I’m a bonafide praise junkie.
I grew up in the later 80s and 90s when self-esteem reigned. Having good self-esteem was supposed to keep kids off drugs, free of eating disorders, out of trouble, and on the path to success. My incredible parents were always telling me how proud they were of me, how great I was at everything, and how I was generally wonderful. My teachers were always giving out Gold Stars, and you better believe I had the most stars in class (obviously). I loved the praise, and I fully believe that it give me self-confidence to get me through tough times. I also think that along the way praise became equal to love for me. I’m not alone.
Have you heard of The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman? My mom told me about it. In short, Chapman argues that different people give and receive love differently, through what he calls love languages. One of the languages is “Words of Affirmation.” You better believe that one is mine.
The great benefit of Chapman’s theory is that readers can recognize their partner’s, parent’s, friend’s, and even children’s love language as well as their own.* Chapman believes this can help us understand and love each other more effectively. Chapman’s 5 Love Languages are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
So there I was giving out gold stars left and right (“Thanks so much for doing the dishes, you’re the best!” or “I really appreciate you eating all the crazy food I cook. You’re so understanding”), and not getting any in return. Matt didn’t even seem to care about all the praise I was giving him (I kind of expected, “no, thank YOU for always making sure we have toilet paper. You’re the most considerate person ever!” in return). It just isn’t his love language. It doesn’t make sense to him that praise=love to me any more than love=gifts makes sense to me. (check out my birthday post for more on me and receiving gifts).
My husband jokingly has called my mom “cheerleader” for years, and it seems like she and my father will be the ones to hand out my gold stars. But that’s ok with me. I don’t expect gold stars from Matt anymore, and I’m not
as resentful when I don’t get them. I know he loves me affirmations or not. Yes, of course there are still times when I lose it and want to just feel appreciated. At those times, I let him know I just need to hear some words of praise (Throw me a bone!). He generally obliges. Then, I call my mom 🙂
Have you read The 5 Love Languages? What did you think? Are you a praise junkie, too?
*You can be a blend of more than one Love Language (I take a lot of stock in Quality Time, too.) There is a quiz on Chapman’s site if you are interested in learning more.