Do people compliment you? What do you do when someone says something nice to you or about you? I mean when they really compliment you about something. Do you feel uncomfortable, even slightly embarrassed and don’t know how to respond? Do you rebuff their nice words, feeling you are undeserving of them?
I used to do all of that.
I had coffee very recently with a school gate buddy. I hadn’t seen her since school went back after summer holidays and I was really looking forward to it. I made a bit of an effort.
Had a shower, (I’m not a stinky! I do take showers and regularly but usually not at 6.50am!) I let my hair dry naturally, applied some BB cream, swished some bronzing pearls round my face, crayoned on the eyebrows and even treated my eyelashes to a thin coat of mascara. I left the tight skinny jeans in the wardrobe because I wanted to be able to guzzle coffee and enjoy a scone whilst breathing and talking. The jeans I opted for are an identical pair but in a larger size. A pair of knee high boots, a clean, non-bobbly, blue V-neck jumper and my trusty sleeveless gillet. I was good to go.
I went up to get the second round in, remember it’s coffee I am talking about, not alcohol, and when I got back to the table, she told me sat back in her chair and indulged in a bit of ogling.
Me! She ogled little old, shabby me!
It was a real, honest to god, no mixing her words compliment. She made my day. I took it with delighted grace and hugged it close to my chest.
I thought of how those words made me feel and the fact that I was able to accept them for what they were and not feel embarrassed by them. I felt their worth and was confident in how they applied to me.
They also brought back a shitty memory of a Christmas Eve some years back.
Of another reaction.
A different reaction.
I was with other people and we were all dolled up for the annual visit to our local for Christmas Eve. We had made an effort and were filled with Christmas spirit and, yes, we were looking well. We were young women in our prime, young, confident women who were holding down good jobs that paid the bills with a bit left over for treats. We had everything going for us.
“Ye love yourselves, don’t ye?” I’ll never forget it. I still can’t look at that particular photo without hearing the deliberate put down. One that was engineered to damage our self-esteem and take us down a peg or two. And it did. It did for me at least. It took the shine from what was always a great night out. And I wondered at the time, do I love myself? Do I think I’m great? Am I a show off? Have I got a big head?
That comment made a big impact on me. It made me feel small, shallow and vain. And a part of me believed it! I didn’t think I was shallow and vain but I was insecure enough and my self-worth wasn’t working at its full capacity because I let those words in and I let them fester and rot. I let them hurt!
I gave mean and immature words power. I gave them the power to hurt me. I allowed them to chip away at an already fragile ego. But at the same time, I grew on them. I grew a thick skin and I learned to take certain things at face value.
If someone said that to me today, my reaction would be very different. I would have words in retaliation. Not something smart and cool, witty and funny, remembered from a film. I would tell the truth and say, “Why, yes. Yes, I do love myself. What’s wrong with that?”
I can take a compliment today without feeling that I’m being too big for my boots. It took me a while to get to this place but I’m here.
Why do we feel so uncomfortable when we are paid a compliment? Why are we not supposed to feel good about ourselves or feel proud of a particular accomplishment? Why are we made to feel undeserving of our achievements? We work hard for them, why do we rebuff the comments but at the same time, take them and keep them inside for ourselves.
If I had daughters I would raise them to be confident about themselves, about their bodies, their abilities and their achievements. I would raise them to be proud of themselves, their bodies, abilities and achievements. Tell them that the sky is the limit. Reach for it!
I would hope that I wouldn’t put them down for being “full of themselves” or for being “too cocky.”
But I don’t have daughters. I have sons but I believe they need to be taught the same qualities. I am trying to teach them gender equality and to be able to say no and stand up for themselves and in turn, listen when someone says no to them.
I want all four of them to have a healthy self-esteem and to respect others.
I tell them that they look great, that they look handsome or smart, that they have done well with their homework or when they are nice to each other.
I do the “ladies first” thing when there are girls in the mix. Not because I want to contradict or confuse any learned gender equality but because I think it is important for them to learn to wait their turn. And if it happens to be the case that they need to wait until a lady makes up her mind, so be it. All in the name of patience.
Confidence, self-respect and a healthy sense of self-worth begin in the home place.
They take swimming lessons to learn how to swim. They go to school to learn all the other things I either don’t have knowledge of or the attention span to teach them.
At home I will do my best to show them love and teach them to love themselves. I will continue to pay them compliments and hope that they return the favour with others.
But most of all I will try to teach them that they are worthy of a compliment.
t isn’t a crime to love yourself. It’s a crime not to.