Digging In

Discounting the Positive

It took the intervention of a really good supervisor (and the persistence of my husband) to break this habit. A specialty of mine was laughing off compliments by saying something self-deprecating in a humorous way. Maybe something like, “Yeah, sure, but I didn’t exactly achieve world peace.”

What is “discounting the positive”? You find ways to say that what you did accomplish doesn’t count. “I had a generous judge.” “It’s always easy for me to work in pastels.” “I copped that idea from someone else.” “I swim fast because I have long arms.” “Anyone else could have done it.”

1) What is the evidence?
Everyone else had the same generous judge. Since there’s nothing new under the sun, maybe you did cop that idea but you also put your particular spin on it. Maybe you have long arms; but not everyone with long arms can swim, let alone swim fast. Maybe anyone else could have done it; but did they?

2) What are alternative explanations?
That someone else created that piece? That someone else swam your race? I don’t think so.

3) What are the implications?
Maybe you did get lucky this once. Maybe you did “borrow” someone else’s idea. Maybe you do have long arms. None of that takes away from the totality of your efforts in your art or sport. You’ll find that out if you only rely on getting lucky, or stop practicing because you’re relying on your long arms, or only look at others’ ideas to make good, creative work.

4) Is this thought useful? I doubt it. What do you think?

A coach can both help you see if and when you fall into this trap, and also be a great cheerleader for all the positives you do.