Eat your vegetables. Use your inside voice.
Mind your Ps and Qs.
It’s likely that all of these directives, in some shape or form, sound familiar to you. Beginning as children, and continuing into adulthood, we’re taught to conform to certain social norms. But while it’s drilled into our head to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ask how a day is going, something we’re not often taught is to take our compliments.
Think about the last time you received a really great and genuine compliment. What was initial your reaction? Did you brush it off? (Oh, this dress? I got it on sale!) Politely refuse it? (Seriously—slaving over this dinner for hours—it was nothing!) Immediately give one back? (No! Stop it! YOU look amazing.) Regardless of your exact response, chances are, there was some level of discomfort involved.
All of the response I illustrated above are go-to strategies for absorbing the discomfort that comes with acknowledging our own greatness. We’re taught not to have a big head, not to be too smart, too beautiful or too talented. Because if we’re too much—then what is left for everyone else? Well here’s the secret: everything. Your success/beauty/determination/killer fashion sense doesn’t detract from what’s available for anyone else. Positive attributes aren’t like a pint of ice cream that you better dig into quick to get your share (but make sure to save someone else the last bite so you don’t look like a hog). We all get pints, if we work for them or believe we deserve them or ask for more.
Because we’re conditioned to believe we can’t be too much, paired with all the negative thoughts and comments we’re holding onto about ourselves—it’s pretty damn hard to accept a compliment. Especially ones we want to believe to be true. How awkward is it to admit you think you look really freaking good? Or to say, 'hell yes, I’m smart and accomplished!'? Especially for women, there’s a stigma about being loud and proud about how fucking fly we are.
But what if flip the script on all that, starting now? What if, in addition to teaching our children (and ourselves) to take their vitamins, we also remind them to take their compliments? Like really, legitimately, take them. Soak them up—drink them in. Hear what someone is saying and accept it. (Even if you don’t believe it right now, allow yourself to acknowledge it.)
And to start this with ourselves, what if the next time someone gives you a compliment--wow, cute shoes—great, point. I’ve never thought about it like that!—you have such a great way with words—you didn’t brush it off; fire a compliment off right back or dismiss it? Can you just mind your Ps and Qs and say ‘thank you’ and smile for five seconds while you hold that compliment in? (can’t be any worse than eating your vegetables, right?)