Like me, do you crave praise and recognition for the slightest good deed?

I have certain words and phrases that I love, and one of those words is evidence. (Others include “cargo,” “scintillating scotoma” and “intangible hereditable.”)

In law school, I liked learning about kinds of evidence: fruit of the poisonous tree, dying declarations, excited utterances. I loved the title of Edward Tufte’s book, Beautiful Evidence. And I was intrigued by a phrase I first heard from a friend who is a terrorism expert: secret evidence.

In general, “secret evidence” means information that is classified and need not be shown to the accused. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own kind of secret evidence.

A French proverb that I’ve quoted a million times is “There is no such thing as love, there are only proofs of love.” Which I take to mean that I shouldn’t march around claiming to feel love, but instead must show my love through actions.

One of the most challenging of my happiness-project resolutions is “Don’t expect praise or appreciation.” I really crave those gold stars, but I’ve been trying to do loving actions – especially for the Big Man – without expecting any recognition and without expecting him even to notice.

Oftentimes, there’s no way he could know, because my loving deed is something invisible, like me not losing my temper or not nagging.

Boy, it’s kind of pathetic how much I want to get gold stars.

But this morning it occurred to me that I could think of these gestures as my secret evidence. They are proofs of love, even if other people don’t know about them.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with entertainment options, a great place to get recommendations for books, movies, music, and gadgets is Head Butler. Sometimes the recommendations are for the latest things, sometimes for long-forgotten classics. I mostly use the reading suggestions, and find them very reliable.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • When we were small, my mom taught my sister and I about love languages.
    She said that people all feel loved in different ways. And it was up to us to find the “evidence” of their love language.
    Some people like it if you “do” tasks for them, some need to be touched, some like gifts — just a token will do, some (like you) need to hear it.
    It has saved me much trouble in my life to ask people straight up what their love language is — and now I know that completing a task for my husband will reap many more rewards than telling him, “Hey, you’re foxy.”

  • adora

    Sometimes, these invisible evidences only present themselves in our absents. I remember the first time my dad really missed my mom. When I was 6, she went to visit grandpa for 3 weeks. We ran out of toilet paper, shampoo, and the floor was sticky.

  • *gives you a gold star*
    I just wanted to say I love this blog, I love what you’re doing and I really, really hear you on the gold star thing.
    What works for me is to poke my boyfriend in the ribs and tell him: oi, I did this thing, ‘preciate!
    It’s blunt, but it works.

  • It’s hard to stay motivated if you aren’t getting rewarded isn’t it? I like the idea of secret evidence, but I’m not sure if it can really make up for a lack of praise. Deep down we’re all insecure little people who need others to tell us how valuable we are. Self recognition only goes so far.

  • ptwelve

    Having once had a flittering scotoma (which was scary as all get-out), I can confirm that not everything is as good as it sounds.

  • I appreciate your honesty. The Law of Attraction might be worthwhile to consider, the more you crave the gold star, the more craving will show up (and the more you’ll attract people who crave it as well).
    I’ve found tremendous peace in praising without expectation of anything in return.
    It gets really tricky when I want it because I’m attached. I love how infinite patience produces immediate results.
    When I’m infinitely patient, the praise is unimportant because I’m detached from it.
    By the way, I think it’s lovely that you are so honest. It’s so connecting. I happily give you a clear night’s full of gold stars for bringing us all closer to God!

  • Gretchen — I love your blog, I really do, and I hate to make one of my few comments a criticism (the opposite of a gold star)…
    but shouldn’t you put a caveat on your recommendation of Head Butler along the lines of “I find him very reliable, especially when he recommends one of my books.”
    (I’m not 100% positive, but I may have gotten here from there the very first time, which was enough for me to put you in my rss reader and check in daily.)
    The blogosphere… more transparent then most any other medium.

  • After adding my comment on your post about this topic around Valentine’s Day, I realized that I don’t need praise. I like it and it’s wonderful to get, but I actually do things for me, not for someone else, therefore the only praise I need is from myself.
    If anyone else wants to add it, then that’s gravy!
    (Okay, so I haven’t totally mastered this new attitude, but it has only been a week or so.)

  • Give yourself the gold star. Take an empty book, buy some gold stars, and put one in the book every time you do something for others. You’ll have concrete proof of your secret evidence.

  • suz

    Can I relate to this post! I need gold stars too. My husband is like a child, pouting and stomping and demanding gold stars at every moment in our lives, so much so that he never once has given me my own gold star. Never once. And I’ve stopped loving him because of it.

  • Michelle I

    Gretchen–you are so in touch with topics that I find very relatable. How to organize my kids crafts…Tips for good deeds…Taking it easy with my kids. BUT this one resonates the most.
    I read the prior blog on the Power of Attraction (The Secret) and know it to be true.
    Now that I practice daily prayer and meditation on showing love, patience and peace, I find myself so much happier. I don’t feel the need for gold stars (as much) anymore and GUESS WHAT? I’ve started to notice that my Big Man is doing lots of nice little things that he hasn’t done in a while (like putting away the kids toys.) The kids seem happier and calmer too…which makes for much more pleasant days. It’s phenomenal in every sense of the word.

  • Goofy blog reader

    I would love for you to write more about this, to elaborate.
    I too need gold stars for everything. I do so many things that go completely unrecognized. I know that that’s the best way to do good, to do things without letting everyone know, but I secretly want my good deeds to be discovered! Please write something motivational for people like me who need recognition & positive feedback!

  • When I read this, I thought about the Five Love Languages. It looks like Helenjane mentioned them, but have you read the book? It might provide you with some new insight about your need for gold stars. After hearing about them, I find myself assigning languages to everyone now. Mine is definitely Acts of Service! Doing the dishes is an easy way to win my heart.