Learn to Say “Good Job” to Yourself

I have a friend who thought she was a terrible daughter. I watched her and listened to her, and I thought she was a great daughter. I had rarely seen someone so devoted to their mother. So, why did she think she was a terrible daughter? Because of the negative feedback of her mother when things didn’t turn out right.

What this woman had not learned to do was to see every gift she had given to her mother, every time she did her a favor, every time she listened to her, every sacrifice she had made and say, “good job” to herself.

We can easily let the negative feedback or lack of positive feedback keep us from viewing ourselves correctly and enjoying the encouragement of a job well done. That’s why we need to learn to see the good things that we do. We need to learn to say, “Good job, Wes” or “good job, whatever your name may be.”

I learned this when I thought about writing poetry in high school. I actually loved to read poetry and tried to write it. I am not saying that my poetry was amazing or that I was a young Shakespeare. However, after having met innumerable high school students, I find it remarkable that I liked poetry so much and wanted to write it. It was a good thing and really unusual.

One day, I started to think, why didn’t someone encourage me in this? Why didn’t they say, “Good job, Wes”? And then I thought, why did I need someone to say “Good job, Wes”? I can say it. I can take satisfaction in my own work.

Furthermore, I also believe that God says, “Good job, Wes.” He created us to exercise creativity, and he likes it when we do so. If I can learn to take satisfaction in my own work and see the God who values it, any other approbation I receive is really just a nice extra. It’s not essential.

An Objection to Saying, “Good job!”
Some people may fear that approving our own work would make us selfish or prideful. I have not found this to be the case. I agree with the theologian Joseph Pieper who said, humility is basically a judgment of ourselves according to truth and that is nearly all there is to it. For example, to say we are a terrible parent when we are not is not humility. It is a vice. Thomas Aquinas called it acedia. It was a sort of sloth or neglect, he said, that downplayed our ability to do anything good. The result was generally neglect of the spiritual life and other good things.

A true evaluation of the good in ourselves leads us to more easily see the good in others. For example, if I learn to take satisfaction in cleaning my cars, then I will probably be more able to notice when others have done so and congratulate them.

This actually happened to me. I drive Uber quite a bit now, and so I try to keep my car very clean. I know the work it takes. A couple of months ago, I rode in my friend’s truck with him to Pittsburgh. I remember looking around his car and thinking, “Wow! This truck is really clean!” I was genuinely impressed. I told him so. He gave me some ideas on how to clean a vehicle. I encouraged my friend and learned from it because I had appreciated the effort involved in keeping a vehicle clean. I may not have seen it had I not seen and appreciated my own efforts in keeping my own car clean.

Encouraging My Children
So, here are three ways I try to encourage my children and others to see this in a way that will give them roots and a foundation and keep them sane and productive in an insane world.

1. Learn to take satisfaction in what you do no matter what others think. I do not attend all the games that my children play in sports. I like to go when I can, but it just isn’t always possible. One thing I have tried to teach them, though, is that they should do what they do because they like it. They should not base what they do on me and my approval. In fact, they already have my approval. When they do go out for sports, I try to remember to say “good job” to Leah, David, Hope, or any of the others. But I want them to learn to say it to themselves.

2. Learn to see that this satisfaction is a reflection of God’s delight in the goodness of His creation. My hope is that they will internalize their satisfaction and my affirmation and learn to say it to themselves. I hope that this will lead them to see that God values these things and says of all who pursue good things, “Good job.”

3. Learn to feel gratitude for the things that you have accomplished. Learning to see the good things that we have done leads us to feel more gratitude for being able to do them. It leads us to say and pray what we read in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer that we “thank [God] for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope it was an encouragement to you. If you liked it, please share it on social media and subscribe to this blog below. I hope to see you here again.


Photo by Mark Fuller on Unsplash


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