"Celebrating You" - Article on digame 24/7

Here's the second article I've written for Digame 24/7

Celebrating you. De Verdad.

In the Latino culture, we have many nonverbal ways of communicating connection to each other. One is by celebrating major life events and accomplishments like quinceñeras, weddings, first communions and even first birthdays. Celebrating together is one way we matter to each other.

And ironically, if the celebrant basks in that joy just a bit too much they are ostracized. Let that novia (bride) smile one too many times and say how in love she is with her novio (groom) and predictions for how soon he will cheat start up. Let the high school graduate show too much excitement about college and judgment of getting “so conceited” pop up.

What is it about our culture that does not allow for pure unadulterated individual praise? How does the guilt and shame of accomplishment serve a purpose? As I say to my clients about any behavior, if it is present, then it must be “helpful” in some way.

In general, guilt and shame serve the purpose of keeping us in check against doing bad things to other people. Guilt and shame create the sensation of being wrong and compel us to take the action of apologizing. Then we get to remain in the group, tribe, community, or in our case, family.

Let us look at the map of ineffective thinking about guilt and shame in this case. If I am proud of my accomplishments, then that means I am saying it is all because of my efforts and thus none of my family. If I take all the credit, then that means I do not appreciate them. If I do not appreciate them, then they may think I do not need them. If they think that, then they’ll cut me out and I’ll be alone. Then I will feel loss and be sad.

Well, we don’t want to be sad! But we also don’t want to be resentful that as individuals we do not have a voice that is validated. In this case of celebration, it feels unfamiliar to accept success merely as an individual because just as soon as you feel connected and proud, you are torn down. The new question becomes, “How can we give credit and appreciation to our family while also accepting our success?”

First, you have to not apologize to yourself and instead embrace your accomplishment. For example, “I was challenged and worked hard in writing and selling my manuscript.” Second, you then share that accomplishment with your family in a comfortable way. For example, “Without my nieces and nephews keeping me laughing, I would have been really stressed out, ” or “Knowing I could call my sister anytime I felt isolated and hear news about the family helped me stay grounded.”

You might also include nonverbal actions like laughing, smiling, and hugging. All of this communicates safety for both you and your family. And with safety, you can then get on with the cumbia dancing and enjoy some dessert. Celebrate away!