I have a challenge for you this week. In principle, it probably sounds really easy. But my guess is, in reality, it's going to be hard.
Because if you are like me, you suffer from a disease called "I-can't-take-a-compliment-itis".
The disease is insidious because of it's chameleon like tendencies. If you wake up in a good mood, it wraps you in an invisible. vinyl raincoat to ensure that compliments slide right off your back.
If you are going through a more trying time, especially if you are going out on a limb and trying anything new, it engulfs you in full body armor guaranteed to repel any compliment within a hundred yards.
There is a good chance that you don't even know you have this silent, but destructive disease.
Does this sound familiar?
Someone gives you a compliment. It could be that they like what you are wearing, or something you own, or a piece of work that you did for them.
Then, "I-can't-take-a-compliment-itis" kicks in because you respond with something like:
Or "It wasn't really me. It was team effort."
Or "I came across it totally by accident."
Or "I bought it because it was on sale."
Or "I had to drink ten cappuccinos to get even one piece of that project to work right."
Whatever happened to just saying "Thank You" with a sincere smile? Why all the rush to tell people why they shouldn't say something nice to you?
Recognizing the Problem is Half the Battle
I got lucky. I come from a background where you worked hard and didn't expect recognition for doing things like getting good grades and doing well in your activities. It's just what you were supposed to do.
So I had no idea that I had a problem accepting compliments until my husband (shortly after we started dating) got frustrated with me after I dismissed him telling me that I looked nice for our date.
He raised his voice just a little bit and said "WILL YOU JUST TAKE THE COMPLIMENT ALREADY?" Then he told me how frustrating it was to trying to tell me something he liked about me, and having me brush it off like it was nothing.
I was speechless. He was giving me an opportunity to see myself through his eyes, and by not letting him do that, I was actually making him feel silly. (That was definitely not what I wanted to do.)
It was that day that I realized I spent an awful lot of time focused on all the negative things that people told me, and in the meantime I was completely ignoring the other little bits of warmth and goodness that they were sending my way.
The Best Defense against Yourself
So you may remember that at the beginning of this post, I said I had a challenge for you this week. It's an easy but hard thing for most of us to do: Start building your compliment file.
I'm not talking a mental one either. I know that I usually get at least one sincere, warm fuzzy compliment per day. My husband tells me that I look pretty. A co-worker will tell me that I did a great job on a project. A neighbor tells us that our lawn looks nice. The restaurant server says our kids have great manners. Somebody on Twitter tells me that I rock. Compliments come in many forms, and from may different places.
A freely offered compliment is a genuine and caring thing that someone can do for you. The only thing you have to do in return is say “Thank You”.
What I'd love to ask you to do is make a quick note wherever you take notes (a notebook, a voice memo on your phone, Evernote, etc.) of what each compliment was. If you don't have time to record the actual compliment, at least make a quick hashtick that you received one.
Then at the end of the week, come back to this post and tell me in the comments how many compliments you received. The best part of this activity is that you've created a guaranteed line of defense against your Inner Critic the next time she comes knocking.
Because the next time you have a rotten day, and those wiggles of self-doubt start dancing a pity party in your head, whip out your (very real) compliment file. Once you consciously pull back and focus on the good things that people have said about you, you will feel a little bit better. And once you feel a little bit better, it’s not a big leap to start feeling A LOT better. Your batteries will start to feel like they have juice in them again.
I can't wait to hear about all of your compliments!
(photo credit Daquella manera)