I finish an assignment and wince at the screen of my laptop. Review content, formatting, word limit, references. I run through a mental checklist. 'Turn In', my work will now be graded by a Professor. "Will she approve of this?", comes to me with ease, I chuckle. I wonder how often we ask ourselves this question. If you find comfort in this question, by all means, allow yourself to seek its answer. At the moment, however, I was reminded of a school teacher who taught my classroom a question I will never forget, "Do you like this?".

Here's a story of how this question makes a difference.

M is a mother to a 4-year old, H. H runs up to M to show her a picture she drew at school.

H: Look, M!
H hurriedly waves the paper in M’s face.
M bends down and gently holds the paper, smiles.

M: This is really cool, H! Would you like to tell me what made you draw this?
H: This is you, and me, in my favorite blue shorts. We get an extra scoop of ice cream. I have really purple balloons, too.
M nods: We’ll have to think about that extra scoop then.
H giggles: I brush two times a day!

H looks at her paper and up at M: Do you think my teacher will like it?
M looks at her 4-year child and smiles.

M: Do you like it, H?
H with a huge grin: Of course I do! I think it’s wonderful.
M: That’s important, H.
H nods.

Do you see what M did? She allowed H to choose how she felt about her work. H will remember, many years later, to choose to find joy in the process and celebrate her work, as is. Approval and metrics do follow, as with all systems, perhaps we could make room for ourselves within the system too.

In asking ourselves “Do I like this?”, we begin to learn to value who we are, our choices, and soon enough, we reclaim some parts of what makes us happy. We reclaim approaching ourselves with kindness.

"How has the journey of creating this work given me joy? Do I like this?", I quietly ask.