A few days ago, I witnessed something heart-warming. My friend’s husband bought a bunch of grocery store-wrapped roses for her. Pale pink. Her favourite hue. “What’s the occasion?” She asked, pleasantly surprised.
“For being such a great mom and wife!” Came his reply with a smile.
My friend is a full-time working mom and they just recently toilet-trained their 3-year-old. Anyone with children can appreciate the achievement in this “poopy” story. More importantly, her husband understood something that is lost on most today – the importance of celebration in the midst of the mundane.
Too often, we attach the idea of celebration with great and outstanding successes; achievements that only a small minority could ever attain. Also, celebrations usually involve extravagant spending and the involvement of a big group, or so we think. These notions discourage us from wanting to celebrate successes because it requires too much effort and perhaps there is indeed nothing much to celebrate in the first place.
To top it all off, those of us who grew up in relatively frugal cultures would usually frown upon such “excesses”. In fact, the lesser a deal we make of each other’s successes the better. ‘Stay low key, work hard and mind our own business.’ Such thinking would have been necessary at times but if persistently practised, we would not only allow the insidious effect of over-familiarity into our lives but also breed poor self-esteem in us and our loved ones.
Too often, it is far easier to tell the people around us that they are not good enough, that they “ought to” do better and that there is still room for improvement. Sounds familiar? Or perhaps we are frequently the ones on the receiving end of such comments from others.
According to John M. Gottman, acclaimed relationship researcher and psychologist, every negative interaction would require five more positive interactions in order to make up for the unhealthy impact. And this positive interaction is the key to happy relationships. Instead of putting down others or overlooking each other’s successes, learning how to give compliments and to celebrate each other’s achievements (especially if it means something to the other) are positive interactions that we could have more of in life.
Having coached many individuals, I realised that the lack of celebrations in one’s growing up years has affected many people’s ability to see the positive in life. Naturally, their self-esteem also suffers and this has a significant impact on the quality of relationships that they form. Therefore, it is very important to know how to celebrate the different milestones in life, individually and with others. Here are some more reasons why:
Recognition and Motivation
Celebrations give us a sense of recognition for even the smallest accomplishments and milestones. Being recognised allows us to feel good about ourselves and take pride in whatever we do in life because we know that someone who matters cares. It motivates us to do better in life knowing that we have someone to celebrate with us. This is the reason why we actively seek to encourage and promote good behaviour in young children by praising them when they achieve a new milestone in life, such as being able to feed themselves, keep away their toys at the end of the day or even share their toys with others. We celebrated these acts by cheering and even making a big deal out of it because it IS a big deal to the children. Now put that in the context of adults in relationships and guess what? The same principle applies! When you have finally paid off the housing loan or when your partner has won the best bonsai award in his hobbyist group. To some of us, these might be meaningless or even unremarkable, but for those who have put in the effort, it means something. Being able to celebrate these achievements will help our loved ones gain more confidence in life, not to mention have a better self-image.
Celebrating also helps create a sense of unity among couples. It feels good to know that someone cares and is always there for you to celebrate your success. This is especially so if he or she has seen how hard you have worked in order to reach your goal. You’ve been through the pit and now you’re at the peak, together. Seeing each other grow and progress and to know that you are part of the other’s personal success is a tool for bonding like no other. Of course, no journey to the top is smooth and leaves everyone unscathed. Sometimes, the one who gets hurt the most is our loved ones as the relationship gets sacrificed in the pursuit of the goals. But if couples can look past this, learn to communicate openly and recommit themselves to each other, the success can be only sweeter. Easier said than done, but truly, nothing forges a relationship better than bad times. And the icing on the cake is the ability to celebrate together despite the past hurts that have been mended and let go of. No condemnation, only celebration, how does that sound?
Our morale often gets a boost when our efforts are recognised through celebrations. The feeling of appreciation helps to improve our attitudes towards life. Celebrations create excitement and expectancy that breaks the regular routine of daily chores and act as an additional morale booster. When morale is high between couples, love grows and this relationship becomes positively productive. In fact, this is why date nights, baby-moons (the honeymoon you take before the baby pops), and “just because” gifts are frequently used by couples to ensure that their relationship stays loving and strong. These forms of morale boosters might require a bit more effort to create but done consistently, the benefits and impact are deep and wide. Deep because it would impact how your children (and their generation consequently) perceive and value relationships; wide because it has a positive impact that would ripple across your social circles and society at large.
“Spark joy” (here’s a nod to you, Marie Kondo)
Finally, celebrations are fun and provide us with opportunities to engage in the joys of life, regardless of which stage we are at. Such experiences allow us to loosen up and enjoy the moment. This helps to spark positive emotions to our memories. With a high emotional charge attached to these moments, it will be easier for us to recall them in the future.
The simple joy of celebration has unfortunately been forgotten, due to our hectic society and cultural norms. It is time we find it back again and think of ways to incorporate them into our lives. Let’s reverse the tide of negativity that comes so naturally to mankind these days. Start now, and celebrate life.