Appreciating Ourselves First

Mar 7, 2024 | Coaching, Leadership


I recently read a Harvard Business Review article from the dark ages of 2012 called, “Why Appreciation Matters So Much.” The author outlines some of the benefits of a culture of appreciation at work, including a sense of safety, better performing teams, and lower rates of heart disease. That seems intuitive: if I am being criticized constantly, I’m going to be stressed out and much less likely to do my best work, and it may well impact my health. In contrast, if I have leaders and peers who highlight my wins and strengths, I’m going to feel more energized and engaged.

What surprised me was one of the steps the author recommended for bringing appreciation into our work setting, “Practice appreciation by starting with yourself.”

To many of us, this suggestion might seem selfish, a waste of time, or terribly uncomfortable. In point of fact, I’ve been told numerous times by a good friend, “Diane, you finish one achievement and barely pause for breath before you’re on to the next. How about celebrating what you’ve done?”

Why do we shy away from owning our wins? (I feel comfortable saying “we” because so many of the women physicians I worked with also find self-appreciation challenging.) My guess is that we find the spotlight uncomfortable or have a tendency to slip into imposter syndrome. But maybe why we do it is less important than why it’s beneficial to begin appreciating ourselves—and how.

The author goes on to observe, “If you have difficulty openly appreciating others, it’s likely you also find it difficult to appreciate yourself.” So here is at least one reason to start appreciating ourselves—because then we can begin to really appreciate others and foster a more positive environment at work and at home. Think of it this way: if I am berating myself all day long for something I did in the morning, how likely am I to bring a positive outlook and energy to the spaces I inhabit that day? How likely am I to even notice others’ achievements?

Another reason is that this perspective is more reality-based: we all have achievements, and we all do something positive pretty much every day. Not recognizing that fact is walking through life with a huge blind spot. A third reason is that it just plain feels better to carry around positive self-talk than to listen to the inner critic’s ongoing monologue.

What steps can we take to begin appreciating ourselves? Here’s a good one, again from the article: ask yourself at the end of each day, “What can I rightly feel proud of today?”

To that suggestion, I would add this: Keep a bullet journal and write down those actions you’re most proud of. Then at the end of the month or quarter, collate a list of the ones that make you feel most energized. Keep this list handy as a pick-me-up when self-doubt creeps in or when you are stretching outside your comfort zone at work.

And, as I’m learning to do, celebrate those wins!




Diane W. Shannon


Diane Shannon is an award-winning writer, author, and coach. Since leaving practice as a primary care physician due to burnout, she has worked to support physicians in achieving their personal and professional goals and to highlight the changes needed to reduce burnout, improve career satisfaction, and protect the bidirectional healing power of the patient-physician relationship.

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