One of my 7th graders asked me the above question this week.
Their daily journal prompt was to list 5-10 positive traits about themselves. This wasn’t necessarily things they were “good at,” I told them, but it could include those. I continued that the turn of the Jewish New Year necessitates that we look at the places we’ve done harm in the last year and the ways that we want to improve, but sometimes we can get stuck there in “what’s wrong with us,” so the prompt was intended to balance out those scales of self-appraisal.
When my student approached my desk during the 5-minute writing time and asked the above question, firstly I taught him the word ‘immodest,’ and then said, “That is a great question, and let’s talk about it as a class.” So we did.
We had a great discussion. The writing on the board, as seen in the above photo, was generated from their own comments and from my own opinions/perspective:
- Is doing this activity being immodest?
- Am I being “bad” by considering my positive traits?
- Do I only improve by marking mistakes?
- Can I improve by honoring my achievements?
We answered these questions with a few notations:
- It’s not saying, “I’m better”; it’s saying, “I am.”
- Humility = Being right-sized; an honest fair look includes the positive!
I am so proud of my students for this discussion and for bringing to light the darkness within which we shroud achievement.
As I wrote about last week, my Goals Group’s question of the week was, “How will I reward achievement?” and, frankly, we group of 4 bad-ass women had a complex time attaining an answer!
What we generally and individually came to was that we would reward our achievements with self-acknowledgement. None of us truly needed or wanted an extra bauble or scoop; that’s not really what makes us feel acknowledged or seen. What we really wanted was, simply, to feel acknowledged and seen!
And one way to accomplish this is to feel proud of ourselves.
I wrote previously that I was going to start allowing myself to say, “I’m proud of you,” without dampening it with self-doubt, derision, or some twisted notion of humility that breeds self-flagellation. And, strangely, I have begun to say it to myself.
I did laundry and put my sheets back on the bed (instead of sleeping on the mattress pad next to the clean sheets, as I have been known to do): Molly, I’m proud of you.
I ordered a replacement toiletry item (instead of waiting for it to run out and scrambling): Nice, Mol, proud of you.
I sent two blog posts/essays to magazine and newspaper publishers: Jesus bloody Christ, Mol!! I’m proud of you!
Eek. This feeling of pride in my achievements — of self-love, really — is a newfound one. As I texted my friend about it yesterday: “Frankly, it makes my heart feel denser—uncomf but also fuller.”
And that is how it’s feeling, this neophytic acknowledgement of myself and my achievements.
I do NOT think that it is immodest to honor our efforts. I do NOT think that we only grow through suffering. And while the quip “the beatings will continue until morale improves” is a wry and ironic one, it is NOT supportive of the kind of light I want to have, bring, expand, and grow from.
I’m excited for this new chapter I feel I’m entering. One where I am more attracted by my assets than hiding and immolating over my perceived failings. Either direction I go, I will not run out of items to list — so why not go with the side that makes me feel kinda giddy?