Give Yourself a Gold Star

By Madeline Brady, Regular Contributor

The end of the academic year is an exciting time: graduation is coming, everyone is excited for summer, and it seems like every group, class, and team is having a banquet or awards night to celebrate a year well spent. I love these special occasions because they honor the hard work of students and highlight the accomplishments of individuals from throughout the year. Awards can be really a special way to recognize those we consider leaders in our community or those who inspire their peers with their dedication, passion, and skill.

But as excited as I am to applaud these successes and to honor my friends, there’s always that little voice in the back of my head that gets ugly.

“Why wasn’t that you?”

“You really should have tried harder.”

“No one thought your work was any good.”

These moments that are meant to celebrate the excellence of others suddenly become about me and my work and why no one is validating my efforts. And I end up feel bitter and sad even when it was an award I didn’t even want!

So this is where the cheesy advice comes in, but bear with me. Awards are all well and good, but you truly have to measure yourself by your own standards of success. I know, I’ve heard it a million times, but sometimes cliché advice actually has some grounding in truth. 

Your goals, circumstances, skills, and effort will never be exactly the same as someone else, and no award will ever be able encompass all the things you’ve accomplished. You are the only one who will be able to give yourself the credit for a job well done. And don’t you want that? How tiring would it be to wait for someone else to pat you on the back every time you do something you’re proud of?


I recently did a big project that didn’t go the way I planned. I thought it was going to be amazing. I felt ready to take it on, but then my resources and academic support fell through and I felt alone. It was hard to realize that my project wasn’t going to be all that I thought it was, but I didn’t want to think of myself and my project as a failure. So I changed my goals. I emphasized discipline and hard work. I accepted challenges as opportunities to be creative. And I learned not to base my value on the outcome of a single project. I shifted my perspective so that I could make goals that were realistic and worthwhile, instead of counting on others to make me feel like I was doing a good job.

And, in the end, these accomplishments have proved to be so much more worthy than any award or praise I could have received for my project. They are lessons that have made me stronger and wiser. And, now this is what I think of when that ugly voice rears its head:

“I am proud of the work that I have done.”

“I am confident that I can make myself happy.”

“I am independent and capable when things get hard.”

Let's talk! What is something you've done lately that you're proud of? How do you reward yourself for your awesome-ness? Tell us about it here!

About Madeline

madeline_brady.jpgMadeline is a soon-to-be recent graduate of Bryn Mawr College where she majored in English and Theater. She is looking forward to joining the real world, learning how to cook more than cereal, and living abroad after graduation. Her passions include running, music, feminism, and spending way too much time on Instagram.



image via

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Connect With Us