by Christy Gualtieri
How do you take compliments? It doesn’t have to be anything big; it can be a small comment someone makes to you about an outfit you’re wearing, or how your hair looks, or noticing a good job you’ve done on a project at work. What’s your first instinct? Do you listen and thank the person? Or do you do what I do, which is completely downplay it while thinking they’re absolutely crazy?
Here’s what I mean. I was at the pharmacy a few weeks ago, trying to pick up a prescription that was taking a while. There was some miscommunication about the medicine and as I was trying to talk it over with the pharmacist, my young kids were…well, being young kids. After many attempts to calm them down, including threats of taking away every toy that has graced our household over the past six years (and there were many; we have very generous family and friends), I sat them down on a nearby bench and noisily opened a bag of pretzels we’d just bought. They sat there, quiet for the first time in hours, nibbling; and an older woman walked by. She looked down at them and then up at me, and complimented them on how good they were being.
“Yep, they’re good now,” I agreed. “But you should have seen them just a few minutes ago.”
See what I mean? I could have smiled and thanked her and affirmed them, because they really are generally well behaved. And I’m not a toddler anymore, but the thought of standing at a pharmacy for a very long time trying to iron out an issue over medication also makes me want to throw fits, so I understand where they’re coming from. But I did what I normally do when I receive a compliment: I downplayed it. If someone pays me a compliment these days, my initial reaction is “Really? You should have seen me just a few minutes ago, or a day ago, or last week, when I…” And the list goes on and on.
Why do I do this? I’m pretty sure it has to do with self-esteem. For those of us who are lacking in that department, it takes work to believe that there are things about us worth praising. It’s much easier for me to downplay compliments and reinforce those negative thoughts about myself. But if I do that, what am I achieving? What message does that send? It would do me well to remember that there is an endless supply of compliments in the world. If someone gives me one, it’s not like it’s being wasted and someone else on the planet won’t get one. And it’s helpful for my kids to watch and learn how to receive compliments gracefully, because it helps them remember that they are worthy of praise, too.
I’m going to try, the next time someone says something nice about something I wore or did or achieved, to smile, thank them, and embrace it. If you struggle with this too, let’s try it together!
Until next time, be well!