A Year of Dignity #6 – Recognition

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“Pain is temporary, pride is forever.” Versions of this unattributed quote have been all over sports gear for decades. It instantly taps into our human need for recognition and the lengths to which we’ll go to get it. But of course, we don’t have to be putting in the kind of extreme effort and sacrifice it takes to compete at the highest levels of sport to want or even need recognition. In fact, it’s an essential part of the basic dignity all humans deserve.

The Fifth Essential Element of Dignity – Recognition

This week we’ll be taking a closer look at Recognition and the role it plays in honoring one’s Dignity. This approach to dignity is outlined in something called the Dignity Model, which was shared in the first post of the series.

Recognition – Validate others for their talents, hard-work, thoughtfulness, and help. Be generous with praise, and show appreciation and gratitude to others for their contributions and ideas.

Taking Stock of My Relationship to this Element of Dignity

As I’ve done in previous posts, I’ll be using the questions below to complete a self-evaluation of my own relationship to this element of dignity.

  • Have you done this in the past?
  • Do you do it now?
  • Can you recall a time when you did or did not make others feel recognized?
  • Can you recall a time when others did or did not make you feel recognized?

I’ve also included two new questions this week that I asked my Facebook friends and answered myself.

What kind of recognition do I crave?

It’s a little uncomfortable to say that I “crave” any type of recognition. But that’s exactly why I chose that word. I discovered something funny as I reflected on the concept of recognition. In the same way that you might not know how hungry you are until you smell food or take your first few bites, sometimes I have no idea I’ve been craving recognition until someone finally does it and it means the world to me. Or, on the other hand, if the recognition I feel I’m owed is lacking for an extended period of time (or worse, misattributed to someone else) and I have a strong emotional reaction to that.

In general, I think I crave recognition for my ideas and work. Some of my most memorable moments around this concept are when someone else got the credit for things that I had done. I’m not yet sure how I feel about that…but it’s the truth I need to accept and process.

Who deserves to be recognized in your life?

Two parties spring to mind. First, my wife. She deserves to be recognized for her commitment to our relationship and the love and effort she puts into our life together every day. She’s amazing. We say we love each other frequently and say thank you for specific big and small things all the time. I really feel like these habits have lead to a relationship where we both feel appreciated and loved.

The second is my team at work. It really sucks to have to talk to someone about a performance problem or screw up at work–but it inevitably happens over the long run. It can be really hard to do and even harder to hear though, if that’s the only type of performance conversation taking place. My team works super hard and I love working with them. I try to take time regularly to tell them I’ve noticed and applaud their hard work and other types of contributions to the team/company. We also have a system in place for praising each other that gets documented for mid/annual year reviews.

Have I made a habit of making others feel recognized?

I think so. I know there is always room for improvement but I’ve gone so far as to create structure in my life dedicated to making sure this happens on a regular basis. And that in turn has made it into a habit.

Is there a time that comes to mind in which I did or did not make others feel recognized?

I’m sure there are times I can’t recall right now in which I’ve done both. However, as I’m writing this, the thing that comes to mind is a ritual I’ve tried to bake into my team’s weekly meetings at work. We have a standing agenda item each week to take note of things that went especially good (or bad) the previous week. Whether it was our work or someone else’s on the team. Most weeks there’s not much to report, but every once in a while I’m certain that people are recognized for their talents and hard work when they wouldn’t have been had this practice not been in place.

Is there a time that comes to mind in which others did or did not make me feel recognized?

I can laugh about this now, but at the time it drove me nuts. I once had a boss, many jobs ago, who went around my direct manager to ask me to write up a script for them to use in a video. It was meant to rally our community to action and he wanted my writing voice on it. Ok, no problem. Script submitted, no notes, used as is.

The video came out and I didn’t think much about it. Until, some time later, I was having a disagreement with my direct manager about a messaging strategy we were using as an overall brand. I was convinced that we should push back against the direction our boss wanted us to go in. In the end my proposal was turned down and the reasoning given was that while we might not always understand our boss’s strategy, he had a track record of success that couldn’t be ignored.

Here’s the kicker, the video I wrote for him was linked to as the primary example.

So not only was my current hard-work and talent not being recognized, but someone else was getting credit for my past work while simultaneously using it to discredit me in the present. What a mess! Thankfully, this was a rare situation I have not found myself in again. But I do remember how frustrated, angry, and unappreciated it made me feel.

Now it’s pretty funny.

On the positive side of this question, I have a lot of fond memories of my high school cross country program. I remember a tradition we had at the end of every season called, aptly, The Awards Dinner. This was something independently organized by the team, coaching staff, and parents. The idea was pretty simple. Our coach would track not only our official accomplishments throughout the year–such as wins and losses–but personal bests, standout moments, rate of improvement, and things like that. He even had accomplishments he tracked across the entire history of the program! He would then create awards for these things ranging from certificates to plaques to trophies and present them during a dinner ceremony. Similarly, the team would always spend time coordinating with parents to get a good gift for the coach to show our appreciation for his hard work throughout the season.

I think because this event was something organized independently it meant a lot more than if it was just something the school required us to do each year. I don’t remember any specific award I got or didn’t get, but I remember feeling appreciated and recognized in front of the people who really mattered to me at the time.

Affirming my Commitment to Recognition

Today I will endeavor to be an agent of Dignity.

I will approach others as being neither inferior nor superior to myself.

I will be my authentic self and give others the freedom to express their authentic selves without fear of being negatively judged.

I will interact without prejudice or bias, accepting the ways in which race, religion, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, age, and disability may be at the core of other people’s identities.

I will conduct myself with integrity and assume others are too.

I will do my best to make others feel that they belong–whether they are in my family, community, organization, or nation.

I will do my best to make others feel safe both physically and psychologically.

When engaging with others I will give them my full attention. I will truly listen to them while validating their concerns, feelings, and experiences.

I will validate others for their talents, hard-work, thoughtfulness, and help. I will be generous with praise, expressing my appreciation and gratitude to others for their contributions and ideas.

Final Thoughts

After reflecting and writing about Recognition this week, I think there’s a lot to be gained from making it a habit/ritual/ceremony; even if that feels a little silly. Whether it’s a sports team, community group, family/friend relationship, or performance review at work–being recognized for our effort and contributions not only makes us feel that the adversity we faced in those arenas was worth it, but it energizes us to continue to put in the work that all these things require. And to do it with a full heart. Perhaps even inspiring us to increase our efforts.

As simple and as beneficial as it may seem to recognize others, my anecdotal experience would also suggest it’s equally easy to neglect recognition unless time is set aside for it. If neglected for too long, feelings of resentment tend to grow in place of that missing validation. Opening rifts where none are necessary.

Next Week in A Year of Dignity – Fairness

Next week I’ll be reflecting and writing about Fairness. If you’d like to see how this element of dignity fits into the Dignity Model, you can read about it here or even get the Dignity book.

Featured Image via Ethan Hoover on Unsplash

Free Humanist Resources

Dignity by Donna Hicks, Ph.D.

Read the book that inspired this blog series and gain deeper insights into the nature and importance of dignity.

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