Praise affects: the “call me dumb” paradox

Readers, I politely nod at you.

Today I picked up my keyboard and decided to type again. But something was on my mind. In my absence, which went unnoticed I sincerely hope, I have been receiving a lot of praise. Not for my absence of course, that’s led only to grief, self-delusion and me laughing maniacally at my own reflection every Sunday at 2pm. No, I have received praise for other things. Smaller things. You see, very shortly after the eloquent vent in my last post… I got a job.

Within two months I severely regretted my useless little rant as I realised having a job is mind-numbing. Not to say I don’t enjoy the sweet sweet monies… but I believe there is an expiration date. A date when things cease to be new and wondrous to a recent graduate, who’s never held an office job, and things are learned and systematically unlearned simply to have something to learn again. It’s quite astounding how  a sense of purpose dissipates the moment you realise you’ve reached the zenith of your productivity and rather felt there was more on offer. It’s like when a friend builds up a new movie as the intellectually written, technically ground-breaking and emotionally riveting masterpiece of the century and you realise halfway through that – actually – it’s a bit shit. But, because your friend is there, you have to sit through it… despising them and their lack of taste.

It does not help that, throughout this numbing of my senses, my performance was praised. And to cut through the hopefully articulate language used thus far, I will be blunt: Yes, I’m alright at my job and yes, other people think so too… and tell me as much. And yes, I am complaining about it. Your point?

I went to Aunty Google and asked her – well… began asking her something. I almost got as far as two words for aunty Google is all-knowing and has that annoying habit of finishing your sentences for you.

Praise affec

Just that and she knew to complete it with a simple…

ts motivation

To prove this point let me tell you of the sheer joy I felt when, upon hitting ‘Enter’, a wealth of news articles, journals, blogs and sciency websites popped onto my screen confirming what I already knew. Ahh the internet, confirming knowledge since 1991. Poorly placed quasi-satire aside, I was very pleased. So chuffed that I wasted 20 minutes Facebooking because hey, this blog post would just write itself right?

I won’t link things here because, well, you know my opinion so go find your own (also laziness and a lack of motivation is the running theme today). But there is also research into praising children. I had a balanced time from infancy to childhood in that Mother praised me plenty and Father would remind me that I was dumb as a rock. There was an aura however, a flicker of hope that he would emit suggesting “but it gets better”. My point is that infancy to teens is balanced. It’s school and classmates that ruined me. I felt challenged up to perhaps year 9… after that either the world got dumber, or I was just in the wrong place constantly over-thinking things.

I assumed praise would end after GCSEs. It didn’t. I assumed again after A-Levels. It didn’t. I figured University would prove to me that I was dumb and needed to cultivate my mind as I had always believed…. But… not really. Once your image is built as ‘the clever one’… you can get away with things. Terrible things, which all gain different definitions. The following are my vices which, quite frankly, I should be punished for – within reason:

  1. Lack of punctuality – perceived as quirky
  2. Overuse of unimaginative sarcasm – perceived as funny
  3. Cultivating a general, chaotic disorder so that I have a challenging mess to clean up – perceived as ‘different’
  4. Constant self-deprecation to convince people I’m not all that – perceived as fishing for compliments
  5. Fishing for compliments – perceived as self-deprecation

And those are off the top of my head. It gets worse on a bad day.

My current so-obvious-it’s-slapped-you-in-the-face-four-times idea is that I need an outlet and to cultivate my mind despite the admittedly well-intentioned words of others. A person who is praised is a person who becomes lazy, at least in my case. I need people to find me ordinary so that I can be extraordinary to show them that I am ordinary which allows me to grow and be extraor-…

I’m going to bed.

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