I have mentioned in the past that I have never really understood or related to my own emotions. As long as I can remember, I felt like I would observe people giving an emotional response to some event in their lives and try to figure out how I would feel if I had experienced the same event, but I could never quite make sense of it. Either I couldn’t identify their emotion beyond being generally positive or generally negative or I had no idea why they would react the way they did. Some reactions were clear and obvious, like if someone lost their job or a family member died, they would probably feel sad, but others were definitely not. The simple reactions made sense, but more complex emotions eluded me.

I can explain how I FEEL about something only by THINKING about it, but thinking and feeling are not the same things. I don’t usually feel all the time, and if I did, I wouldn’t be able to describe those feelings beyond generally positive (i.e. contentment) or negative (i.e. anger or sadness). As an aside, I think this is why Buddhism speaks to me so much, since you are called upon to observe your reactions and feelings about things, but not to grow attached to them. But I digress…

Personal accomplishments seem to bring other people great joy, but I have never really felt comfortable with celebrating my own accomplishments. Going back to early childhood, my reaction to something that might make someone else feel a sense of pride in themselves just made me recoil and want to hide. I think that this is because I saw others reacting to things they accomplished and could never see myself reacting in the same way. In the case of any event or accomplishment that someone else would feel proud of, I could never see myself experiencing that emotion in a positive way.

As a child, I got straight A’s through most of my school years and I remember getting some kind of reward from my parents, but I never really felt proud. It felt like I got through another set of classes and I had to move on to the next. I also remember being incredibly risk-averse, so much so that I would avoid challenges that I didn’t think I could do well. I believe now that this was, at least in part, due to my inherently negative association with pride. The risk of failure was never going to be worth it because the benefit of “success” was also not hugely positive.

So now in my adulthood, I think a lot about why I haven’t made something more of my life. “You have so much potential,” teachers and family members used to say to me. In trying to figure out my own brain, my own motivations, my own feelings about myself and WTF I’m supposed to be doing here on earth, my thoughts drift back to how I don’t feel when I complete something. I don’t feel proud of myself. I don’t feel accomplished. If anything, I am simply ready to move on.

And don’t get me started on recognition. When I’m on a team and we accomplish something together, I will give credit to EVERYONE else first, seeing clearly what they added to the project. If we end up celebrating or something, fine, but it feels like that’s just because other people appreciate it. If I have some accomplishment, particularly at work, I don’t ever look for recognition. I almost feel ashamed. I want people to know and understand what I am capable of, but anything beyond that feels frivolous and wasteful. And I hate birthdays! That’s not even an accomplishment! Hey, I lived another year, fuckin’ A. Celebrate me, definitely not.

Seeing as how I am starting my Diversity and Inclusion certificate courses this month, I am beginning to feel a bit anxious about the whole thing. This is something I really want to do, but at the same time, I dread when it is all over and I have the credential because other people, my friends and colleagues are going to be excited and happy for me and any feeling I will be able to muster will be an act. I am taking the course, not to better myself, per se, but to expand what I am able to do for others within my career. It is with the opposite of pride that I take this on, because if I’m not using my knowledge to give back to others, what was the point of the accomplishment in the first place?

Whether I plow through these courses in record time or space them out over several months or a year, when I do get the certification, whatever you do, DO NOT under any circumstances, throw me a party.

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