Wednesday 3 July 2019

For the Win! Celebrate Your Successes in Your Own Way

As I wrote recently one of the things I’ve learned from fellow mental health blogger Aimee Wilson is to celebrate every achievement and make the most of each moment because you don’t necessarily know what’s coming up next.

I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve realised there’s more to celebrating our successes than I’d ever imagined.

A Thing Worth Celebrating

It might seem obvious that we tend to celebrate good, happy, positive things. We celebrate things that are special, infrequent, or unusual; and we celebrate big things more than we celebrate little things.

What’s perhaps less obvious is that there’s an unofficial list of “good, special, big” things which are deemed successes worth celebrating. The list includes:

  • Graduating from school or college
  • Becoming engaged or married
  • Becoming pregnant
  • The birth of a child
  • A new job or promotion
  • Moving into a new home

This is fine if it fits with our aspirations, desires, and abilities but what if it doesn’t? If we are not ticking those boxes, by choice or otherwise, we can be left feeling outside the norm. Worse, we can end up feeling a failure for not succeeding in the right ways. As a friend put it to me, “the Western world puts a lot of emphasis on accomplishments.” Maybe there’s a different way to think about what success means and how we go about celebrating it.

Marking the Waypoints

Most of the things on the list are big enough to stand as destinations on our journey through life, but we rarely arrive at them in a single bound. We’ve usually been working towards them for some time, often with considerable sacrifice or effort.

We can lighten the journey by acknowledging waypoints or stopping places along the road. These may not be things others would consider worth celebrating, but that’s no reason not to!

Surprised by Joy

Life sometimes surprises us with things we were never looking for or could not have anticipated. Maybe we meet someone who becomes a close friend or partner, or we learn something that moves or delights us. Maybe it’s a song we hear for the first time, or a joke shared with a friend. Sometimes it is joy, pure and simple. These might not count as successes because we have not worked towards them or “earned” them, but are moments worthy of celebrating!

Celebrate Your Failures

It might seem perverse to suggest celebrating failure but learning to reframe our “failures” as successes (lessons) can lead us to new ways of thinking about and doing things. It’s that reframing that’s worth celebrating. We generally experience more “failures” than “successes” too, so there’s plenty of opportunity to give it a try!

Do It Your Way

But how exactly are we to celebrate? By convention, celebrations are fun, loud, and social — think office and family parties, organised events, meals or evenings out with friends. They can be expensive and often involve eating or drinking to excess.

That might work for us but it might not. With a little imagination we can find ways to celebrate that are meaningful to us. They are our achievements, after all!

I prefer to celebrate quietly on my own or with one or two friends; although Fran and I marked the cover reveal and official launch of our first book with live online events. For our book launch Fran also hosted a house party for friends.

How do you like to celebrate your achievements? Big? Little? Quiet? Loud? Leave a comment, we’d love to know!

“I Did This!”

To celebrate is to take ownership of your successes and say “Look, I did this!” It’s no small thing to take pride in ourselves, not least because there’s often resistance from people determined to rain on our parade. It is easy to become disillusioned but it’s important — and healthy — to celebrate our wins.

I was proud to speak at a recent corporate event at which our CEO was presented with the Time to Change Employer Pledge on behalf of the company. It was a team success but as Pledge Lead I gave myself permission to own it as a personal achievement too. I celebrated with a drink and a meal out on my own before heading home.

“You Did This!”

I’ve been unable to trace the author but this quotation says a lot to me about friendship, support, and celebration:

It is important to have friends who are proud of you when you get a new job or learn to bake or do big things but it is also important to have friends who are proud of you when you get out of bed and take a shower.

Having someone who understands your achievements and what they mean to you can certainly make a world of difference, as my friend Aimee posted recently on social media:

After almost every blog post, Martin is there telling me how much they meant to him. After every achievement, he is there telling me how proud he is.

Well, now it’s my turn! I’m a very proud bestie after all of his recent achievements at work!

So proud that I designed a meme for him!

