July 26, 2013

More Thoughts on Compliments

Compliments are on my mind. I've written previously about taking in the good--the tension between accepting the good yet doubting our worthiness. In The Story of You e-course, Jen & Ria posed an interesting question: what kinds of compliments do you readily accept and what compliments do you quickly deflect? This was a revealing exercise for me. And I'm still thinking about it.

In general, I try to graciously accept compliments (regardless of my internal struggle). Kind words are gifts offered by others--gifts I don't want to diminish. And mostly my outward acceptance mimics my internal process. Except for two types of compliments: 1) kind words about something I've done (e.g., food, photo, writing), but I don't feel is my best work; and 2) kind words about something with which I have a complicated relationship.

I know people have different perceptions about the exact same event. We all see things through our particular lens. (Sometimes my lens feels clear and other times it feels cloudy--tainted by my internal stories.) So back to the first compliment type: isn't it possible that someone genuinely enjoys a piece of my work that I don't feel is my best? Of course, it's possible. In fact, it's likely. Yet I doubt the sincerity--I assume the person must be offering a compliment just to be nice. This is a reaction from a place of unworthiness. Re-framing the situation: I can accept the compliment and ask what, in particular, the person likes. Maybe I'll learn something about my own work; something to which I was previously blinded. 

I'm a caretaker; a giver of open-hearted love. Connection to other people is an essential part of my life path. But if I'm not careful, my authentic action can morph into must-dos. When I receive a compliment about a care-taking action, I drink it in (for a moment). But then I'm filled with doubt: now I must keep doing this particular action for the rest of my life (or I'm not a good person). Doubt is such a nasty mind state. It casts a strong shadow on our basic goodness--our worthiness, as is. With this second compliment type, perhaps I can just rest in the acknowledgment of my heartfelt work. Just rest there, no future action required. 

Oh, compliments. They seem so simple, yet can be complicated. It's interesting for me to view both sides of compliments--to be authentic in giving compliments and to be mindful in receiving them. I think both ends reveal much about our inner-dialogues. Dialogues that include voices we want to nurture and voices it's best we ignore. 


  1. Okay. My 2 cents.
    All creatures are inherently lazy - it's best to conserve energy for important (i.e. survival) tasks.
    So. When somebody makes you an offering - by way of a compliment, perhaps - why on earth would they go out of their way just to "be nice"? Unless they want something from you, which is always a possibility, I suppose...
    But. The more simple explanation is that they are offering gratitude for sharing something that resonates with them.
    Of course, we all have our own personal filters and beliefs and whatnot... so what you value about something you present may be entirely different than what I perceive, what I value... And that's good and normal and helps us both to grow.
    So, take a hike, doubt. ;) And thank you. xo

    1. kate, it's so good to hear from you. i LOVE your ending: "take a hike, doubt." i agree!