Of Too Much Praise?

I stock the refrigerator shelves, balancing the boxes in my arms. A few fall to the floor. The cold fog wraps around me as I use my body to prop the door open. “You’ve done a great job, thank you Sarah!”, said my manager. I felt glad, happy my work is acknowledged. Later, another “These shelves are wonderful”. I paused but didn’t think too much about it.

“I like the outlines you did for cylinder” noted my friend as we compared and talked about our previous assignment. I don’t say much when I look over at my classmates work, unless I wanted to know how they mastered the watercolor shading and if I liked a small detail. “Good” says my watercolor professor.

Hearing a bit too much praise brought me back to my psychology seminar in Towsley Children’s Center, where we were taught to acknowledge and not praise the children when they did something. Our coordinator said something along the lines of “We want the kids to value their own work and efforts, without relying too much on your evaluation. For the most part they just want you to acknowledge them”. I agreed with this concept. Else we would hinge too much of ourselves upon others. That definitely isn’t good right?

So when a child showed us their drawings or said “Sarah, look at me!”, we had to say something like “I see you!” or “I see that you drew that with a lot of colors”, taking care to not utter wows or beautiful or good. “Good job” was definitely a no no.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to praise someone, or something. Maybe there is just a little bit… too much. I wanted a “Good progress” ,”I appreciate you stocking the shelves today” or maybe even something encouraging like “Keep it up, you’re getting there”. When there are too many compliments, sometimes I wonder if they are sincere and I don’t want to think this thought.

But I do want the occasional praise. Sincere ones. And comments that drive me to do better.

(Image credits: Google Images)


senior studying economics + psychology. occasional writer, ambivert, and can be found in coffee shops

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