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  • Resilient Practice

Praise be!

Updated: Jul 2, 2022

“So long as men praise you, you can only be sure that you are not yet on your own true path but on someone else's”

- Friedrich Nietzsche

praise – applaud, celebrate, express approval of, express admiration for, eulogise, compliment, congratulate, sing the praises of.

Throughout life we will all have both consciously and unconsciously given praise.

Sometimes we give it in an unconscious, heartfelt way when we have truly appreciated the attributes or actions of another, for example, when we have received an excellent service or had a great experience. On other occasions we might craft praise in such a way as to affect the thoughts, feelings and behaviour of another, for example, it is common practise in modern parenting to use praise to encourage socially acceptable behaviour or draw attention to talent.

Why do we give praise?

To the recipient, receiving praise positively alters the body chemistry, resulting in pleasant emotions. This experience can help to down regulate the stress response and improve wellbeing.

Praise is a clear message of approval. All of us are hardwired to seek approval from birth to ensure our survival and so praise encourages further manifestation of the thing that we are praising.

How does receiving praise affect us?

As well as improving body chemistry and receiving approval, receiving praise challenges the two common negative beliefs that run in all of us:

I am not worthy/good enough

I am broken/not whole

When allowed to run on unchecked these two core beliefs can contaminate the cognitive behavioural cycle influencing our thoughts, feelings and behaviours in all situations. When negative core beliefs contaminate our interactions in this way, the outcome is often not what we would have hoped for. It can lead to affirmation of those beliefs and further drive negativity. In this way we can manifest difficulties for ourselves.

When we receive praise, these core beliefs are called into question. When praise comes from an external source, we can view it as affirmation of acceptance and/or approval. These are the opposite of abandonment and we have said so many times before, in childhood, abandonment is synonymous with death, and these behavioural patterns often run on, in a modified way, into adulthood. When we have the approval that we are seeking, we are safe.

In recent articles we referred to the term, the locus of control. This is a term which describes the extent to which we feel we are responsible for our circumstances.

Someone with an external locus of control might present with resigned helplessness and affirmation of suffering. They may be unwilling to take any responsibility for what has happened to them.

Someone with an internal locus of control might be seen to make the best out of any situation, focussing on what they can change rather than the limitations and harvesting any lesson that they can from adversity.

Receiving praise is a pleasant experience. It can be so refreshing when we receive positive feedback, especially in culture where complaining is more the norm. When we receive a compliment, our worth is affirmed, and all can feel right with the world. But if our wellbeing can be so easily improved by an external event, are we not at risk of having it all taken away when we receive a lack of praise, or it’s opposite – criticism?

It is useful to remember that all feed back is reflection. When we admire something about someone’s character, we are seeing something reflected in them that we like and appreciate about ourselves – even if it is hidden. When we disapprove of someone, we are seeing aspects of ourselves that do not meet with our approval. Therefore, praise often reveals more about the person giving it than about the recipient.

Clearly praise is welcome, but we are wise to remain conscious of its effect of us when we receive it from an outside source. Here is where that sage advice of ‘keeping your feet on the ground’ can be taken literally. We can sit with the pleasant emotion that has been evoked just as we do with a trigger, and we can set the intention to ground ourselves. This will help us to stay balanced so that we do not develop a need for praise which is then reflected in our cognitive behavioural cycles (thoughts, feelings and behaviours.) When we do this, we can allow praise to reflect what we have done well and to build self-esteem without externalising our locus of control.

Praise from others is a wonderful reflection – but it is just that.

When we aspire to take more responsibility for our responses in all situations, we internalise our locus of control. This affords us all the power. Here we can see that the type of praise that is of most value to us is the praise that we give to ourselves.

Why does praising myself feel uncomfortable?

In the following article

We address the discomfort that arises from challenging negative core beliefs. When we practise positive affirmation, we can feel silly, embarrassed, inauthentic and arrogant. This is because we are commonly conditioned to behave with humility and often to put the needs of others before our own. We are told that ‘pride comes before a fall’ and ‘not to get ideas above our station’. Often this is because our loved ones do not want to see us disappointed, but it is also generally felt collectively, that self-promotion is unattractive. It is also true that negative core beliefs are connected to uncomfortable experiences and so when the veil is pulled back, we squirm.

Negative core beliefs are extremely limiting, but when the psyche places limits on us, it deems that we are safe. If we are prevented from moving forward, by self-doubt, we are less likely to move into peril. Self-praise flies in the face of all of this.

Self-praise has all the benefits of positive body chemistry and emotion with all the power. When we praise ourselves, no-one can take it from us.

Try this:

1. When you next feel moved to give praise to another, press pause.

Step into the shoes of your Observer Self – the part of you that can witness your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, without participating. The Observer Self notices everything with light curiosity and without analysis or emotion. By doing this, you are making your responses conscious.

Now, notice what thoughts and emotions have led you to the need to give praise.

Is it empathy?

Are you feeling for someone and wanting to gift them with a better mindset?

Are you hoping to encourage good behaviour by showing approval?

Are you genuinely impressed by the behaviour or attributes of this person?

Would this praise be authentic?

Will this person benefit from an external boost of self-esteem?

Are you responding to a request for praise?

Is it a repeating pattern?

Are you therefore giving praise to feed a habit or fill a need?

Now you can choose whether that praise is appropriate.

Craft your responses with care. We are always communicating our emotions whether we are speaking them or not.

2. Cultivate the habit of self-praise.

Remember that self-criticism comes easily but to balance it out with the appropriate amount of praise feels wrong. Get into the habit of regularly reviewing your attributes and achievements and noticing the things that you do well.

· Make a list of all your positive characteristics and qualities

· Say them out loud into the mirror.

· Write a list of all your biggest achievements

· Make a list of what you did well at the end of the day

· Reward yourself regularly

For over 60 practical tools and exercises for boosting mental wellbeing and improving personal resilience see our book:

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Jun 21, 2022

There have been many times where I have experienced praise myself or heard other’s being praised. I found this experience uncomfortable and at times patronising, I often reflected on why this was. Your article has helped me understand and provided some clarity and helped me make sense of these emotions and helped me make sense of overwhelming situations. I understand I have a choice and while grounded I can work out why I feel how I do, I can let this pass over me and understand that seeking approval comes from childhood it’s not now in this present moment.


Jun 19, 2022

Like so many of your deeply insightful posts, this one too is sobering!

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