The Musings of an Elective Orphan

Sarah Brandis

The Praise Paradox

One of the awesome things about being an Elective Orphan is my unique view of the world.  One of the crappiest things about being an Elective Orphan is also my unique view of the world.  Some ‘normal’ things just look and feel alien to me.  With this in mind, I have decided that for me praise is a paradox.  It is something that I both crave, but also cannot accept, in fairly equal measures.

I have been aware for a long time that I do not celebrate my victories.  When I crossed the finish line at the New York Marathon, I didn’t feel good.  I felt terrible that I didn’t finish faster.  I didn’t feel any better until I had signed up for my next marathon – to make amends for my perceived failure.  I do realise this is ludicrous.  But this is how things work in my head.

As someone who lacked typical parenting in childhood, I never received any praise for a job done.  My ‘parents’ were not proud of me, and not supportive of my efforts.  It stands to reason that I learned I wouldn’t ever get praise.  So it feels weird when I do get it.  But I want it.  I go out of my way to get it.  And then I can’t stomach it when someone says “well done” – I suppose I feel a bit like I’ve done something wrong, not something right.


My counsellor noticed that when I talk about my achievements, I skip over them quickly as if almost ashamed of them.  On one hand, I want the person I’m talking with to just know that I have done these things.  Whether it is finishing a marathon, or more recently, completing my degree, I just want these things known about (look – I’m doing it right now!).  I think this is because I define my self-worth through my accomplishments.  As a child I wasn’t worthy of the air I breathed, so as an adult I make sure I am worthy through my actions.

I am coaching myself on this.  I know that I need to learn to celebrate victories, not punish myself for them not being bigger victories.  Is this the root of perfectionism I wonder?  Is this how people drive themselves crazy through workaholism?

OK, I think I’ve said my piece here.  Time to press the publish button and celebrate…



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This entry was posted on July 15, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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