Accepting compliments … is perhaps the most unnatural and uncomfortable feeling I come across in my dealings with people. Instinctually, I immediately want to glare at the giver… and say “what do you want from me?” or “you must be blind or desperate…” Far too often, I am dead wrong with this reactionary emotion and thought. Not every compliment or person giving the compliment has an ulterior motive, other than to be a good and honest person.
It’s a long and arduous process to simply accept a compliment for what it is – acknowledgement of something good. It’s not necessarily truly about me… rather, it’s someone acknowledging something that they deem good… in or about you. And that is NOT a bad thing.
I don’t know why we are trained as kids to not simply gracefully accept a compliment as good. Instead we somewhere along the way have been taught (mostly through first hand experience) to devalue the compliment, the acknowledgment of good. After being brow beaten for so many years, ones self-esteem suffers a great deal. We become so accustomed to hearing only the negative, that to hear positive reinforcement, just seems awkward and unnatural.
At least, that has been my experience. I’ve heard many compliments on my scholastic achievements, my artistic expressions, my accomplishments. Those, I don’t have problems with. I simply, humbly, accept their acknowledgment and let that be my motivation for more. But, to hear a compliment about my physical appearance that is not related to my hair or breasts (I know – it’s a weird combination but it’s true)… I am left standing in foreign territory… a stranger in a strange land, unprepared and ill-equipped.
I’ve been ever so slowly learning to apply the same principles of appreciation to all forms of compliments, and letting them be just that. I still fumble and it’s difficult to simply let them be anything but… a compliment. I am getting better at not devaluing a person’s perspective and appreciation. It takes time though. I’m not sure I will ever get used to hearing someone say something about my features or perceived beauty without feeling like I just found out I’ve had spinach lodge in my teeth for the last three hours while in a high profile meeting with very important customers. You get what I’m saying? You know you giggle… turn about ten shades of red… crack an uncomfortable joke and slowly die a slow death inside… until enough time has passed where it’s been forgotten.
Compliments come from everywhere, from many different sources. Not all of them come with strings attached. I’m learning to hone my instincts on the insincerity rather than being reactionary. It’s like punishing someone kind for the mistakes of all the others that walked before them. It’s not right on both fronts.
So… if you’re going to give someone a compliment… let it be done with honesty and sincerity. Not because you want something from that person. Flattery doesn’t get you far when it’s hypocritical. Sincerity can move mountains… and tear down walls. We live in a world where we are torn down enough as it is. It’s a dog eat dog world. But… put a smile on someone’s face with a sincere compliment – it’s amazing what can happen. And when you get one – just say thank you… and let that person’s appreciation for what they deem as good… settle softly against the scars and wounds our self-esteem bares.
It’s not easy… but it feels damn good.