“Learn to take compliments with grace even if you don’t believe it”
~ Emily Curtis
Why do we do that? Down play compliments.
“Oh you look lovely today?”
“Really? I think I look old and fat….. but thank you”
That is an extreme version but maybe you hear yourself answering with some lesser version of that.
“Oh thank you but my hair is a mess”
“That is sweet but I think I look tired”
“This dress is a bit tight really!
or, well you get the picture. For some reason we have to deflect and focus on our ‘flaws’ in some way.
It is not just about how we look either. We do it with other things too
I love the story you wrote”
“Oh really, I thought it was too short”
“Dinner was lovely”
“It was nothing special”
I think so many of us are guilty of this especially those of us who are raised/socialised as girls/women.
I know my Mother taught me this. Not on purpose. She is actually fairly good and generous at giving compliments. She is very observant so she will notice if I have dyed my hair or have a new top or shoes or have done my make up differently. She will always ask me where I got something and tell me it looks nice. She is kind and generous in that regard but do the same to her and she can’t stop herself qualifying it.
We live in a world of contradictions where we are taught that you need the right hair or the right make-up or the right clothes to be beautiful or attractive or even good and worthy but there is also this sub plot of “don’t get a big head”. “You are not all that.” “Who do you think you are?” “Be humble and quiet but pretty and available, sexy but demure.” Somehow you are meant to look perfect but then say you are not. The same with your skills. You are not supposed to be the best unless you are and then you will be bombarded with all the ways in which you are not.
Take Serena Williams. Without a doubt the best tennis player in the world but she is too loud, too muscular, too outspoken, too involved in activism or whatever nonsense is currently being laid at her door because to be good at something, especially when are a woman, is to open yourself to being told why or how you are actually doing it wrong.
Of course no one is perfect because perfection is an illusion and really doesn’t exist but also we are all perfectly us in our own unique ways. However everyone who is trying to sell you something doesn’t want you to believe that too much otherwise you might stop buying the expensive face cream or getting every inch of your body hair removed or bleaching your bum hole or whatever it is that some company wants you to do/buy.
Of course if you are doing these things because they make you happy/feel good about yourself then go you. I dye my hair. Not because I am ashamed of my grey hair but because at the moment it has a tendency to make my hair look dull and lifeless because weirdly there is not enough of it. I do it because I like it and it makes me happy. That is all that matters and the same applies if you decide to get a boob job or shave your muff or get your nails done or whatever things you pick for yourself because you like it
But I digress a little
I know I have always been bad an accepting a compliment. They can make feel uncomfortable and awkward, like the too tight dress that reminds you are not the size you used to be. I used to quickly shrug them off and try to move past them.
It is actually Michael who helped me to change that. Reminding me to, just say thank you, if someone complimented me. Challenging me when I fired back with some retort about why it wasn’t quite right. He really made me think about how destructive negative self talk can be and how it can be a self fulling prophecy.
The other thing that has really challenged this for me is taking self portraits. Yes in many ways it has developed my critical eye but that is relation to the photograph rather than the subject. My pictures have helped me to see the subject, me, through a less harsh lens, through the lens that others see.
My blog tag line is “I see myself through others eye’s and I am made anew”
I wrote it many years ago when I was redesigning my site and the theme required a tag line. I spent hours staring at the screen pondering what it was my blog does. How to sum it up until I eventually realised that the key to whole blog is what it has done for me. How it has changed me. How it went from a whimsical idea to a project that has totally changed me life in so many ways. I lay myself bare here, both physically and emotionally. I make myself vulnerable and at times that is terrifying and others exciting and even now sometimes I find the compliments on my work hard to take. Old habits die hard as they say and ingrained behaviour/responses are almost impossible to completely stop but I know I am far kinder to myself than I ever was before.
Accepting a compliment is hard especially, as the quote at the top says, when you struggle to believe them but I know when I give them to people I mean them and I so I try really hard to accept that about the compliments that people pay me. Compliments are not mystical creatures you have to believe in in order for them to exist. They are how someone else feels about you or something you have done. They are that persons opinion, not yours, and I try my best to accept them with love and gratitude and not deflect or qualify them either openly or in my head but like so many things it takes mindfulness and is a work in progress. Some days it easy to do and others not so much but that is OK. I am not perfect but that is OK because as I said before perfection is an illusion and I embrace being imperfect.
Ps. The funny thing is, having written this I spend absolutely ages agonising over what picture to put with it because it felt like the whole post was asking for compliments and that started to make me uncomfortable. In the end I went for a image that I have been building up to sharing because it showed parts of my body that I find challenging at times a bit like accepting compliments. *sigh