Something that I hear a lot out in the world is that people don’t know how to take a compliment anymore, and I completely agree. Husband and I were talking about it in regards to ourselves and how we make excuses or sort of apologize when someone says something nice. He noted, in particular, how I have a tendency to brush off positive comments about our home. Someone said after we had been in our house a few weeks, “Wow! It is so lovely. It looks like you’ve always lived here!” I made excuses for having my house in order, saying I didn’t have a job and our old house was so small it was easy to put everything away and a few other things. Husband said to me, “Just appreciate the compliment! You worked hard on this house. You made it our home and should be proud!” He was right; I had worked really hard on making out house our home, and it is something I take great personal pride in, so why not show it? He’s on to something here.
I decided it was time to really start accepting the positive words that people say to me. They’re not always direct compliments, but whenever someone points out something good I should acknowledge it and be grateful. I started carefully listening to my internal monologue when someone was nice. It went something like this:
Friend: “Oooh. What a pretty cardigan!”
Internal me: “Oh no. I look gross. Please don’t notice me. Oh god, don’t ask where I got it because it’s from a fat person store and you’re a ‘normie’ oh god no.”
External me: “Thank you so much.” *smile which is not awkward*
I do not exaggerate even a little. This was my thinking. I clearly had ground to cover, so I focused on it. Let’s just say it’s a work in progress. But something else really interesting popped up along the way: I discovered people in my life who give backhanded or negative compliments.
My first experience as an adult with the backhanded compliment came nine or so years ago. I remeber it vividly. I had bought new jeans for my post baby body. They were ridiculously cool, uber-wide leg bell bottom type pants, very retro and now all at once. I felt like a fashionista. The first time I wore them, a colleague said to me, “Oh look, you’ve entered the 20th century. Nice pants.” Yeah. That sucked. Then today I experienced another form, and one that I find to be just as frustrating. I got a haircut, and I had needed it. My last one was just this side of devastating and I waited eight long weeks for it to grow enough for a good cut. Let me tell you, it is good. I look great! I feel great! Or, at least I did. A backhander, a joy sucker, said to me, “You got a haircut. Huh.” That’s it. I was crushed and then angry and then I thought, “No! We shall learn how to be good to each other!” Giving compliments is so important, and they require so little of us. We think things all the time, “her bag is so cool,” “I love the way he said that,” “I’m so grateful that she spoke up.” It’s rare for some of us to fully articulate these, though, and we need to get the good vibes out there.
So I say to you, learn how to take a compliment, and learn how to give one, too. Always be honest, mean what you say, and say the little things that are wonderful that pop into your brain. “You smell like gardenia, and that makes me think of my wedding. Thank you,” may not sound like much, but it’s awesome to the right person. “Your hair is lovely,” can completely set someone along for the best day ever. “Thank you so much,” while looking into someone’s eyes is magic. Give and receive love.