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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Self Value & Accepting Compliments

"You have a really beautiful smile."
"What happened to your face?"
"I can't believe how strong she is."
"Her scars are hideous."
"I really love how innocent you are."

In our society, judgements are all around us. Sometimes those judgements work for us - they can help us to prepare for and protect ourselves; and sometimes those judgements work against us. When someone levels a judgement our way, we tend to call it one of two things. If it's a negative judgement, such as "her scars are hideous," we lean towards calling it an insult. If it's a positive judgement, we call it a compliment, and most people are generally glad to receive it.

Some people, on the other hand, are a little different. For whatever reason, compliments leave them feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, or downright afraid. I, as I'm sure you have guessed, am one of those people. In fact, this topic has come up for me several times over the past couple of days.

I've a friend who assumes if someone pays her a compliment, that person is lying. Another friend feels unsafe when someone gives her a compliment, as though the good thing will be taken away. A third friend finds them difficult because they're simply so unfamiliar. And me? Well, I find them difficult for a variety of reasons, most of which tangle together pretty thoroughly. For me, part of the big difficulty in accepting a compliment is that I am so thoroughly enmeshed in my core belief of myself as being worthless that if I am paid a compliment, my immediate thought is that I have somehow 'tricked' the other person into believing something about me that is false. As a person with a value system where honesty is quite highly rated, I find this very distressing.

In the past, my automatic reaction was to either 'do a runner' (thereby avoiding the entire situation), "fix" it by proving how wrong the person was, or at the very least, argue with them over why it couldn't possibly be accurate. As you can imagine, all of these paths rarely lead anywhere positive. I think the one major exception is that in attempting to argue with a particular friend, I was given a fantastic line that I continue to use on myself:

"If you argue a compliment, you reject the gift of it".

I cannot think of a more beautiful way to look at a compliment - and, of course, viewed that way, how can I argue? To prove the person wrong and "fix" the situation would also be to reject that gift, which leaves avoiding... but only in my old ways of dealing! In the new ways, there are other options. I can choose to actually accept the gift of that compliment, regardless of whether I feel it is true or not. I can choose to use cheer-leading and positive coping statements. I can choose to challenge my thoughts and beliefs about myself, including the belief that I am worthless, or that I am a fraud/liar because somebody sees something in me that I do not (yet). I can use the power of my thoughts to change my perception.

None of this comes easily, yet. I struggle, still, to accept that there is good in me -- but I'm learning that just because I don't see it, doesn't have to mean that it isn't there. If, right now, I still have to trust in others, that what they can see does exist, that's okay. I've had 27 years of believing I have no worth, of strengthening the hold of thinking based on the core belief of worthlessness - to expect it to change overnight is unreasonable. In the meantime, I plan to continue to make choices, as best I can, to work towards the day when I can say to myself, and with every fibre of my being mean, "I am a person of value"

And by accepting the gift of a compliment, when it is offered, that is exactly the message I am giving that little niggling thought that tells me I have no worth. "You are wrong. I have [compliment] going for me. There is worth in that. There is worth in me."

Today's thought challenges/cheer-leading statements:
Not having a quality 100% of the time doesn't mean I don't count as having it.
As I change my thoughts and the way I talk to and about myself, I am giving myself the power to change the way I act and feel about myself. It's okay to say positive things that don't yet "feel" true.
Making mistakes does not make me a bad person.
It's really okay to do things that are good for me. It's okay to look after me!

Take care of yourselves until next time, and may we all find our own small fences along the way.

1 comment:

  1. So much truth here. Great inspiration. I love the way you include cheerleading statements. I'd like to start doing something like that.