When was the last time you celebrated one of your achievements? When was the last time you threw your hands in the air and let out a big fat wohoo!!!!!

I bet you have to think long and hard to remember the last time. Celebrating your achievements is not only something you should do because it is fun, but you should also do it because it helps beat imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’. This pattern is very common and your level of accomplishments doesn’t seem to affect it. Even Einstein had this irrational fear. One thing that has been documented as helping overcome Imposter syndrome is consciously focussing on, or celebrating your accomplishments but this seemingly simple solution proofs difficult in real life.

For some reason, we tend to celebrate some victories more easily than others. We all know the images of athletes celebrating their victories with hugs, cheers, joyful dances and champagne and winning a board game might wake up the dancing queen in you. But when it comes to more serious topics, we often fail to celebrate what we have achieved. I have been more openly excited about winning a game of chess than I was graduating, recovering from a broken heart or finishing my first book. It seems we have been conditioned to celebrate only certain successes and be sober about others.

Interestingly enough there is hardly any scientific research on celebrating successes; even science seems to have overlooked the importance of celebrating victories. Gratitude, on the other hand, has received a lot of attention in the realm of research and I think gratitude and celebrating successes are close cousins, so the research on gratitude should give us some insight into the benefits of celebrating success.

Gratitude research

According to Dr. Emmon’s research keeping a gratitude journal results in improved alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Research subjects who kept a daily gratitude journal experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more consistently and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals. Dr. Emmons’ research also shows that those who practice an attitude of gratitude tend to be more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, have a stronger immune system and have stronger relationships than those who don’t practice gratitude. Looking at all the benefits of gratitude it isn’t hard to see how an attitude of gratitude helps with stress free productivity.

But gratitude and celebrating successes are not one and the same thing, there is a subtle difference. In think the difference is this; gratitude makes me realize my smallness. It makes me reflect on how blessed I am to have what I have and be able to do what I do. Celebrating successes makes me realize my greatness. It makes reflect on how capable I am in certain areas and how my hard work and dedication has paid off in creating improvement and success.

Gratitude is a testimony to what I have been given, celebrating victories is a testimony to what I have done with what I have been given.

Practising gratitude makes you more grateful; celebrating your successes makes you more confident

Just close your eyes and for a moment imagine yourself celebrating a win or a success. You can think back to a moment where you have visibly and full of excitement celebrated a victory or you can just imagine yourself winning at something, accomplishing something and then throwing your hands in the air and celebrating. Go ahead, give it a try. The feeling will be even stronger if you do this whilst standing up and actually putting your hands in the air.

How did that make you feel? Most people would say something along the lines of;

  • Energised
  • Happy
  • Optimistic
  • Motivated

Reaching your goal naturally brings happiness and satisfaction but consciously celebrating your success brings it to another level. It is acknowledging to yourself that you have changed, you have grown, you are now able to do something you couldn’t do before. Even if it was a small step or a small win, you did it and you are changed because of it. Consciously celebrating this boosts your confidence and combats imposter syndrome. Confidence shifts your perspective, it makes you see yourself as more able and challenges as less challenging.

There, in the mix of boosted happiness, confidence and positivity, will be a gently calling to take on the next challenge. A desire to do it again, to aim for the next level, to do something even bigger and better. Celebrating your success is just as much the end point of a cycle of learning and achieving, as it is the beginning of a new cycle of learning and achieving.

Confidence and a sledge

When we were visiting family and friends in The Netherlands last winter it snowed. We got the old sledge from the attic and took it to the park. In the park is a hill and we pulled the sledge up the hill wanting to ride it down the hill. My then 3-year-old son was scared and didn’t want to go down. After watching us do it a few times and seeing how much fun we had he reluctantly wanted to give it a try. I sat in the front, he sat at the back as we were going down the hill at high speed he was yelling “slower mama, slower mama!” But there was no way to slow down and when we got at the bottom of the hill I yelled out ‘yes, you did it!’ He smiled and said ‘let’s do it again mama!’. The second time, instead of yelling ‘slower, slower!’ he was yelling “go faster, go faster!”

As soon as we achieve something our confidence instantly grows, we did it once and we know we can do it again. As our confidence grows so do our goals. I believe this is a very powerful mechanism. It is the green brain alternative to the orange brain cycle of always working toward the next thing on the to-do list without really enjoying what we have. The orange brain achievement cycle tricks us into believing that the next thing on the to-do list or on the wish list will finally transport us into happiness. The green brain achievement cycle starts with the happiness, turns it into celebration; the acknowledgement of new skills which leads to confidence and then naturally bigger, greater goals flow from that.

Why we fail to celebrate and get stuck in Imposter syndrome

I have been able to identify three reasons why I fail to celebrate and you may recognize these in yourself.

  • Discounting many things as to small to celebrate
  • Tall poppy syndrome
  • Rushing into focusing on the next goal

What small things can you think of that you can celebrate? Write them down and allow yourself to get excited about them, no matter how small they are. Give yourself permission to be proud of them, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Pat yourself on the back and remind yourself that you did it!

1 Comment

  1. I would like to grow in confidence through celebrating my successes. This sounds simple and it is! It is a matter of being mindful of the mechanism. I am grateful to you for reminding me of this, Chantal, and how it relates to our green brain and our happiness. I find your publications so clear and easy to digest for the non psychologists amongst us. Please keep going we need your inspiration!!

  2. This is an amazing article. I love the idea of celebrating our successes. Thank you for this. I run a Dare to Dream workshop in San Antonio Texas and I will show this article and continue this beautiful heartfelt idea to our clients. They deserve to be celebrated.
    Wishing you all the very best.

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