Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Suspicious Compliments

A kind word goes a long way. Sometimes a kind word can hep you get through a day you never   intended to survive. A kind word can rescue you from the depths of depression or remind you, in the midst of overwhelming self doubt, that there is some good deep inside of you. A simple compliment can lift you up out of the muck and mire of self-loathing. In plain words, hearing that your hair looks great can help you forget how fat you feel in your pants. Or knowing that someone else recognizes your hard work and appreciates your job well done encourages you to stop beating yourself up over minor mistakes.

For some, however, a compliment raises suspicion.

Perhaps I am a victim of my experiences. Maybe it's my distinct inability to trust. Or it could be that I just don't believe I am good enough. But I don't take a compliment well.

God has blessed me with the gift of song. So in my singing life, I know that I am good. And when a compliment comes my way following a performance, I am thankful and I respond as such. But if the compliment is too strong, I wonder if the giver is just trying to make me feel good. Or if they just want me to THINK that they think I am good. And there are times when the source of the compliments causes me to question the motive for the offering.

In my work life, the compliments come few and far between. I have often been the target of almost slanderous accusations and petty reprimands. Management has repeatedly bashed my personality and suggested that I amend who I am to blend in a little better with the multitudes. So on the rare occasion that a kind word is cast my way, I am left to question, "am I being set up?" That may seem silly. You are thinking I should just take what I can get, right? Consider this: when you are told over and over that you are not good enough, that you are not a good fit, that you are a trouble maker... You begin to expect to hear that. And on the day when you are suddenly the hero, suddenly good enough, suddenly the chemistry is right, why would you believe that?

Where my personal life is concerned, there is even more psychosis with which to deal. As you know, I am a big girl. Everyone from my classmates to the movies to that horrible woman Janice Dickinson (the "world's first supermodel") made sure that I knew every step of my way through life that I am fat. Hell, by Janice's standards, anyone bigger than a size 3 is fat. But my mom and dad have always told me that they think I am pretty. Even in my fattest moments my mom was sure to tell me, "Michele you have such a pretty face." But you're parents HAVE to say your beautiful. How many times have you looked at a really ugly baby for the first time and heard the parents say, "isn't he just adorable?" Point made.

These days, I get most of my compliments from women. "You have such pretty hair." "I wish I had your lips. " And I get a good share from my married or unavailable guy friends who really only love me because I can talk sports with them and cook 'em a good meal at the same time. But when I get a compliment from a man or when a guy shows interest in me, my walls go up instantly. Why would he be interested in me? Is he hitting on me because he thinks fat girls are desperate? He must be testing his good stuff on me until something better comes along...

I don't intend to demean the power of a compliment. Words are intensely powerful. And they should be treated as such. And they should be accompained by actions that demonstrate their sincerity. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. And don't be afraid to back up your powerful statements with a mighty action to drive the point home.

To the complimentors: I implore you to pepper your days with compliments. Pass them out to family and friends and co-workers. Send a kind word the way of a stranger or the mailman or the cashier at the gas station that you visit every Thursday morning. Offer a smile or a gentle nod to the driver in the car next to you in traffic. Send signals of kindness into the atmosphere. Create an environment in which everyone who comes in contact with you CAN receive your compliments. Build bridges. Don't burn them. Choose your words wisely. Ponder before you speak. Know that everyone gives and receives differently so when the response you get is not the one you wanted, don't give up on the giving. Try again tomorrow.

To the complimentees: Receive kind words with grace and humility. Savor them for a moment but don't revel in them. Pay it forward.

And to the ones who are like me: Step out of your comfort zone or your uncomfortable zone, whichever it may be. And know that for every one that might be worthy of your suspicion, there are many kind words of which you are deserving. If you try to believe, so will I.

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