Once upon a time, giving me a compliment would most likely result in an argument. It didn’t really matter what the person was complimenting me for: from the color of my eyes to the A on a biology test. Compliments were never met with grace.
Complimenter: “Oh, Abby, I just LOVE that color on you!
Abby: “Really? I think it makes my skin look green.”
Complimenter: “You’re crazy! It totally brings out the blue in your eyes.”
Abby: “Ugh. I’m glad you think so, but I’m beginning to think you need to get your eyes checked.”
Complimenter: *huff* “I have perfect vision!”
Abby: “Well then maybe it’s just your sense of style that’s a little wonky.”
Complimenter: *storms off in a snit*
It wasn’t specifically trying to pick fights or annoy my friends (those who were kind enough to issue the compliment in the first place.) I just didn’t know how to receive kind words in a gracious manner.
Rather, when someone showered with me with praise, I immediately felt backed into a corner. My thought process:
*If I respond favorably, I will sound conceited and snotty, and I will immediately lose friends.
*If I respond negatively, I will sound disrespectful and unfriendly, and I will immediately lose friends.
So I turned to only weapon left in my arsenal:
My sarcastic responses didn’t always have to make sense, either.
Complimenter: “I loved reading your short story, Abby. It was really funny! Even my roommate got a big kick out of it!”
Abby: … … … “So’s Your Face.”
Sarcasm was my defense mechanism. It kept me from having to examine the complicated array of emotions I felt after receiving the compliment: elated, touched, undeserving, uncomfortable, unworthy. So rather than accepting the compliment graciously, I would raise the deflector shields and fire sarcasm back (oftentimes at random.)
Most of my friends either accepted the sarcasm as an Abby trait. Others stopped complimenting me at all, to save themselves from the argument.
Then I met Brian.
The first time it happened between us, he let it slide. The second time it happened, he raised an eyebrow. The third time it happened, he let me have it.
Brian: “You look pretty today.”
Abby: “Compared to what?”
Brian: “You know when you do that, you not only belittle yourself but the person giving you the compliment.”
Abby: “But…no…wait! That’s not what I’m trying to do…”
Brian: “Your insecurity shows through when you say stuff like that. YOU may not think you look pretty today, but I do, and you should value my opinion because you love me. Besides, it makes me feel good, too.”
(*Swoon.* He’s so smart.)
I’ve been very aware of how I react to compliments ever since that conversation. Granted, I still don’t always receive kind words in a gracious manner. But I’m much more aware of how MY reaction will make the complimenter feel.
In the last few days, I’ve had several compliments I’ve had to field, some which left me feeling overwhelmed and undeserving.
A complete stranger told me that I was one of the most beautiful people she’d ever met, and that it was the positive attitude I carried that made me beautiful inside and out.
At a recent book club meeting, I was showered with compliments about my blog–one friend commented that it was her favorite part of her afternoon lunch break. Another friend mentioned a blog that she stumbled upon on the very day she needed it most. Yet another said she’d printed off one of my posts to give to her mom.
I had life-affirming conversation with a friend yesterday who helped me relocate hope — hope that I didn’t know was missing until she spoke such words of kindness, it left me weepy.
I’m proud to say that I didn’t say anything snarky to any of these individuals. I embraced their kindnesses with open arms. I wrapped up their words and carried them home in my heart.
And I realized something pretty profound.
When a compliment is issued sincerely, and received sincerely, it warms the soul.
They do. They really, really do.
Today’s post is brought to you by the Letter B. As in Brian. As in, Brian is a genius and should have his own line of t-shirts