Bring On The Compliments

Saturdays With Shivani

For the past two weekends, I have been writing about self-love and jolie lade and from there my mind meandered towards compliments; something that we often find difficult to accept when they come our way. Most of us crave for appreciation but flinch when it’s directed at us.

“You are looking good today.”

“Oh, is it? This is an old dress; just something I grabbed in a hurry.”

Every time we receive a compliment, how often do we squirm and shuffle in the spotlight? We underplay our achievements, disagree with the person who has just complimented us, make a self- derogatory remark in jest or deflect the comment completely. I am sure you know what I mean and this is far more prevalent in women. Why is it so hard for us?

  • Part of it is our upbringing. Our family, teachers and our scriptures keep insisting on humility being a virtue. I remember I had a moral science chapter titled ‘Pride hath a fall’. Somewhere we start believing that accepting a compliment would feed the pride monster we have been warned against.
  • Our own misplaced sense of self- worth often prevents us from believing that we might deserve the praise.
  • If you are a perfectionist like me, then you might have set the bar so high for yourself that anything anyone might say will not make you want to accept it.
  • Our suspicion and misgivings about the comment and its giver could be another reason why we might push it away.

Whatever our reasons may be to downplay compliments we need to change that. Why? You may ask. Even if you didn’t, I still want to tell you. For starters, by denying a compliment we somewhere are also insulting the giver. If that’s not a strong enough reason let me give you another perspective.

When we deflect the praise or joke about ourselves, we may escape feeding our pride but what about our self-esteem that we choose to starve instead? We subconsciously tell ourselves we don’t deserve it and every time we repeat it, we just make that notion stronger.

As for being suspicious about the giver’s motives, I think we have a radar that distinguishes between flattery and sincere praise.

Try a little behavioural experiment. Next time when you are tempted to undermine praise, ignore that thought. Instead flash your most gracious smile, look in the giver’s eye and say thank you. Just these two words. Don’t force yourself to return the compliment either, there will be a time for that too but for now just savour it.

Allow that compliment to sink in, believe in it fully because as Aishwarya Rai mouths in an ad, ‘You are worth it’. When you do that, you’ll feel a spring in your step, you’d want to smile more and the world would look like a better place.

A lot of people messaged me after the last two write ups and asked me how to indulge in self-love. Maybe accepting compliments and permitting yourself to believe in them would be a good place to start. We are always told to take criticism in our stride. Isn’t that applicable to compliments as well? Retrain and recalibrate your mind. Healthy self-esteem and pride are two different things. Figure that out and you’re sorted.

Mind you though that this in no way endorses the idea of fishing for compliments or expecting them all the time. That behaviour is as toxic as denying yourself the pleasure that comes from accepting sincere praise but I shall leave that for another Saturday.

This week and in the days to come, just smile and say thank you when someone lauds you while I shall look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

Have a great weekend.

Dr. Shivani Salil

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