Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Taking a compliment

It’s Tuesday Fit-Day.  An occasional  meditation on physical and mental fitness goals, successes and failures. 

A few weeks ago a friend and I were chatting about stretch marks.  I don’t know how we got onto the subject.  We were in a ‘lotion & potion’ shop so maybe we say something that claimed to minimise or maybe we were discussing our personal moisturizing regiments.  It doesn’t really matter how we got there.

ME: I don’t think my mum has stretch marks.
FRIEND: That’s good genes. Lucky you.
ME: Actually, I think it has more to do with a hippy potion of vitamin E, patchouli and sandalwood  (Actually, it is probably just the vitamin E, but I always assume that every hippy remedy has a base of patchouli and sandalwood) because my thighs are pockmarked with stretch marks. 
FRIEND: What!!?? I’ve seen your thighs! I don’t remember stretch marks.
ME: That’s because you have only seen them from a distance and in flattering low light.  You would change your tune if you were up close in scary florescent lights. 
FRIEND: Whatever. You’re ridiculous. Ooohhh, this smells nice.

I’m not writing this to complain and/or celebrate my thighs or my questionable stretch mark genes. (Although, I have noticed that while they are jiggling more than usual on my runs, they seem to be slightly smaller. SCORE!) I’m sharing this brief conversation because I have trouble taking a compliment.   I don’t think I am alone here.
Why do we throw compliments back in our friends’ faces?  I know we have all been on the receiving end of a ‘Jellyfish’ compliment;  one that stings.  One that you would rather pee on yourself than accept.  But we usually see these coming.  We know which ‘friends’ hand these out on a regular basis.  Laughing these compliments off is part of a defence mechanism.
But this compliment came from a friend I trust and I still threw it back.
This is something I do too often.  I deflect compliments on clothing/outfits by quoting prices and sources.  I deflect compliments on cooking by relating the hidden mistakes.  I deflect compliments on academic writing by saying it’s too different, too creative to be successful.  A compliment on my hair, deflected with ‘its too straight/greasy/scraggly.’
I always find the flaw in the success.  My parents’ call it the  “Yeah, but….” 
Look at the exchange above.  When will anyone see my thighs up close in florescent light?  Where would all those conditions collide anywhere other than your yearly Gyno appointment?  And at that point I would relish a close-up examination of my….thighs, I think you’ll agree.   I don’t even think my husband has seen my thighs close up in florescent light.  Not because he hasn’t been around, but because I think he is probably distracted by my other bare bits.  So why present an impossible scenario instead of accepting the compliment and reaping the rewards of months of healthy eating and exercise?
Is it false modesty? Do I really believe I play no part in these ‘successes?’ Do I believe that I don’t deserve these compliments? 
I don’t know.  What I do know, is that it is time to stop.  Accepting the compliment with grace will not make me look conceited.  Accepting a compliment with grace and accepting that it is given truly, is not selfish.  I think.
Maybe it’s about being mindful.  Being mindful not only of how I feel, but how my insecurity makes my friends’ feel as well.  It can’t be nice to have compliments thrown back in your face.  It’s almost like an insult to the friend that took the time to notice and comment.  Like telling them they are foolish to admire or compliment something about you.  Like they are foolish to be your friend.  Because isn’t that why we cherish our friends?  They support us, they tell it like it is, they celebrate our successes and hold our hands when we fall.
Maybe it’s about selling yourself, but not in an annoying job-interview-way, but in the I-believe-in-the-best-of-me way.  In the I-accept-I-am-not-perfect-but-I-rocked-this-way. 

What do you think?  Do you gracefully accept compliments or brush them aside?  Do you find it a hard balance? 

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm. I'm pretty good at taking compliments . . . IF I think they're true. Sometimes I do ("Why yes, this color does look great on me, and thank you!") and sometimes I think people are just being nice, which I HATE ("Um, I haven't brushed my hair in days, I'm pretty sure it looks gross, and you don't have to try and make me feel better.").

    But that's another issue in itself isn't it, whether we can be honest with ourselves or if we just assume the worst about ourselves and can't receive compliments as a result. Does that make sense?

    I think I'm pretty good at being honest with myself, but that doesn't mean that sometimes people see things that I don't. I wonder if that's just human nature.