Give Yourself a Gold Star

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June 15, 2022
Resilience is Not the Goal
June 29, 2022

Give Yourself a Gold Star

Give yourself a gold star. When I was in grade school if you did exceptionally well on an assignment you got a gold star. It was the best it could be. Today, I often judge my actions looking for “gold star” outcomes. A private acknowledgment that this action, event, thing is the best it can be. 

When did this become a competition? And why did I sign up?  

My story:

At the airport I notice several women with small suitcases and matching bags. I look down at my suitcase, backpack, things stuffed in my pockets and orange cooler bag overflowing with more stuff that didn’t fit in the other bags… all for a weekend trip. I scan the airport noticing all the people who have packed more neatly than me. All the YouTube videos I have ever watched about minimal packing flashed in front of my eyes. I muttered, “I look like amateur hour.” Self-judgement exploded in my brain.  

Since when has packing been a competition? Is someone handing out gold stars for this? Seriously? 

It is easy to get caught up in the feeling that you need to “be the best.” We are social primates, we are always going to compare ourselves to others. It can be helpful to notice someone else’s performance and learn from them. The concern is when we notice someone else and feel the need to compete for a non-existent gold star. This leads to self-criticism wearing down our resilience rather than building up our abilities.  

What pointless competitions have you unconsciously signed up for? 

Any of these?

  • Get up at 5am to have a more productive day
  • Have a tidy (and joyful) sock drawer
  • Write a novel in November
  • Have flawless skin
  • Eat perfectly

Notice how often you judge yourself for a competition for which there are no gold stars. Decide if this truly matters to you. If you want a tidy sock drawer – go for it! But it won’t make you better than someone else.  

Resilience is not striving against some external ideal. Resilience is a focus on getting over or getting through in a way that is healthy for you.  I often pack for trips with a “just in case I need it” attitude. This is both messy and perfectly fine. Next time you find yourself comparing your life to someone else’s notice if you are doing so with criticism or curiosity.  

Criticism causes you to judge yourself (or others). Constantly wondering who is worthy of the gold star is exhausting. Self-judgement can become a habit, a lens you use to look at the world. The next time you find yourself competing with someone ask: Is there a gold star for this? Does it matter to me?  

Curiosity allows you to learn from or to empathize with others. Some ideas out there are great – for someone else or possibly another time in your life. If you are a night owl, waking at 5am will likely hurt your productivity. If you are living with a house full of busy children, clean socks tossed in a basket will do.  The best ideas are those that are right for you. 

Striving for goals you care about builds confidence and abilities that contribute to resilience. Focus on what you need to be healthy. Your accomplishment can only be accurately judged by you. Give yourself a gold star! 

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Laura A. Gaines