Compliments embarrass the hell out of me. The practice of gratitude is a concrete way for me to show thanks to the one giving the compliment, and also a path to accepting and claiming the praise inwardly.
I spent this past weekend in a magical place with magical women doing magical work. I volunteered as a surf coach for the Siltez Tribe Surfer Girl Retreat, organized by inspiring water women from the Oregon Coast and Hawaii.
Saturday was filled with surf, laughter, and strong, amazing women (and some good dudes who came out to help as well). I LOVE going to these events. I love teaching women how to surf, meeting new Sea Sistas, and growing more within this community of Pacific North West women surfers. They are badasses to the highest degree.
I found inspiration at every turn. The rugged beauty of the Oregon coast. The smiles on all of the women from the tribe, of all ages, who came out to learn to surf. The closeness I feel with these women, who make the ocean their playground, as well as their place of healing and growth, and many of whom have made this surf nurturing their work. It’s crazy beautiful.
I also found myself bombarded with compliments regarding my painting and my writing. Now, I am terrified of sounding like an asshole here. I am aware that I am totally blessed to have people express to me the joy and strength that my work brings them, and I don’t want to be that guy that finds something negative within praise. “Oh poor me…I get complimented…people tell me how awesome I am…and it makes me want to hide.”
If I’m being completely honest, compliments in general embarrass the crap out of me, often to the point that I get tongue tied.
Not that what I feel is negative per se…if I’m being completely honest, compliments in general embarrass the crap out of me, often to the point that I get tongue tied, I have no idea what to say and forget that the simplest and most polite response is, “thank you”.
I burn red and feel like my face has pins and needles. Sometimes I’m so embarrassed, I want to slide under the nearest rock and hide.
I have thought about writing on this topic before, but I put it off every time. Why? Because I’m scared of sounding like an ungrateful, arrogant and silly woman. But it’s not like I started feeling like this as an adult. I have felt this way about compliments my entire life.
This past weekend, I was totally aware of this feeling much of the time, and it has really made me think about why it is that I have trouble accepting praise. I mean, who doesn’t want to be appreciated? Me, apparently.
The thing is, though, that I’m dying to be appreciated. I love that people love my work. I want them to love it and me, AND I also have a hard time accepting it. I realize that it is because, my whole life, I haven’t liked myself all that much and for as long as I can remember, I thought that there was something wrong with me.
When people pay me compliments, what they say doesn’t equate with how I feel about myself.
So, when people pay me compliments, what they say doesn’t equate with how I feel about myself. Therefore, I feel like an undeserving fraud. Like I’m about to be found out. It’s easy to think the positive voices are wrong when I’ve been bombarded by an inner negative one all my life.
Or maybe, I’m just such an anxiety filled perfectionist, that when I’m shown appreciation for my work, I am only able to see the wrinkles. Like a cook, who everyone is telling that the meal is delicious, but they know that actually the meat is over cooked and the sauce has too much salt. No matter how good the outcome, I focus on the imperfections.
I know that the simplest response is to smile and say, “Thank you”, but for some reason, that seems such a boastful and arrogant response, it only makes my face burn even more. (I literally turn beet red.)
So, the progression is: Hearing the compliment is embarrassing. I think to myself, “Oh if you only knew the truth”, and when I remember to say “Thank you”, I feel like an arrogant asshole. Yeah…I know…I know…
This entire blog post is making me feel like an asshole. I could just end it here so I’ll stop digging myself deeper into this privileged hole I seem to be digging, but I can’t end without at least offering myself a solution. So here it goes:
For now, and moving forward, when someone pays me a compliment, I will just smile, look them in eyes, if I feel moved I’ll take them by the hand, and say THANK YOU. That is all.
Because the truth is that all of the negative self-talk is an old story that simply isn’t pertinent any longer. (And it never really was in the first place.) I believe in the work I’m doing. I feel that I have grown immensely in inner strength, confidence, and beauty.
For all the doom and gloom perspectives I have had in my life, I now see the sun lighting up my world and I feel the warm comfort that it brings. In fact, just today, I referred to myself as a reformed pessimist. Not quit an optimist, but with practice, I think I’ll graduate to that sometime in the near future.
Does this sound familiar? Do you struggle with compliments and then the complexities that come with the rejection of self-positivity? IN THE COMMENTS BELOW, GIVE YOURSELF ONE COMPLIMENT. IT CAN BE ABOUT ANYTHING.
Today, my self-compliment is that I finally found courage to write on this topic. I’ve admitted a feeling that may make me look like an asshole and certainly makes me feel uncomfortable.
I can’t help it…that’s how I feel…and if I’ve learned anything on this journey, it’s that we all have feelings that we’re ashamed of. Today, I'm adding this one onto the list of things I am no longer hiding from, and ashamed of no more.
I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes. To hear from me more regularly, join me on this crazy, beautiful Artventure.