Thank you, Aimee! I’ve never had a meme designed for me before!

Keep an Achievements List

It is easy to lose track of our successes when life is hectic or we are feeling low or overwhelmed. Consider keeping a list to look back on when you need reminding, or when you feel like treating yourself and want a valid reason! If you write one, a diary is an ideal place to explore what your successes mean to you, but keep a separate summary list or you will lose them in amongst the rest of your journaling.

Here are a few success suggestions. Perhaps some of them are relevant to you. What would you add to the list?

  • Asking for help
  • Taking your medication as prescribed
  • Attending appointments
  • Speaking up for yourself
  • Being there for someone in need of help or kindness
  • Taking time for self-care
  • Saying no to something that doesn’t feel right to you
  • Moving forward when you’ve been stuck
  • Recognising you’re not ready to move forward yet and being okay with that

If you know someone who finds it hard to recognise their achievements, consider asking if you might keep a list on their behalf. I have done this for Fran on several occasions, most notably when she was traveling in Europe during the summer of 2013. Positives were few and far between but I kept a list of “Happy Moments” and emailed them to her every few weeks to remind her things were not quite as bleak as they appeared to her. I’ve done this for other friends on occasion.

Over to You

I asked a few people what success means to them.

Jen Evans:

As to the small wins I’d need to think about it. I do think about it daily ... for me right now, the small wins are walking my dog despite how I feel. Getting clothes washed ... things like that ... just routine stuff. A day when I write is a good day. But on a day like today ... getting anything done is a big deal. My high school buddy is in town so I will see her in the next two days. Oh and I cleaned the bathroom!! Win!! My buddy asked if she could use my shower ... so a very quick clean ... but still a win!


I find it hard to get up and dressed. I find it hard to clean my teeth, to shower, to wash my dishes and do my laundry. I push through to achieve these as often as I can. Sometimes I achieve it. Sometimes I don’t.

I celebrate those times I do, because those times I do are testament to the fact that I am still here, still alive and still going despite my body and mind doing their best to make this no longer the case.

Karen Manton:

Success to me is something that gives me that happy feeling of satisfaction. It is knowing I am doing the very best I can but most importantly I’m making a difference to the lives of others. I’m preparing to work with students very shortly at my local university and I am confident that will be a huge success to me. This will be celebrated by sharing my achievement with my loved ones.

Paul Saunders-Priem:

Success to me means getting the job done no matter whatever it is. I celebrate through first laughter, then food, walks and things like that.

Aimee Wilson:

For so long I blamed myself for everything bad in my life – I thought I had deserved all of it. So, moving into recovery with my mental health, I knew that had to change; I had to be able to treat myself well and allow myself to revel in my achievements and be happy about my successes in life. With that in mind, I was eager to contribute to this piece of Martin’s to take it as an opportunity to recognize my recent successes. There’s two I really wanted to talk about; the first seems small but is just as important as the second, bigger one!

Last year (2018) I began hearing a voice that told me to stop taking my medication with the belief that it was poisoned. Stopping my medication suddenly and without the knowledge of my support team ended up being hugely detrimental to my life and I put myself, and others, in danger a number of times until one time, I scared myself so much that I knew I had to take my meds again. So every day I go to my dosette box and peel back the little sticker to reveal the tablets that need to be taken, pour a glass of water, and swallow them? Well that’s an accomplishment. Some people might look on that and think that I shouldn’t be praised for doing what is expected of me but those people mustn’t comprehend how challenging fulfilling that expectation can be.

My second achievement recently has been getting my Digital Marketing Internship with Docere (an education recruitment company). I told everyone that I thought it was just what I needed to help me take my recovery a step further and some people were hesitant and worried that it’d be overwhelming for me but those people were soon silenced when I got the job and began working! Learning new things and doing something I love (such as marketing and publicity and all things social media) has been a huge motivation in my efforts to resist urges to self-harm.

What does success mean to you? How do you like to celebrate your wins? Leave a comment below — we’d love to hear from you!


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