Saturday, October 22, 2011

Acknowledging Accomplishments

Yesterday, Jeffe Kennedy had an interesting post at her blog.  And in it, she says something that's been knocking around in my head ever since.  After talking about a conference for female scientists, she points out "Every single woman was attributing her success to chance."

You ever read one of those statements that just sits in your head swirling around not letting you go.  Like something important is in those words - you just have to figure out what it is and it'll be a watershed moment.

So, I sat for probably a half hour, wording and re-wording a comment to that post.  Trying to figure out exactly what it was I wanted to say that would contribute to the conversation in some meaningful way.  If you went over and read the post, you'll notice I never did post a comment*.  In the end, I had nothing.

Well, that's not exactly true.  I had too much to say and not enough.  On the one hand, certain aspects of our culture tell us we shouldn't brag.  Pride is a sin, after all.  (Not something I believe on any conscious level, but it's ingrained in my psyche just like everyone else's.)  And women, in particular, are taught not to run around shouting about our achievements.

"That's a lovely dress."  "Oh, this old thing?  I just threw it on."

"This dinner tastes great."  "Thanks, but I think I put too much salt in it."

"You've just discovered cold fusion, how does it feel?"  "That?  That was nothing. I just happened upon it by accident one afternoon when I was baking."

Bleh.  What the hell is wrong with us? 

Sure, bragging makes you come off as a bitch, but can't there be some happy middle ground between being a braggart and being satisfied with your accomplishments?

Have we sunk so far as a society that we can't just be happy for someone's accomplishments?  Can we get past this?  So when Derek Jeter hits another home run, he's just an awesome ball player and not a show off.  (Not sure if anyone actually thinks this, but it's an example.)  So when Bill Gates hits the Forbes list of richest people ever - again - we don't rush around saying how much we hate him.  So when little Suzie nabs the Valedictorian spot, we don't claim her accomplishment makes the other children feel bad about themselves.

I don't know the answer.  I know I'm as guilty as anyone of downplaying my accomplishments.  I do the 'oh this old thing' when someone tells me I look nice.  I also criticize my cooking every time my poor husband complements me on it.

And when I think about the twelve books I've written in the past 7 years, all I can focus on is the fact that none of them are published.  In fact, even now, writing this, I want to forget the long hours I put in on every single one of those, tuck my tail between my legs and apologize for not 'making it'.

How much do you want to bet that when I finally do land an agent and get a contract, I'll be telling everyone how 'lucky' I was?  Or how it was just chance?

I said it before and I'll say it again... Bleh.  What the hell is wrong with us?

I say we throw off the shroud and at least acknowledge our accomplishments.  For petesakes, we earned at least that much.  It won't be easy - not by a long shot - but maybe if we start today, our daughters will be better able to hold their heads high and say to the world "I did this and I'm damn proud of it."

Your turn.  Tell me about something you accomplished.  No apologies allowed.  No qualifiers.  Just say it.

I'll start... I wrote twelve books in the last seven years.

What did you do?

*I commented this morning after I posted this.


  1. This response is way better than a comment, B.E.! That was how the conversation went at the conference - encouraging each other to own our accomplishments. I think this is a great idea!

    Twelve books is AMAZING - look at you!

  2. Thank, Jeffe. I'm glad I could contribute to the conversation, even though I wasn't there. =o)

    The really stupid thing is that I have an overwhelming urge to qualify the 12 books thing with 'but some of them I never edited and none of them are published and...' It's sad, really.

  3. I've written six books and have enjoyed working on each one of them, but I don't feel that I've achieved anything because they're not published. I agree that we do firget our achievements, I should really concentrate a little more on what I have achieved, rather than on what I haven't.

  4. I'll be the first to say that my success has a great deal of luck involved. On the other hand I did work my butt off. Wasn't it Edna Mode that said "Luck favors the prepared?" Women are definitely prone to downplaying their successes though.

  5. Awesome post! You are right, we downplay things too much. Hmmm, accomplishments... the last semester of my undergrad I finished while working full time and with a 7-year-old son.