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elusive beauty

January 31, 2011

he's all about the process, so far

Right now, I am reading the latest issue of Parabola magazine on beauty. It is truly beautiful to read and I am savoring each page. Highlights are new poems by Mary Oliver and a thought provoking interview with Gina Sharpe, a Buddhist nun. One thing Sharpe discusses is a Harvard study about “imposter syndrome”. In the study, the researchers discover that there are some very successful people who can’t accept their accomplishments and feel that someday others will find out how incompetent they are. I connect that in my mind with something I read in a parenting book about praise. When you praise a child, (or anyone) you are judging their work. It is much better to comment on the hard work they put into something or discuss a technical detail.

I thought how much more I want to give approval to someone, since it seems like a much better compliment. But on the other end, it is true that I really appreciate receiving acknowledgement for the effort I made rather than simple approval. It keeps my actions in the realm of what I like as opposed to someone else’s opinion of what they like.

Another study found that those who received praise for a task (you are so smart! I like that picture!) didn’t want to do the next optional task in the study, for fear of exposing themselves as not praiseworthy. On the other hand, those who were complimented on their effort, were more that willing to try another task (make more effort). Wow. When I thought about that, it really made me want to try to eliminate praise from our lives and focus instead on the efforts people are making every day.

As I tried acting in this new way, I saw how engrained this love of outer beauty is in my life already. It was hard to do. The finished or the perfect or the accomplished is so much easier to see. Even though the process and the joy and/or work of the effort involved is what we are all actually doing! It is a huge part of a mother’s days, since it is so often all there is, as much is never finished, or never seems so. It is this true beauty in my life that I want to strive for, an elusive beauty that I have so often overlooked (and still overlook) in favor of the finished or the perfect.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marilee permalink
    January 31, 2011 11:03 am

    I heard early on in my parenting life that telling a child you were proud of them claimed credit for the performance, or whatever. It’s better to say something like “you must be very happy with that.” I don’t know what was really right. Guess I’ll have to ask my kids!

  2. karen hess permalink
    January 31, 2011 3:28 pm

    Hi Marilee! True, it makes it about us if we say “I’m proud of you!” It is so hard to figure out what to say instead. I have been saying things like “Look at all those lines!” “You used a lot of red here”and “Tell me about this drawing” he happily tells me all about it!

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