I can live for two months on a good compliment.
Have you ever received a compliment and your first reaction is to minimise the recognition? Like: “What a lovely dress you’re wearing, the colour really suits you,” responded with “This old thing, I’ve had it for years and the colour is so faded;” OR “thank you for your help today, your organising skills really made the job so much easier,” responded with “it was nothing, you would have done the job just as easily without me; you did all the hard work anyway.” Why do we struggle to just accept a compliment?
We are taught from a young age to accept gifts without complaint. We are told to “never look a gift horse in the mouth.” We learn to accept them gracefully, saying: “Thank you,” whether we like the gifts or not. We never think of compliments as gifts and therefore never apply the same principles. But, compliments are very much gifts; given with love with no expectation of something in return.
I wrestled with this for years. For me, accepting a compliment or any form of recognition was a way of validating that I had value; but in my core there was very little self-love so accepting a compliment went against some very deep-held beliefs. It was ironic that in order to validate myself I would chase recognition; but when the recognition was given I would swat it away like a fly hovering over food.
Interestingly it was not learning to love myself that made accepting compliments easier but rather the other way around: accepting compliments helped me learn to love myself. I realised that the constant rebutting of compliments was just reinforcing this erroneous belief that I was somehow lacking; perpetuating an ever-more-damaging cycle of self-hate.
So how did I stop the cycle? Well, I instilled a firm rule; going forward the only words that I could say when someone paid me a compliment or recognised me for something, was: “Thank you.” This was very uncomfortable at first. Each time I accepted the compliment for the gift that it was it became part of me and slowly started changing my inner beliefs. In time, accepting these beautiful gifts became easier and easier.
Imagine a room. Due to neglect and wear and tear the room had become dark and grey and dreary. As a result, it has become a little inhospitable. Since no one wants to spend time in the room it becomes even darker and drearier. The curtains are always drawn to hide the dull lifelessness away from the world. Our mind can be like this room. Due to the wear and tear of everyday life, the pressures we endure; and the neglect of our emotional, mental and spiritual health; our minds can become dark places filled with insecurity and doubt. In a means to hide this darkness we close ourselves off to the world.
Now imagine someone was visiting your home and he happens to see this dark room in your home. He is seeing it with different eyes to yours and notices its potential. He comments on how a lick of paint, and good tidy up will make the room new again. As the home owner, you could be offended by their forwardness or feel guilty for neglecting the room and choose to reject the comment; and as a result, the room stays as is. Or, as the home owner you could openly receive the comment and then accept the assistance of the friend to paint the room. Now with each brush of paint against the walls the rooms starts to become lighter and brighter. Once completed you feel proud to have the curtains open for the world to see in.
Accepting compliments is like accepting the brush of paint. Each person who sees you, sees you with eyes different to your own. Often their assessment is more objective and usually kinder. Each compliment taken without rebuttal brings a little light to your mind. In time your mind becomes a lighter, fresher space which sees the world very differently – more positively. In this positive space, you are happy to open the curtain – drop your mask – and let the world see who you truly are.
So, a compliment is a gift. It shouldn’t be questioned but instead accepted graciously with a very simple and assertive “Thank you”.
Compliments are a gift.
Receive graciously and simply say, ‘Thank you.’