Level-up your community skills - get these guides delivered straight to your inbox!
EVERYONE LISTEN UP.
Generally, I stay the heck away from one-size-fits-all talk in my articles. Usually, one size fits one really well, and others terribly, or just average.
However. How. EVER.
I REFUSE to sit idly and watch as community leaders ignore or gloss over their wins. The magic you’re creating is AMAZING. You are MORALLY OBLIGATED to celebrate.
A few things came up recently that are making the size of the hill I’m dying on larger than ever:
- I am in a life-changing community of women where we’ve had weekly (now monthly) calls since 2020. Many of us met virtually during the pandemic, online. The space we’ve created together is INCOMPARABLE. Our facilitators and fierce protectors, Toni and Dana, are EXTRAORDINARY HUMANS, as are the other women on this call. During our most recent hang, a few folks shared the fear/hesitation of celebrating and not being able to fully lean into wins. BUT THE THINGS THEY’VE ACCOMPLISHED ARE MIND-BOGGLING. MIND. BOGGLING.
- My friend Neelam (from aforementioned community) gave a workshop at SXSW and I produced a celebration tour for her in Seattle. We basically bopped around buying celebration goblets (yes, actual goblets), doing book signings, trying on peacock earrings, and all sorts of shenanigans to savor every part of the high. Cheering for other people is one of my truest joys in this life and EVERYONE DESERVES A CELEBRATION TOUR.
- My friend Pat, in the online community world, shared how hard it is for him to recognize and hold onto his wins. Pat has been SOOOOOOOO GENEROUS in every single space I’ve shared with him. Yet. YET!!!
I will NOT be accepting this anymore. I’m (not) sorry, but if you come to me with a win, I will metaphorically bash you over the head with it until it trickles into your heart and lives there.
YOU ARE MORALLY OBLIGATED TO CELEBRATE.
Especially if you are doing any sort of community work, you are creating pure magic.
Here are ten more ways I can say this. I could go to 100 if you want me to. I WILL NOT let this go, ever.
- When you connect two people to each other, you could be changing the trajectory of their entire lives.
- When you moderate a space or a conversation, you are protecting it from the outside world, which is inherently unsafe. You are giving people places to show up with identities that are meaningful to them.
- You are using your precious time and energy on earth to CREATE BELONGING. We are living on an incredible, magical, lonely planet, and YOU are making at least one person less lonely.
- You’re teaching people that they can be lifelong learners every time you share a new resource.
- Every time a new conversation shows up in your community, it means something new that never existed in the world has just come to life.
- In a society of crumbling third spaces, you’re creating somewhere people can exist.
- You are constantly thinking of OTHER PEOPLE. With your ONE LIMITED BRAIN. How cool is that???
- Even on your worst days when you are crying in your closet (been there), the momentum you’ve already created for others is happening. YOU’VE ALREADY STARTED THE MOMENTUM, YOU CAN’T STOP IT, SORRY
- Your work is unlocking possibilities for people that they never thought existed. IF THAT’S NOT MAGIC, I DON’T WANT IT
- By working with real humans and their real feelings, you are being vulnerable. You can NOT control how other people react. But you’re doing your best anyway and CREATING STUFF. Creating stuff just with the power of your brain and some technology!!! Holy crap!!!!! 💩
Science says you’re morally obligated to celebrate.
- If you don’t celebrate, you’re making people feel like damn fools
When you reject the celebration, you’re actually doing your community/your people a disservice. Here’s a quote from The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane. Emphasis mine for all the quotes in this article.
How do you feel when someone pays you a compliment? For instance, when someone says you look good or you have accomplished something impressive, do you instinctively downplay it? For many people, compliments feel both pleasant and a little awkward, and they don’t quite know how to handle them. Many of us either turn bashful or modestly deflect the compliment by saying something like “Oh, it’s nothing…” Unfortunately, doing this sends a message to your admirer that they were wrong to compliment you. They will probably feel rather foolish, and there’s even a chance that they will associate this experience of feeling foolish with you.
So if you can’t celebrate for yourself, DO IT FOR THE PEOPLE!
- Celebrating is a skill, and it helps you build allies
- Compliments can be stress relief
- Change requires clarity, and clarity requires finding the bright spots
One of my favorite books ever (and I read 200+ a year) is Superbetter by Jane McGonigal. It turns out celebrating other people is a skill, and it helps you build ride or die homies. And when you celebrate others, you get better at celebrating yourself, as I’ve learned in my own experience.
Psychologists call this active constructive responding. It means taking someone’s good news or success and helping them really savor and celebrate it. Active constructive responding is a skill—the more you practice it, the more naturally it will come to you. Just remember, it’s not about over-the-top praise or positive feedback. Just try to ask three questions about any good thing that happens. Then reflect back to them what you’ve heard!
