How good are you at receiving compliments? Or just as important, giving them? For my whole life I have been rubbish at both, until recently. Funnily enough I was going through a particularly hideous patch when a friend said to me as I sniffled and sobbed down the phone at him, 'Look. All you need to do is accept how others see you. It doesn't matter if you don't agree with them or can't see what they see. Once you just accept it, your life will be much easier'. And you know what? He was absolutely right. From that moment on my life DID become easier – and a lot more pleasant too. This very wise chap hadn't even known me very long. He had no real knowledge of me, my background, my friends, anything. He was simply a neutral person observing the situation from the outside and my goodness did he open my eyes.
It's such a shame I didn't know this years ago. All the years I was married, every time my (now ex) husband told me I was beautiful I immediately responded with 'no I'm not'. If a work colleague or employer tried to tell me I was smart or clever I would shrug it off and say it was nothing. If a friend I hadn't seen in a while said I looked great, I would disagree strongly and insist how awful I looked instead. All in all, I guess if anyone tried to say anything nice to me at all I would simply fend them off with a negative. DUH. What an idiot! Can you imagine what my self esteem was like? Yet how many of us do this to ourselves? Who knows what a difference that could possibly even have made to my marriage if I had simply enjoyed receiving those compliments and – now here's a thought – even give some back? But nooo, one can't possibly accept or believe anything nice anyone has to say about us, can one?
Still, better late than never and I am proud to say that since that conversation with my friend, my perception has changed. I'm happy to accept compliments should they come my way and appreciate each one. If a friend says I look great, I smile and say 'thank you'. If someone tells me I am beautiful I blush and giggle like an idiot. But a very happy idiot. If someone says I've done a great job it makes me happy because I would have achieved my goal. Sometimes it's still hard but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
And now I'm so much better at receiving compliments I'm 100 times better at giving them too. Not just willy nilly you understand but when I see something that is truly beautiful, or kind or impressive; something that makes me smile or touches my heart, I no longer keep it in but instead tell that person. When I ran into a friend in the supermarket who got married a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't resist from going up to tell her how stunningly beautiful her wedding photos were and what a perfect, happy day it looked. Once upon a time I would never have done that but they were so beautiful I just had to tell her. She looked a little surprised to begin with but was genuinely chuffed I took the time to seek her out and tell her and was all smiles.
And sometimes what happens next blows you away. Like the other day when I wrote to the lady who runs our local Facebook Buy, Sell and Swap page. I had never met her and still haven't but thanks to her I had made $480 that week. Our group has thousands of members; so many of us love this page and have come to rely on it and she does an amazing job. I thought it was really important that she knew it and that I was grateful, so I dropped her a message via Facebook to thank her for setting up her wonderful page and let her know of all the times I had been able to feed my kids, pay my bills and hang on to my home, all because she had had the vision and fortitude to provide this wonderful free service.
Her response came back just a few minutes later. 'I am so glad this page has helped you with the endless amount of trials we all face every day. My daughter is telling me now that you are such a nice person who lights up a room when you walk in. One day we will meet, God bless'. Wow. I received that message five days ago and it still warms my heart. I had no idea when I smiled at that lovely lady's daughter every time I went to get a sandwich from the bakery that I was lighting up the room! And if I hadn't paid her wonderful mum a compliment I would never have known. But from that moment on I decided to make it my mission to light up everywhere I went. I don't really know how to do that but my usual, scatty, chatty disorganised self seems to have worked so far!