I wrote this two years ago, almost to the day. I’m happy to say, I’m much improved, but it has been a great effort and I’m still working on this. I hope after you read this you will accept praise with grace.
It turns out that I’m a complete raging jackass when someone compliments me about practically anything. When someone says something really lovely, instead of receiving the gift I throw the gift down on the ground and give the gift giver the verbal equivalent of a punch in the snout. I should probably get on Dr. Phil for analysis so he could ask, “How’s that working out for ya?” I would respond, “Well, Phil as it happens, I don’t really care for being an jackass, so not that great.”It’s like I have some form of Tourettes that’s triggered by compliments. For example, if someone compliments my beauty (by the way – just writing that makes me squirm, but hey, I’m all about discomfort) I might question that person’s eyesight or make a statement on the excessive kindness of the remark. It’s as if to suggest they’ve extended an act of charity that should be considered a taxable deduction by the IRS. I recently knew I had an incredible problem when someone very kindly said, “You’re one of the smartest people I know.” I repaid this statement as any raging jacksass would with, “You must not know many people. You need to get out more.” Notice the hostility in the comeback. I respond as if someone insulted me rather than complimented me. Recently, I walked into the office of a law firm for an event and the receptionist said, “You have the most beautiful skin. You’re just gorgeous.” I looked at her, laughed, and said, “Have you started drinking the wine already?” Questioning someone’s sobriety is an excellent way to express your gratitude. After she laughed and I felt like a jackass I went with, “Thank you, that’s so kind or you. I would like you to be my new best friend.” After you serve up a mug of rudeness, I suggest a sarcasm chaser to really finish things off.
When I’m not being hostile I do something that’s equally unattractive and jackassesque, I diminish myself. It goes something like this, “I can’t thank you enough for what you did. You’re an amazing human being.” While a simple “you’re welcome” would probably serve quite nicely here, I prefer to go with, “I’m not amazing. Any decent person would do the same.” This would be my response if say I gave someone a kidney, allowed them to live with me until they got back on their feet or watched their children for a week while they went on vacation. Please don’t acknowledge me. Just being average over here, please keep walking, nothing to see here. It’s like I’m covering my eyes and saying, “You can’t see me.”
I value humble people. There is something beautiful about just being in the world as you are without constantly chasing validation, compliments and recognition. Social media has become a place to constantly brag. But let me be clear, I wasn’t being humble, I was trying to be invisible and I’m not alone. The impulse to shrink, dismiss, deflect and deny are ways to devalue ourselves. If we fail to accept our greatness, how can we possibly expect to earn our worth or expect to be valued? I’m practically screaming at people PLEASE DON’T VALUE OR ACKNOWLEDGE ME!
Recently, I was enjoying lunch with some amazing women when one of the women mentioned how I had completely changed her thinking about something. I was in the middle of one of my ninja compliment deflection moves when the friend sitting next to me placed her hand on mine and said, “Just say thank you.” So I did. I’ve known for a long time that my response was inappropriate and frankly, rude. When someone gives you a gift the only appropriate response is, “thank you.”
Some of us make ourselves smaller to make others more comfortable. We do our best to take up less space literally and figuratively. In the last month I’ve worked on just saying “thank you.” It’s hard. I want to default to the comfort of sarcasm but I don’t. I stand firm because I know that the habit is destructive to me and to every woman watching me. Sometimes the discomfort is so great I shift in my seat, but I’m working hard to look people in the eye and accept compliments with grace. I invite you to do the same and see how it changes how you feel about your value.