How do you react to compliments? Well, if you are anything like me, oh let me rephrase that, the old me, I like to think of myself as a work in progress, compliments can make you bristle with unease.
That Couldn’t Possibly Be True
Do you remember comedian Henny Youngman’s well-timed one-liner, “Take my wife. Please.” If you’re too young, he sets up the scenario as if he will use his wife as an example, but instead delivers it as a means to discard his wife. In my world, compliments have been routinely discarded.
Why is it so hard for some of us to accept compliments? I love showering my clients with well-deserved praise. It sparks a flame, it motivates them, it gets their energetic juices flowing. Although occasionally, I notice their discomfort owing to doubts.
Throughout most of my life, accepting a compliment has been akin to asking my body to welcome an artificial limb without the use of anti-rejection medications. Instant REJECTION!!! Not true!! Conversely every ounce of criticism, even perceived criticism where none was intended, is embraced like gospel truth. What the??? And why?? If you suffer from “I’m not worthy syndrome,” then you know why.
Reality vs. Perception
Some health and well-being practitioners have advised me to treat criticism or ill-mannered comments as the giver’s perception of truth, don’t necessarily buy into it. That is, unless it will help in some way personally or professionally. Their perception doesn’t automatically equate to reality.
Ok, so then how does the reverse work? If we disregard their feedback as solely their viewpoint, what about compliments? If you have been bombarded with life-long negative messaging, imploding your worthiness, do compliments ring hollow? Our inability to receive compliments might be buried under the guise of unworthiness. Have you ever been asked, “why can’t you accept a compliment”? If you have been led to believe that you are not worthy of accolades, why would you? Now if someone says ignore the criticisms and put-downs, wouldn’t it make sense to do the same with compliments? Shouldn’t both should end up in the no-sorting bin? That will keep those thoughts organized.
Save Brain Space for What Serves You
Last month during a morning shower, the locale of many of my intellectual downloads, I decided on a way to process compliments and criticisms. I will analyze the feedback through the same lens I use during my organizing projects. Examine the information impartially, weigh its merits, and then decide if it is worthy of my brain space or purge it. Aha, cue the Clutter Rule: keep what you use, love, need, or must retain (i.e., tax or legal documents) or dispose. Yep, that’s what those unuseful thoughts equate to: CLUTTER.
At my recent Energy of Clutter workshop, we discussed the negative energy emanating from a pendant gifted by an ex-lover during an acrimonious relationship. Each time the recipient encountered it, she recalled screaming matches and nasty name-calling. She felt nauseated. But she keeps it. Why? The audience shouted, “get rid of it.” Seems fairly obvious to us. Yet so often we hold onto things or communications that tear us down, laden us with guilt, make us feel small. A form of self-punishment. We deserve it.
If it’s a brown-nosy, insincere, inappropriate, or out-of-proportion compliment, toss that too unless it makes you feel good.
Either way, I decided to give myself permission to thank the gifter for sharing their perspective with me whether it rings true or not (they do not have to know), decide which bin to place it in: keep or release, then move on.
I am also giving myself a much wider berth to accept sincere compliments. Why not? Cleaning out all the unhelpful garbage clogging my brain, creates space for positive messages that will light up neural pathways allowing new thoughts and behavior patterns to emerge that will reinforce self-confidence, worthiness, and energy. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more resourced and motivated to accomplish the tasks on our to-do lists, to create a home we feel good about, and to illuminate spaces for ourselves and those around us.
Compliment In/Negative Message Out
The organizer’s credo: for every new purchase, release one old comparable object. New shirt in, old shirt donate. Do the same for the brain. Compliment in, boot a negative message.
I have to admit that like any new process, change is not easy. I catch myself automatically repelling compliments. A few days ago several friends commented on how much they loved my outfit. My reaction was, “this old thing? Seriously?” Then I remembered: STOP. Take in their smiles, their sincerity, their words as I looked in the mirror realizing they may have a point. The outfit, though ancient, was pretty cute. I booted an irritating thought that had been plaguing my emotions this week, and replaced it with “cute outfit.” I feel much better. I’m rarin’ to go.
To aid in space creation for the positive, I tried this approach on a day I was feeling especially shackled by guilt and feeling “less than.” My motivation levels were flat-lining. During a Qi Gong class meditation, I envisioned a turbo-charged vacuum cleaner sucking up all the dirt in my mind. One by one, I fed each unhelpful thought into the vortex. I imagined cerebrum spaces opening up as the unwelcome clutter was removed. In the vacated space of the deep recesses, I set to work on thorough cleansing until the nooks and crannies gleamed. Shelves warmly accepted praise, creative ideas, forgiveness, love, and positivity. After class, I felt lighter. The mental anguish lifted, I felt renewed. So bizarre, so empowering. So much more was accomplished that afternoon.
Bathe in Compliments
Try clearing out brain space by evicting all heavy thoughts and emotions. Make room feeling good. Allow yourself to bathe in the warmth of a compliment even if it feels icky at first. You might need to let it sit for a bit for the temperature to feel just right. If you love it, hold onto it in that newly freed space. See if it changes your outlook, notice if you feel more energetic, more confident, able to approach your tasks with zeal. And remember, pass the yumminess on. We could all use some.