I care less about money than I ever have before. But accolades get me every time.
This past January was maybe the most successful month of my life—at least in worldly terms. I released a book, Clutterfree with Kids, that spent two weeks as the #1 Parenting book in America and Canada. On the exact same day, our Facebook page passed 100,000 fans. And to top it off, with over 1 million pageviews, January was our busiest month ever on Becoming Minimalist.
I felt like I was on top of the world.
It was truly an amazing season… and it lasted almost an entire two weeks.
Early in February, during an evening session of answering email at my dining room table, I began to notice some interesting chatter on social media. A friend of mine had apparently been featured on a popular news website. Immediately, it seemed, everybody was talking about him, heaping praise on his accomplishment.
I should have been happy for him. But I wasn’t. I was too busy complaining to myself that my story wasn’t being covered by the media.
All of a sudden things were changing.
Later that same week, I noticed another author’s Facebook page was growing faster than mine. To make it worse, my book was no longer on top of any bestsellers list. In fact, there were countless parenting books already selling better than mine ever did. I began to regret that I didn’t title my book, The 5 Love Languages to Expect You’re Expecting.
Rather than celebrating one of the greatest months of my life, I had become jealous and envious of the people around me. And this was not just a superficial jealousy that fades in the morning—this was a jealousy deeply rooted in my heart that I could not shake no matter what I tried.
My work and accomplishments immediately seemed less impressive to me.
Two weeks later I was in San Diego.
I was listening to Anne Lamott at the Storyline Conference. She was speaking about writing, but also about life (as she so brilliantly does).
During one of her answers, she made a life-giving observation. She said, “If you are hoping to find your self-worth and fulfillment in other peoples’ opinion of your writing, you will never find it.”
Her statement caught my attention immediately. I recounted the last two weeks and suddenly realized that is exactly what I had done. I had based my self-worth and happiness on the number of accolades I received from others. And as they began to fade, so did my opinion of the life I was trying to live.
The pursuit of accolades is always a foolish desire.
It often negatively impacts the decisions we make and the life we choose to live. But they never fully satisfy our hearts or our souls. Even those who have reached the pinnacle of fame and prestige in our society long for more. As Eric Hoffer once wrote, “You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy.”
Our goal is not to secure accolades. They are empty and fleeting. Our goal is to live the one life we’ve been given to its greatest potential—whether anybody praises you for it or not.