I don’t remember how or when I was introduced to Elissa of Dress With Courage. Even though we have yet to meet in person, it seems like I’ve always known her. From the first moment I visited her site her words spoke to me. She is more than just a pretty face with great style – she is an advocate for healthy body image. Self-confidence. Strength. Self-respect. Her intelligence, honesty and passion come through in everything she posts and make her one of my must-reads. The fact that she shares my love of Dirty Dancing and introduced me to Crack in a Box? Bonus.
If you have not already checked out her blog you must. Immediately. I’ll wait. But don’t forget to come back and read her guest post below, too!
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve garnered a few compliments. This is unusual. I know I’m no great beauty; I don’t consider myself special or extraordinary; I don’t believe I have any remarkable talents. Most of the time, I’m a clumsy oaf with the odd habit of careening into furniture, spilling things on myself, and crying inappropriately, often in public. I can’t draw. I’m no intellectual. I watch grotesque amounts of reality television. And I’m the girl who has absentmindedly put her metal travel coffee cup into the microwave, destroying both in the process. So when I receive a compliment I feel dumbfounded. I shrink and blush. I become sheepish and bewildered and tongue-tied and truly have no clue what to say.
I was speaking with a friend on this very topic the other day, and I began to wonder why it is so difficult for so many women to accept a compliment. A while back, I bumped into a very old acquaintance in a Starbucks. I hadn’t seen her in a while, and I thought she looked fantastic – so I told her so. It was a simple compliment designed to make her feel good. It didn’t seem to.
“Oh no, I’m mess,” she sighed, blushing slightly. “These jeans are so old. And they don’t fit well. Maybe when I finally get on that diet…” She looked despairingly at her belly and patted it, perhaps to see if it jiggled.
From a young age, women are taught not to blow our own horn or promote ourselves in any way. We are supposed to appear humble, and demurely accept praise with a hint of humility and a side of self-depreciation. The message is that, by accepting the compliment, we will appear arrogant and narcissistic. It is unladylike to gloat, to brag, or to self-promote.
Psychologist Susan Quilliam says: “Most women’s knee-jerk reaction to a compliment is to think that the other person is just being nice, or feeling sorry for them.” We simply do not believe that the compliment is sincere. Some of us have self-destructive demons that tell us we’re not worthy enough, smart enough, or attractive enough to be deserving of positive attention.
Furthermore, many women believe that compliments are suspicious. We find it hard to believe the nice things people say to us. It seems more likely that the person giving the compliment wants something, rather than being sincere. We become cynical and mistrustful. Hodson agrees: “Women are very self-critical, especially when it comes to their bodies. They are waiting for the day they’re a ‘perfect ten’; only then will they be worthy of compliments.”
So how can we undo what years of habitual practice has made almost unconscious? Here are some pointers to help get you in the right mind-set to embrace the compliments you’re paid.
- Own your accomplishments: It wasn’t luck that you managed to do something praiseworthy – it was your own effort and commitment. Even if you truly were just in the right place at the right time, you deserve credit for recognizing an opportunity and acting on it.
- Be gracious: Giving a compliment isn’t always easy. Being gracious and appreciative when receiving one lets someone know that you are grateful for their kind words.
- Practice with people you trust: Make an effort to share accomplishments with close friends and family in a self-confident way. If you do really well on something, admit it. The people who care about you won’t think I’m an arrogant narcissist, and their trust will help you accept compliments.
- Just say thanks: An enthusiastic “Thank you!” needs no additional quantifiers.
B, thank you for giving me the opportunity to guest post. Your beautiful spirit, intelligence, and gentle, supportive nature inspires me to rise up. And those are compliments to brag about.
Many, many thanks to YOU Elissa. I could say exactly the same about you!
What about you, dear readers, can you take a compliment?