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 on
was 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 helped
me 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 me
in 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.

 

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