Self-recognition Is The Greatest Admiration

There are two types of recognition when it comes to achievement. The first is recognition from others. You accomplish something great and are rewarded for it with praise, commendations, awards, promotions, and so on. Those that seek recognition from others are not inherently vain, nor are they wrong for wanting appreciation for their achievements.

The second is self-recognition. The kind of recognition in which you analyze your ventures, determine if you met the goals you set for yourself, and being thankful and relieved in retrospect at the hard work you put in to get there. Self-recognition may come with fewer monetary or symbolic rewards. You may not receive a medal or a promotion, but you’ll feel the satisfaction of being proud of yourself—an underrated sensation.

In each of the fields I helped create, in retrovirus and cancer research, in HIV/AIDS research and genome sequencing tools for drug development, I would have had enormous recognition if I had not moved on. I have had recognition, but not the great accolades of many who stay in the same field for a long time. Though in reflection, I am not sad to have not received the praise my colleagues may have. I am proud of my life’s work because I made the difference I thought I could when choosing to pursue science.

Recognition typically comes ten years after you have done your work. But I think about it like the Emily Dickinson poem: 

“Who Are You/Are You Nobody Too?/Then there’s a pair of us!/Don’t tell! They’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody/How public – like a Frog – /To tell one’s name – the livelong June – /To an admiring Bog!” 

Yes, recognition and prestige are tools that help you get things done. What truly matters is self-recognition: knowing what you have done, not what other people think you have done. We should define ourselves by our own goals, what we are achieving to reach those goals.

I have never been jealous of other people’s accomplishments. I think of other people’s success as indicative perhaps of what I could do. I have always admired what others could do. This is a much better attitude than being jealous of others’ success. Jealousy breeds contempt and regret. I have no contempt, nor am I regretful. I am proud of my colleagues for their additions to society. Some of them may have more yet to give. Though I am proud of myself as well, and how I have dedicated myself to science. My self-recognition fuels my drive, and I have much more to give in the years to come.

This blog is one in a series showcasing writing samples from my autobiography: My Lifelong Fight Against Disease. Available for purchase here.

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.