Need For Praise


My Daughter’s Painting

I’ve been in a funk this week. I can’t seem to shift it, I feel shredded and permanently on the verge of tears.

I’ve been trying to figure out if it’s tiredness, illness, depression, or just the slump after a stressful few weeks.

What’s hard is that it becomes horribly self-perpetuating. I snack on chocolate and bleed caffeine and try and sleep all day like a cat. So my body feels sluggish and the family neglected. Then I get grumpy and they get grumpy and I oscillate between anger and self-loathing.

I’ve worked out that part of it is finishing a book. As soon as it’s ‘done’ I want someone to tell me if it’s any good. But I’d say only a third of my books have been read by a person I know (if anyone!)
And it shouldn’t matter, but it does.


My Painting

I’m horribly praise-driven. Unfortunately that’s probably why no one who knows me feels brave enough to read my books and pass comment. Despite my reassurances that I won’t take their criticism personally, I’m always gutted if the feedback is negative (or worse, silent).

The awful part is that I always tell my daughter not to do things just for praise. It drives me nuts when we’re doing painting together and she spends the first half of the time asking, ‘Do you like it, is it good?’ and the rest of the time crying because my painting is better than hers, even when I try to make it rough and ready, and point out I’ve been doing it much much longer… Turns out the need for praise is genetic!

So once more I’m hiding upstairs, swallowing down tears, feeling like the most terrible wife and mother. There’s no food in the fridge or dinner on the table and I can’t find it in me to do anything about it.

Never mind. Next week I’ll start a new book, numb the fear, feed the kids, get on with life. What other choice is there?

11 thoughts on “Need For Praise

  1. I find that sometimes you just have to give in to the crappy feeling. I tell myself I am going to be depressed and think about why (hormones, fatigue etc) I feel bad. Sometimes I can figure it out, sometimes I can’t but realizing it is something out of my control makes me feel better. Then I ask myself what I really want to do right at that moment and do it. Take a walk, a nap, watch tv, read, whatever it is I just do it and ignore everything else for awhile. No guilt, just acknowledgement that taking care of me for a bit is necessary. Hope this helps!

    • Thank you, I needed to hear this. I have been doing exactly that, but I feel horribly self-indulgent (or ‘decadent’ as my Dad used to say. He had a thing about lazy, but looking back I think he was mostly criticising himself.)

  2. Her painting’s beautiful. Your painting’s beautiful. I can’t paint for toffee. Except walls. I’m quite good at those. I think we all need reassurance and positive feedback but too rarely get it. At work, in the home, writing. Mayb we didn’t get enough of it as children. I know my own parents didn’t want to ‘turn our heads’ with effusive praise. I found out, by accident, that my dad used to brag about his children when he was having a pint. I found out after he died. How sad that he couldn’t say so directly. My mum, thank god, told me just a few days before she died, ‘You’re doing a great job.’ I was holdig my youngest at the time and it meant the world to me that she recognised my efforts and acknowledged them. Maybe, we’re all still kids at heart. There’s nothing wrong with needing reassurance. When no one’s there to provide it and you’re the only one giving it, remember you’re doing a good job, Amanda. Someone, somewhere knows.x

    • Aw, thank you! I love the baby milk TV advert that says something like ‘you’re doing a good job’ because I don’t think mothers hear it very often. My husband is hugely supportive, but I guess I think he’s biased or something because I don’t really believe it all that much. And you’re right, in our family all the praise is done to other family members rather than directly. I guess that’s why I make such a point of praising and verbally loving my children. But even that can get tiring. My daughter said to me yesterday, ‘When you say “that’s cool” do you mean it or are you just saying it for something to say.’ Ha! I said I mean it about 90% of the time. It’s no wonder I feel like I’m being judged every five minutes – nothing gets past the kids these days!

  3. Ugh. Sorry you’re feeling crappy. I agree with Tracy above — sometimes you have to give in to the feeling and do whatever you can think of that might make you feel better. I love both of your drawings.

    I had a wise therapist once who told me that he never praised his children for whatever they produced and only praised their effort. It seemed quite foreign to me at the time, but as I delved more into motivational psychology and learned about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, I understood more of what he meant. He used the example of grades and his approach. He said that his daughter always made excellent grades and naturally he and her mother were very proud of her. Still, they only praised her effort and she never really relied on their external praise. When she would show them her grades (report card, test scores, etc.), they would ask, “How do you feel about your score?” They would do this regardless of whatever the grade was. In her case, her grades were excellent so it was an easy task. Occasionally she would bring home a mark that might not be as good as was typical for her and when they’d ask, she would say things like, “I don’t like that it’s a B, but I recognize that I had a busy week and didn’t study as much and I put in more hours at my job, so considering everything, I’m okay with it.” They would nod and move on. On the flip side, their son never performed up to his potential. He routinely brought home C’s, D’s and the occasional F. Overall, he was a B/C student. Still, they would ask, “How do you feel about your grade?” He would typically respond that he was okay with it considering he didn’t like the subject and that he hadn’t cracked a book. He was what you’d call an average student. As parents, they supported their kids, told them they loved them and were proud of the kind of people they were, but they put much more emphasis on intangible qualities like character, kindness, effort, over performance or outcomes. I actually know this man’s children, and both have grown up to be very successful, well-rounded, kind people. She is a child psychologist, and he’s a musician who performs and teaches voice and guitar.

    I grew up in a home where my parents praised me for grades…except even worse, regardless of how well I performed, they upped their expectations. So if I made a 94, they would gloss over it and ask how I planned to improve my grade next time. I vowed to never do this with my own children. It took a couple of psychology degrees and lots of therapy o de-program myself.

    Sorry, I kind of went on and on about all that. I think it’s very natural to need a degree of reassurance. Plus, when we put so much effort into our work, we want people to read it/see it and enjoy it. I think this is even more the case with art (and I mean all art forms, be it visual, literature, music, etc.) Art is such a personal expression of who we are, and when we don’t get praise or even feedback, it seems SO personal. Does that make sense? Obviously your post struck a chord here.

    I hope you are able to recharge soon and rest and do some things that feel re-energizing. Have I ever mentioned the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron to you? Forgive me if I’m repeating myself. It is really more for times when you might be experiencing a creative block, but I have found it helpful when I find myself craving praise and feeling that nothing I’m creating is ever good enough — it helps when I can’t reign in the perfectionism. It kind of reminds me of the joy of art — helps remind me to enjoy the process of creating and gives good ideas about how to do this and reminds me to not simply rely on positive feedback.

    All this to say…it sucks to feel how your feeling. I’ve been less enthused and somewhat depressed lately, too. I hope you feel better, friend.

  4. Everyone struggles sometimes. It is allowed. 🙂 I hope you will be feeling more yourself soon. We all get down and I find, sometimes, that the best thing for me to do is take a minute or two out and cry. Loved the praising the effort post from Grief Happens, too. Sound advice, I’ll be trying it on my boy. Sometimes I find just sticking my head down and plodding on carries me through, too. And I hear you about books. I write mine for me and I love them, but that doesn’t mean anyone else will.

    Hope you are soon feeling better.



    • Thank you. I shelved writing and expectations for a few days, did gardening and ironing, and I feel better for getting out of my own head! Trying to write a book for hubbie for his birthday but struggling to get started… 🙂 At least the sun is shining!
      Good luck with WIP

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