There was a time when I just couldn’t accept a compliment. If I was told something I did was kind, I felt it necessary to contradict with an “it’s what anybody would do” or give a mumbled non-response. As I got older, I realized such a response was less humble than it was annoying. It annoyed me when people received a sincere compliment from me with an argumentative response. I would think: Can’t you just say ‘thank you?’
I didn’t want to be annoying. I decided the mature, appreciative response to any (sincere) compliment is a simple ‘thank you.’ Not an argument that required the other to re-compliment. Not an implication that the other was clearly either blind or stupid – or just lying – when she offered kind words. So I worked very hard at cultivating an automatic pleasant smile and “thank you” to any given compliment. Self esteem, confidence and maturity require such a response.
And now, years later, as accomplished as I am with the practiced response, I confess that the response is entirely external. Inner me is going ballistic. For instance, someone recently told me I had cute shoes. I looked down and saw two platypus bills encased in leather. I smiled and said “thank you.” Inner me? Cute? I guess they would be if they were two or three sizes smaller – boy do YOU have vision! It took great effort to squelch it.
Last week a friend said: “Your hair looks nice today.” I slapped a smile on my face and squeezed a “thank you” out between gritted teeth to stop inner me from having its way. My internal dialogue? Really? On the one day I wake up late, only have time to wet my head and let the wild Oklahoma wind have it’s way with it? I see chaos. You see cute. If I deliberately create this mess thinking it’s REALLY cute, no doubt you’ll ask me if I overslept. I even annoyed myself with such wearying inner chat.
Yesterday somebody smiled at me and said: “Great dress!” Inner me burst past years of conditioned response and blurted out loud : “Only $24.99 on sale at Dilliards.” This to someone I barely know. Lest she mistakenly think I simply have good taste, I need to clarify that it’s more about a bargain that fits. The “what the . . . ” look on her face left me wishing for a do-over where I could utter an appropriate “thank you.”
I confess that while my mouth has generally graduated to positive and gracious, my head hasn’t caught up. Kind words are a gift. It is an act of ingratitude to swat them back at the giver. I believe if I shift gears and focus more on gratitude and less on myself, I will be a more gracious receiver of compliments. That’s my plan to continue heading toward Fierce. -El