We all take pleasure in praise: the need for it is an inherent human trait, and it is a common form of affirmation of one’s worth. But there is a considerable difference between being flattered by and appreciative of praise, and needing it to the point of actively seeking it out. For those who don’t think very highly of themselves, praise can become a powerful form of narcotic and can, in fact, be addictive. We’ve all known “needy” people, and the term is not a compliment.
Rather than acknowledge that there is strong evidence of my being one them, I prefer to think of myself as having a healthy appetite for praise and approval. It is yet another example of indulgent self-delusion for one who has never risen, emotionally, much above the five-year-old level.
Greed and gluttony are two of the seven deadly sins, and while “gluttony” technically refers to eating, the excessive need for praise is very much a form of comfort food for the soul. There is a considerable difference between accepting freely-offered praise and blatantly asking for it. The greater an individual’s insecurities or feelings of inferiority, the greater the hunger for praise.
But praise, like fire, makes a good servant but a bad master. Praise offers reassurance that we may not be quite as bad as we think we are. But it is intended as an after dinner mint, not a full meal.
I once dated a nice guy in Los Angeles whose major flaw was, when we were getting ready to go anywhere, asking “How do I look?” (“You look great.”) “Pretty nice, huh?” (“Yeah, really nice.”) “I look okay?” (“You look fine.”) “Pretty hot, huh?” (“Yep. Really hot.”) etc. After several months of that (plus the fact he was seeing a couple other guys at the same time) the relationship sort of ground to a halt.
Unlike my former L.A. friend, I do try to cover over my own constant need for reassurance at least a bit....like throwing a sheet over the elephant in the living room and hoping no one will notice it. I seldom directly ask for praise, though as you may have noticed, I haul out my drums, bugles, flags, and bullhorns on almost every occasion when someone says something nice about me or my work. I’m sure I am not the only writer in the world who looks upon every word he or she writes as a subtle bid for praise. And when someone is kind enough to comment positively on something I’ve done, I’m just like that five year old watching his mother tape his latest art masterpiece on the refrigerator door.
As with so many things in my life, melodrama plays a large part in my self deprecation. I know I'm not nearly as bad as I too often claim I am. So despite all my monumentally poor self image, I do realize that I’ve truly been blessed in my life: parents and family who love and accept me without question, and good, loyal friends, many of whom people I have met only through the internet, but whom I sincerely consider to be friends nonetheless. Many of these internet-originated friendships began with an unsolicited note telling me they enjoyed something I’ve written. The feeling I get from these notes often borders on euphoria, and I am deeply grateful for them, and to whoever takes the time and effort to send them.
Okay, that’ll do it for now. It turned out to be a pretty good blog, didn’t it? Did you like it? Really?
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1).