Good morning and good Monday!
Think of the nicest thing anyone has ever said about you. Think of who said it, and what the occasion was in which they said it. And then ask yourself, in that moment, did you believe that it was true?
I am inherently bad at accepting compliments. I tend to get embarrassed, or deflect them as if I don’t deserve them or they aren’t true. This is ironic because, according to my “love language,” I need words of affirmation to feel loved and appreciated. But, according to my personality, I’m uncomfortable if those words come from anyone who’s not immediately connected to my inner circle, or who might have given the compliment insincerely.
I know I’m not alone in rebuffing my compliments. For a recent article on Refinery 29, author Amy Nelmes Bissett made a point to give 28 specific compliments to 28 different women over the course of 28 days. And guess how many received that compliment graciously? Zero. Not one woman could bring herself to accept the compliment as the whole-hearted truth. Why? Well, science says that we’re psychologically ingrained to dodge a compliment that is outside our own concept of self, so there’s that!
That being said, assuming a compliment is genuine, then only two truths are possible:
- The compliment is accurate, and we receive it knowing it’s accurate, in which case we should respond humbly and graciously.
2. We believe that compliment is inaccurate because of some truth or perception we have of ourselves that other’s do not, in which case we should accept the compliment anyway, and then strive to live the truth of it.
The nicest thing anyone ever said about me was in a letter of recommendation. “Kate,” this person wrote, “is the kind of person you are better for having known.” This is exactly the kind of thing you’d want to see in a recommendation, and exactly the kind of compliment I’m bad at receiving. That it appeared in print seemed to me both better and worse. Better in that I couldn’t reject it’s giver offhandedly. Worse in that I couldn’t reject the compliment at all! It just sat there, on the page, and the more people who read it, the more people I felt would one day realize that the compliment, though generous, was not true. I know all my vices, all my bad days, all my rotten habits, in other words, all the things that would make me not a person you are better for having known. And in light of how I saw myself in all those situations, I struggled to accept that this person saw me differently.
However, I want to be the kind of person that people are better for having known. So this compliment also forced me to consider how I might begin to live the truth of it. Did I believe that the compliment wasn’t true because I tended to be crabby to my coworkers on Monday mornings? If so, how could I address that? Did I believe that the compliment wasn’t true because I had been slacking off, doing the bare minimum, or relying on the work of others? If so, how could I rejuvenate my work to be better? Or, did I believe that the compliment wasn’t true because 90% of the time I’m too hard on myself, and my best effort is, in reality, enough? If so, it’s time for a little self love!
While accepting compliments for what they are is ideal, attempting to live the truth of the compliments we receive, even when we don’t believe them, I think, can be a very good step on the journey of self acceptance and self love. It was from living the truth of a compliment that I started dressing up on Monday’s. A student once complimented me on always looking pretty and happy on Monday mornings. I did not believe I always looked pretty on Monday mornings because I rarely felt pretty and happy on Monday mornings. BUT, I started living the truth of the compliment, even though I didn’t feel that way. I’d make a point to get up on Monday’s do my hair and makeup, and pick out an outfit I felt confident in. I didn’t do it to solicit another compliment. Nor did I do it to make an inherent change to my personality. I did it because in the moment that the first compliment came, I could invalidate it a dozen ways because of counterproductive attitudes and negative self talk. And it only took one small change in my routine to eliminate those thoughts. The switch did not flip overnight, but eventually I received that compliment again, and this time, I believed it.
How we got to a place where the default response to complimenting is skepticism instead of gratitude, I don’t understand. But knowing that I fall victim to it myself has changed not only how I try and receive a compliment, but also how I give one. The flip side of living the truth of our compliments, is complimenting in truth, and helping others see the truth in the compliment. I once told a friend I loved her shoes. She went and changed them before we went out. When I asked why, she said she assumed I was being sarcastic. I asked if I had used a sarcastic tone, and she admitted I hadn’t. But because she generally felt insecure about how she dressed, she assumed that any comment someone made toward her clothing must be automatically negative. I made her go change back into them, explaining that the shoes were amazing, and that if she was self conscious about her wardrobe, she should just plan outfits around that pair of shoes because they made anything she wore instantly cooler.
We have to do better in seeing the best in ourselves and accepting those things that others see that we look past. We have to do better in seeing the best in others and expressing those things as truths which can’t be so easily dismissed. So back to the nicest thing that someone has ever said about you. Was it true then? Do you feel it’s true now? Either way, make it the truth you live today.
thINK about it.