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Why I Stopped Belittling and Feeling Guilty for My Accomplishments

by Jananie Chandrarao. |

Confession: I’m TERRIFIED of my accomplishments because I’m completely convinced that I don’t deserve them. Each time I win or achieve something, I can surely sense the luck at play which means it’s never 100% my effort or talent. I constantly fear that people will find out how much of a fraud I am and that I have no real talent. I’ll be guilt-ridden instead of celebrating my success and what follows these big moments is a period of profound sadness that I can’t comprehend.

There. I said it. This is a huge relief because I can’t tell you how many times people have praised me for various things while I was internally screaming this in my head.

Looking back, I realised a few things that might have contributed to this fear of mine that often led me to belittle and feel guilty about my accomplishments. I was taught to be humble from a very young age to the point where the lines between being humble and feeling proud of my achievements were often blurred. Every moment I spoke proudly of my wins, even if it’s without the intention of putting others down, felt like bragging. There was more fear that this might just cause more negative emotions such as jealousy and anger to those around me. Other times, I was just completely convinced by the downgrading statements people threw at me and last but not least, the world of social media made me feel like people were always doing and achieving more than I did. So, what’s there to be proud of?

This fear of success and habit of belittling my achievements usually followed me everywhere I went like an annoying three-year-old. Embarking on new endeavours were nightmares because I was constantly agitated that I’ll let down the people who believed in me. The external expectations that people had on me, the confidence they had over me that was usually higher than what I thought I was capable of, often left me feeling a sense of responsibility for the outcomes that were out of my control.

But along the way after countless similar experiences of lamenting over my victories, I’m slowly unlearning to feel guilty of my accomplishments and here’s why.

1. I invested my time and effort into making it happen

Although sometimes my anxiety ‘overmines’ (made-up word; antonym to undermine) the play of luck in my achievements, the success still wouldn’t be possible without my determination to persevere through hard times to give my very best regardless of whether I win or lose. This reflects the effort and time spent to achieve something which, if taken out of the equation, only luck would remain and it wouldn’t result in victories.

2. It boosts my confidence

Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed in a particular situation. People with higher self-efficacy are said to be more resilient, form stronger commitments and a deeper interest in whatever they’re pursuing. According to Albert Bandura, a social cognitive psychologist, mastery experiences are said to be one of the major pillars of self-efficacy in an individual. Through performing tasks successfully, self-efficacy of an individual is strengthened, reinforcing their belief in their ability to accomplish things which are directly related to their level of confidence. By celebrating my successes without feeling guilty, my confidence in my abilities was boosted.

3. It shaped my mindset towards how I approach challenges

In psychology, it is believed that emotions, behaviours and thoughts influence one another and your formation of thoughts can be closely tied to your mindset. By celebrating my successes instead of belittling them, I have started to develop a healthier mindset that helps me approach challenges much more optimistically. The surge in confidence allows me to believe in my capabilities to overcome the curve balls life throws at me while trying to accomplish something. Challenges are no longer an obstacle that can scare me away from pursuing things.

Now, since we’re done with the why’s, let’s focus on a few actionable how’s that I implemented to avoid the feeling of guilt that comes attached with the victories.

1. I realistically assessed my capabilities

Often, when the doubt we have on our capabilities is left unanswered, the tendency to further undermine ourselves is greater. Thus, every time I questioned if I deserved a win, I tried to obtain an unbiased opinion on my performance. For instance, when I was convinced that I was just an awful debater who didn’t deserve to go past semi-finals, I obtained the feedback of the adjudicator cum my debate coach on my performance. Although I might have performed poorly in semi-finals, she explained to me how I still had what it takes to be a good debater based on all the other times I debated and gave me tips on what to focus on and how else to improve for the finals. This might be a hard step to take given we do fear that people’s feedback might just confirm what we have negatively thought about ourselves. But the risk is worth taking.

2. I don’t let my guilt hold me back from future opportunities

Although I was terrified of success and the possible guilt that followed combined with the fear of failure, I didn’t allow it to stop me from pursuing my goals. Whenever I was offered an opportunity, I made the experiences I’ll obtain and the lessons that I’ll learn from the journey the priority instead of the outcome. This allowed me to give my best without attachments to the outcomes such as success and failure. Repeatedly doing this allowed me to accept success and failure alike while I refused to let go of great opportunities due to mere fears.

Be aware because intense guilt for your achievements and constantly belittling them might be a sign of serious imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome will not only torment you through your own success, but it can also stop you from chasing your goals. Be conscious of your actions and slowly unlearn feeling guilty about your achievements because you have invested your time and effort into it, it boosts your confidence and shapes a healthier mindset to approach challenges. Realistically assessing your capabilities and refusing your guilt from holding you back from future opportunities is where you start!

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