Let’s Stop Pretending It’s Always Easy

Downplaying the effort we put into reaching our accomplishments serves no one. It creates unrealistic expectations AND you deserve praise for all your hard work! >> yesandyes.org

 Pop quiz, friends. Have you ever been guilty of any of the following?

a) hurriedly cleaning your house before friends pop round and when they compliment your spotless space you get all “Oh this mess? No!”

b) perfecting the art of ‘I’m-not-wearing-makeup’ makeup. And then wearing it to the gym.

c) attempting to win every potluck you attend by bringing an overly-involved and impressive dessert. And then acting like it’s something you just threw together with the ingredients in your fridge.

d) removing carbs, cheese, and joy from your diet so you can look amazing in your swimsuit. And then when someone says you look great, you wax modest.

Sound familiar? No? Just me. Awkward.

I spent the better part of my twenties (and maybe the first year of my thirties) engaging in competition level Effort And Accomplishment Downplay.

All those countries I visited? Oh, it’s no big deal, you just book a ticket and go. That MA? I didn’t write a thesis, it’s just an MA through coursework. These jeans that still fit? I just got lucky and inherited a fast metabolism.

Downplaying the effort that goes into our accomplishments serves absolutely no one. Click To Tweet



If somebody wants to follow in your footsteps, you’ve just completely misrepresented the amount of work that goes into what you’ve done.

You’re (inadvertently!) creating totally unrealistic standards for others.

Most awesome things aren’t particularly easy. If you tell me that training for a marathon was “no bigs” for you and it’s been crazy hard for me? Well, now I have a complex.

You deserve credit for all the hard work you’ve done.

When you tell a friend that it’s not a big deal that you just got into your first choice grad school, you’re removing her opportunity to praise you and make the fuss that you deserve.

Now, I’m not suggesting that every time someone compliments you, you announce “Ohmygod, you won’t believe how much work went into this winged eyeliner!” But next time someone notices the beautifully decorated room/six pack abs/impressive resume that you’ve slaved over – why not say “Thanks so much! I’ve worked really hard on it.”

Are you ever guilty of downplaying your accomplishments?  What do you say when people compliment you?

P.S. 21 things you don’t have to do

photo by charlie harutaka // cc

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  1. Mel

    This may not seem as a good example, but I realized how often people actually do that through my dog ^^

    I had a really rough time raising and training her. I actually even lost some friends over it. She was a hard puppy to deal with (due to very intelligent doggy) I basically spent an entire year training and raising her every minute of the day. It was extremely hard work. I don't think people can really imagine how hard.

    She is a dream now. A real dream. The perfect dog and I love her.

    people always wonder about how good she listens and friends and strangers CONSTANTLY tell me how wonderful she is and what a sweet dog I've got. My first reaction always is "Yeah, well, it was a lot of hard hard work and didn't happen over night!"

    people apparently don't want to hear that though. They always look at me like I'm nuts after I've said it. There were some people though who really wanted to know how I did it and wanted good advice. I loved giving i!

    I totally agree with you and I think we should stick to how hard we work for certain things. It really helps my self asteem 🙂

  2. brlracincwgrl

    I absolutely downplay my accomplishments. My biggest one surviving cancer and learning how to walk all over again. People tell me repeatedly that I'm their hero, but I simply say I'm just like you (a normal person). They always beg to differ.

  3. Tiffany

    I used to say that I study fluffy subjects (Anthropology) and that essays were no big deal since I always hand them in overdue but still manage a pass after penalties. But I've come to realise that I put in a lot of effort to research and write my essays even though I hand them in late. I've started giving myself more credit for them and telling myself that I've put in hard work for these things.

    It really helps to give credit for my essays because otherwise I think they're easy and I forget how much effort and time I've put into them and think I can do an essay in 8 hours. I forget I need to research these things and I take forever to read stuff.

  4. The Mighty RandR

    I am completely guilty of this! Thank you for adding a little insight and encouragement – I will own up to my accomplishments!

  5. Catherine Denton

    *raises hand* Guilty. I do this with my art, and with my kids. I feel braggy saying this, but people always say, "You've got great kids" or "We never have to worry about your kids". We DO have great kids, but we've worked hard with them teaching them how to relate to others. I never say that though. I leave them thinking we lucked out.

    And you're right it's not honest and it doesn't help ANYONE. I love your simple, sweet answer. I read this earlier on the other blog, but I needed to hear it again, so thanks!
    Catherine Denton

  6. Catherine

    Mel – that is SO awesome! My BF and I have a sometimes-difficult dog and it's been hard to prioritize doing the hard work with her. She's coming along, though. Congratulations, and enjoy your sweet, smart pup!

  7. Amy

    This is one of my favorite things you've ever written, SVB! I find it super hard to accept compliments or admit when I've been working on something. I love the idea of relaxing and admitting, "Yeah, I've been working on it."

  8. Anonymous

    I wish I had six pack abs…..just sayin….

  9. Kait

    Sarah this is such a great post and so important to talk about for the health and well-being of us ladies everywhere! I went to a college where the women had an issue with what was dubbed "effortless perfection," this idea that you are a student leader, popular, have top grades, wear the latest fashions, and are skinny and fit all without putting in an ounce of effort. It was ridiculous and unhealthy for women to act that way! I agree with you whole-heartedly, we have to be self-aware in order to stop that madness!! We all rock, so let's give out the compliments and receive them as well 🙂

  10. BakingSuit

    This is something I'll have to explore more, some things are just that easy, something I've convinced myself are that easy, some things I just don't want to think about the hard work that went into it. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  11. Courtney

    I think the first step is learning to say thank you and move on. Yes, it's great you put in the effort, but there's no reason to explain anything unless the other person giving the compliment asks.

  12. Anide

    Loved this post. It is so true and made me re-think my own responses to a few things lately. Mine tend to be more on the 'oh it's not that big of a deal'.

  13. Darcie

    accepting compliments on your achievements is so, so difficult, i think especially for mid-westerners. for me, this has been a practice in accepting compliments. usually, i say, "that is such a nice thing for you to say, thank you." or just, "thank you for saying so." maybe my next step will be to admit, "it worked really hard on it." 🙂

  14. Clare Herbert

    I love this post, Sarah. It is *not* always easy and belittling our accomplishments serves no-one. Thanks for saying so, Clare.

  15. Laura

    I do those things!! Especially the dessert one! And wow…has this article ever changed my perspective! I want to send it to every woman I know!

  16. mmarinaa

    I downplay my social skills. People say that I'm so laid back, but they don't realize it took years of constant social anxiety before I felt I had mastered social life enough to relax a little. And they just assume I was born with a "whatever" attitude.

    It's possibly the height of irony that my amount of "chill" was only acquired after years of effort.

  17. Heather Fonseca

    Lol! I am so guilty. Love this post.

  18. Logo Design Essex

    Awesome blog! I will for sure drop by it more often!

  19. Anna Oates

    This is so true and important. I feel like it’s our nature to pretend things are easier than they are, we do it so people will think we’re so put together, but we diminish all the work it took to get there. This is something I need to work on for sure.

  20. Erin V

    People often say to me: “I don’t know how you do it!” And I usually reply “oh well don’t look too closely I’m sure I have banana smeared somewhere.”

    It’s also hard to explain the effort because the flip side is being perceived as completely bonkers. I would rather just self depricate than share (vulnerably) how hard I’m working to keep it all together.

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