed and mad at myself. Does this make any sense? Does anyone else ever feel this way?

I thought for sure by telling people and taking the time to celebrate would make me feel good about it, but….nothing. It’s like I’m waiting for something in order to be happy, seeking approval or something. Reading this over, it’s starting to sound familiar. Isn’t seeking external approval for relief of that empty feeling a characteristic of low self-esteem?  Like self-esteem, I think pride or feeling accomplished has to come from within. Acknowledgment from others can reinforce the emotion, but if that feeling is not created by you in the first place, the acknowledgement seems empty. It’s looking like my low self-esteem is the root of a lot of my mental health problems.

Starting now, I’m going to make working on my self-esteem a priority.


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