Positive feedback and forgiveness are often two sides of the same coin.
I once missed a deadline by a couple of days and was extremely hard on myself—even by my self-exacting standards. “Why couldnʼt you get your act together?” a nagging inner voice demanded, even though the job had turned out to be more complex than Iʼd originally anticipated.
I had been working 14-hour days and delivered a top-notch project that received accolades—but all I could focus onwas the fact it ran over by a few days! Why the barrage of self-criticism? Why couldnʼt I forgive myself for being a human with flaws? It was then that I had a sort of epiphany, and that harsh internal voice became softer: “You would never berate one of your friends with as much severity as youʼre inflicting on yourself.” In short, I wasnʼt being a very good friend to myself.
I stopped the car and said out loud, “Itʼs OK.”
I share this story because it revealed to me how forgiving oneself can have an instant healing power. It also helpedme remember the power of the small gesture, not only toward myself but toward others. Much like recognizing a good deed, the simple act of acknowledging another person in a way that feels genuine can have tremendous power.
A small, positive gesture might just be a casual remark you make to someone that turns out being more impactful than you ever imagined—the “thank you” offered to the bus driver that costs you nothing but rewards him richly. Offering a cold drink to your mail carrier on a sweltering day; telling a cab driver off-handedly that you could never remember all the street names the way she does; even taking the time to read the name tag of a clerk who is helping you, so you can thank them by name, can make your “thank you” feel much more personal.
Sometimes a handwritten note or card to a coworker does the trick—the handwritten element being especially meaningful in our digital age. Acknowledging a contribution made by someone youʼre not exactly on good terms with can be particularly challenging, because sometimes you need to forgive their bad behavior before appreciating the good. Iʼve noticed that the more I forgive peopleʼs shortcomings and acknowledge those around me in ways that feel sincere, itʼs been easier to treat myself the same way.
Offering kind words and gestures to ourselves and others is equally important. I used to be the kind of person who deflected compliments, embarrassed. These days I accept kind words more graciously. Receiving a simple “thinking of you” by text message from a close friend who knows Iʼm going through a rough patch has been more meaningful to mein ways that no expensive gift ever has.
If we all know how good it feels to receive praise, why donʼt we dole it out in more liberal quantities? Be mindful of this in your daily interactions with family, colleagues and people you meet by chance. Smile kindly; pay someone a compliment.
You never know how much it might mean to them.
Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America has sponsored Ask the Expert posts for informational purposes only. Many of the experts are unaffiliated with Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, College Retirement Equities Fund, and their affiliates and subsidiaries (collectively TIAA), and TIAA makes no representations regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information on the posts or otherwise made available by the experts. Statements of external featured experts are solely their own and are not endorsed or recommended by TIAA.
Responses from experts to questions posed by Woman2Woman community members are intentionally general in nature and are not intended to give personal, financial, or specific advice. Some strategies are complex, and more information is often needed to determine the personal needs of a community member. We strongly recommend that you consult with a financial advisor before taking any action based on an expert’s opinion or other information you obtain from the Woman2Woman:Financial Living site so that all of your personal circumstances can be taken into consideration. Participation in the site does not render the member a client of the expert or of TIAA. This site is not designed to accept or respond to requests or complaints regarding specific TIAA accounts, products or services. If you wish to discuss an issue of that nature, please contact TIAA at 800 842-2252. TIAA is not responsible for any opinions provided by members of this site. TIAA is not responsible for the content or privacy policies of third-party sites to which you may link.
Any tax information provided is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, to avoid possible tax penalties. It was written to promote the products and services discussed. TIAA and its representatives do not offer tax or legal advice. You should consult an independent tax or legal advisor for advice based on your own particular circumstances. The material is for informational purposes only and should not be regarded as a recommendation or an offer to buy or sell any product or service to which this information may relate. Certain products and services may not be available toall entities or persons.
Investment, insurance and annuity products are not FDIC insured, are not bank guaranteed, are not deposits, are not insured by any federal government agency, are not acondition to any banking service or activity, and may lose value.
Experts may not have medical or scientific training. Any information related to physical or emotional health is not intended to be used in place of aconsultation with a physician.
TIAA is not responsible for the statements of community members. We may link toposts made by community members only to direct you to topics that may be of interest to you. This does not mean that we agree with the opinions of these community members. Their statements are solely their own and are not endorsedor recommended by TIAA. TIAA-CREFIndividual & Institutional Services, LLC, Teachers Personal InvestorsServices, Inc., and Nuveen Securities, LLC, Members FINRA and SIPC, distributesecurities products.
© 2016 and prior years, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America - College Retirement Equities Fund, New York, NY 10017