In the book Burnout, by the Nagoski sisters, they write that positive social interactions can combat our fight/flight/freeze response.
Casual but friendly social interaction is the first external sign that the world is a safe place. Most of us expect we’ll be happier if, say, our seatmate on a train leaves us alone, in mutual silence; turns out, people experience greater well-being if they’ve had a polite, casual chat with their seatmate. People with more acquaintances are happier. Just go buy a cup of coffee and say “Nice day” to the barista. Compliment the lunch lady’s earrings. Reassure your brain that the world is a safe, sane place, and not all people suck. It helps!
Your brain WANTS to know that the world is a safe place and not all people suck. Tracking or reflecting on your wins in some way, and celebrating them, is friendly to your brain. And to your stress levels. And a great burnout-prevention tactic. So if you don’t celebrate, you’re putting yourself at risk, and I will not have that. Nope.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard is my FAVORITE book so far on creating change. A fundamental part of the change-the-world roadmap is providing a clear path for our lil brains. We can do this by finding what’s gone well.
You care about community building because you care about change. You care about the progress of your members. You care about the transformations you’re creating. SO PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT’S WORKING, AND CELEBRATE!
To pursue bright spots is to ask the question “What’s working, and how can we do more of it?” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet, in the real world, this obvious question is almost never asked. Instead, the question we ask is more problem focused: “What’s broken, and how do we fix it?”
Level-up your community skills - get these guides delivered straight to your inbox!
Ok but celebrating wins can be hard. How can I be consistent?!
I’ll admit that much of this article is a note to my OWN silly brain to celebrate. I’m having a particularly awesome week, so it’s easy for me to write this in a place of abundance. But alas, theory is easier than practice!
Here are some strategies you can try:
- The #100DaysOfX Challenge. I’m currently doing #100DaysOfFun on my personal instagram @niviachanta. Even on my worst days, it’s forcing me to at least look for fun things. So I can’t go to bed without at least one tiny celebration. It’s based off of Simone Grace Seol’s Garbage Post Challenge. (Love her content)
- PRE-CELEBRATE! How many times have you gotten a potential lead to something exciting and been too scared to “jinx it”? Or not share it with the world because you don’t want to be more disappointed when it doesn’t happen? Well, ALL THAT’S DOING is taking away your own hard-earned joy. Why shouldn’t you celebrate the potential to potentially give a TED talk when the organizer responds, even when they’re just acknowledging your submission? Why shouldn’t you shout it from the rooftops that you’ve met a person interested in joining your community before they sign up? Pre-celebration is SO fun, I’m telling you. It attunes you to the fact that wins don’t have to be big. Little things can be the best things, because they happen every day. SO LOOK FOR THEM!
- Play your whole movie. I learned this phrase from Sian Beilock, who researches the phenomenon of choking under pressure. It’s a much more fun way of saying zoom out, dammit, don’t just replay the clip of when you fell one time over and over again. Your life is so much more than your stumbles. IT’S A REALLY AWESOME MOVIE IF ONLY YOU PLAYED THE WHOLE THING!
- Get a celebration buddy. I have one (thanks Neelam) and we cheers our goblets together now on our weekly calls. I call her when something good happens. I actually have a lot of people in my life I celebrate with, but Neelam and I meet every Tuesday, and sharing wins is a part of our ritual. (Honestly we didn’t plan that, it’s just been happening and it’s LIFE-CHANGING). This is a good place to practice giving and getting compliments!
- Track your wins. That’s why gratitude journaling is so powerful — you remember all the awesome things happening to you. So whether it’s a wins list, celebration tracker, gratitude journal, or something else, writing these down helps you remember that you are in fact an awesome person doing awesome things.
All these strategies are made FAR easier with habits and self-care rituals, which I wrote about here:
Monday mornings from 9:55-10:00am, don’t bother me. I’m celebrating.
Final note: you have worth simply by existing as a human. THAT COUNTS AS A REASON FOR CELEBRATION. HOW COOL IS IT TO BE ALIVE?!
Do you not find consciousness alone to be the most exhilarating thing? Here we are, in this incomprehensibly large universe, on this one tiny moon around this one incidental planet, and in all the time this entire scenario has existed, every component has been recycled over and over and over into infinitely incredible configurations, and sometimes, those configurations are special enough to be able to see the world around them. You and I — we’re just atoms that arranged themselves the right way, and we can understand that about ourselves. Is that not amazing?” — the best robot ever, in A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers
I will leave you with my video, because I am SO HEATED that you are being awesome and building community and creating magic and not recognizing that. Maybe this is the start of my angry-but-optimistic-motivational-speaker career??!!