Learning to Receive

While I  know
there are people who thrive when adulation comes their way, I also know there are many - myself included - who struggle when receiving compliments. I'm not sure of everyone else's why, but mine came one hundred percent from my upbringing. Breaking that inner voice took time. 

Growing up in a very religious environment, the message was to never be self-congratulatory. Pride was a sin and ego the enemy. If it wasn't personal - that dress you're wearing is lovely - then you could say a heart felt thank-you.  But if someone actually complimented something about you personally - I love how you faced that challenge - then you redirected it. In the setting I was in, you gave God all the credit.  Period. 

That history created a great dichotomy for me in my adulthood. As I grew and matured, I recognized the need to give positive affirmations to others. Society is always ready to give us a beat down, shaming us publicly for slip-ups and failures. On top of that, most people I know struggle with a brutal inner critic.  No one is harder on us than ourselves.  

To balance the negative voices around us, we all need uplifting. We need to hear, "Well done," once and awhile. I decided to be the one saying it as much as possible. Great job. Well done. I am in awe of what you've accomplished. I loved your...............  These phrases were put to good use and I loved seeing someone smile and blossom after hearing a loving comment. 

AHH, but there was another side of the coin.  People returned the love by saying well done back, by giving me loving comments in return.  I found it incredibly uncomfortable.  I twitched and grimaced. I threw out phrases like, "I couldn't have done it without my community," and "I owe (name here) for helping me succeed."  Now there is nothing wrong with acknowledging success doesn't happen in isolation. Support it important. However, I not once just said thank you or gave them an appreciative smile.

When one of
my dear friends finally pointed it out, I recognized I was becoming my mother. I couldn't take a compliment. I deflected it off of me and turned the spotlight on someone else. I did work hard. I did care a lot. I showed up and put in the hours and I did my best to give back. It was okay to be proud of how far I have come on my journey. It took me saying yes and doing the work to get here. Allowing myself a pat on the back here and there didn't mean I was becoming a raging egotist.

The next time I received a compliment, I smiled and said thanks.  It was definitely uncomfortable, but I breathed and relaxed into the moment.  Then all I needed to do to keep the momentum was simply repeat, repeat, repeat.  There are still moments when complimentary remarks feel over the top, like I'm being put on a pedestal. That will never be comfortable for me, but over time receiving kind words of support has become easier. Instead of ego swelling moments, I look at them as my friends taking time to lift me up. Hearing, "Well done," has become a joy. 

To this day I continually acknowledge my community.  Their support was crucial to me becoming who I am, to my growth as a person and as a writer, and to my positive outlook.  However, I try to make sure I never do this to direct attention away from me. I take my compliments with a smile and thanks.  Then after, I acknowledge my gratitude to others. 

Does this ring a bell for you? Do you find yourself unable to accept a compliment because it makes you feel guilty or self-centered?  You are not alone. This narrative can absolutely be changed. Know that giving and receiving compliments are actions that walk hand in hand.  Embracing only the giving is simply half of a wonderful circle that need to be completed.  

Take it one step at a time, one compliment at a time. Give one. Receive one. Breathe. Allow your heart to guide you and let gratitude in when positive recognition comes your way.