Thursday, January 24, 2013

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

My last blog took the wind out of my sails for a little bit.  It was a bit emotionally exhausting.  And while I now know the root of some of my issues (and probably yours, too, as I believe shame is the backbone of all worthiness problems) I am not yet quite sure of the full path to healing that.  Baby steps.  I'm working on it and we'll come back to that.  Stay tuned.

For today I want to wish you a very happy National Compliment Day!!  Yes, January 24th is, according to Google, National Compliment Day.  Interestingly enough, it's also Eskimo Pie Patent Day.  And yesterday was National Pie Day.  Tomorrow is obviously Don't Even Think of Buttoning Your Jeans Day.

I don't know how these things are determined or why Americans feel a need to commemorate such ridiculous things but I'm a little angry that my birthday in August happens to be National Creamsicle Day.  I don't even like creamsicles. I want a do-over. 

National Compliment Day may not be a bad one to commemorate, though.  Who doesn't like a good compliment?

"Everybody likes a compliment" - Abraham Lincoln
"I can live for two months on a good compliment" - Mark Twain

No word yet on when National Steal a Quote Day is.  I'll keep you posted.  I'm pretty sure there will be a meme posted on Facebook about it any second.

There should be nothing in this world that feels as good as a compliment.  Sadly, the art of receiving them has been lost, particularly by women.  In my opinion we are the world's worst compliment receivers ever.  I'm guessing men sometimes struggle with this but I have never once heard a man receive a compliment and follow it up with, "Oh my God! I'm feeling really bloated and gross today and I'm sure my ass looks fat in these pants."  Not once. Do they sometimes mishear a compliment as, "I want you to take your pants off right now"?  Absolutely.  But overall they are pretty good at accepting compliments.

Women are another story altogether.  We are horrible at receiving compliments.  We will argue with you until we are blue in the face. We will systematically try to disprove your compliment theory with the Law of Falsifiability argument.  In other words, since we already believe it to be false we have no problems giving you a full break down, in outline form if you choose, of our observations that prove it as such.

Do you really think everyone is lying to you?  Do you think all your friends and loved ones are so full of shit, so misinformed as to negate every nice thing that comes out of their mouth?  How about giving them a little credit?  Are you giving honest, heartfelt feedback when you compliment a friend or partner?  You should be.  So how about you give them the benefit of the doubt?

I was researching this topic even before I knew it was a holiday.  I picked up a book from the library by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. called Women Who Run With the Wolves - Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype and though I'm not very far at all in the book what first drew me to it was some information on how horrible some women are at receiving compliments.  She references the Ugly Duckling story by Hans Christian Andersen as a perfect example of that feeling of not belonging or fitting in and being judged for those things. She goes on to say that some people still struggle with distrust even after finding that security and belonging they were searching for.

"There is probably no better or more reliable measure of whether a woman has spent time in ugly duckling status at some point or all throughout her life than her inability to digest a sincere compliment...Although it could be a matter of modesty, more often a compliment is stuttered around about because it sets up an automatic and unpleasant dialogue in the woman's mind."

Dr.  Estés says that when we receive a compliment something in our minds tells us we are undeserving and then we assume the complimentor is an idiot for even thinking such a thing to begin with. "Rather than understand that the beauty of her soul shines through when she is being herself, the woman changes the subject and effectively snatches nourishment from the soul-self, which thrives on being acknowledged."

So we're back to internal dialogue. How we really feel about ourselves is evident in how we talk to ourselves in our quietest moments when no one else can hear.  And for 99.9% of us (ok, so that's not a real statistic) what we say to ourselves each and every day is far from complimentary.

So many women told me they couldn't participate in my 30 Days of Body Gratitude project along with me because there was no way they could come up with that many things to be grateful for.  Some couldn't even come up with one.  What can we do to try and change this?

I don't have all the answers and I'm a work in progress each and every day.  But here's a thought - how about we try just ever so slightly to see ourselves through someone else's eyes?  Someone who is kind and loving and thinks we're having a really good hair day and no, we don't look fat in that outfit. (FYI - Fellows, do not actually answer this question.  If she asks you if she looks fat in said clothes, whatever you do, evade.  Change the subject.  She already has an answer in her mind and you will never, ever find the right one.  It's a riddle, wrapped in enigma.  It's a trap and you will fall right into it.)

How about instead of arguing with someone who compliments us we just accept it?  Because I promise you this, ladies:  No man wants to argue with you.  He knows you don't argue fairly and when it comes to our appearance we are rarely rational nor logical.  It's a lose-lose situation for him.  So if you think those compliments will keep coming when you repeatedly shoot them down you are in for a rude awakening.  He will eventually stop.

I'm going to challenge you for the next month to accept every compliment you receive with grace and gratitude.  Even that creeper from the bar who is just trying to get in your pants - take it for what it's worth.  If you can't practice your own body gratitude then let someone else do your homework for you for awhile until you can.  For part of this challenge you are allowed to respond to a compliment with only two words.  If those words aren't "damn straight!" then please let them be "thank you".  And try to mean it.  Because I promise you the compliment given was genuine and full of truth.

"Like pollen on a honeybee, flattery clings to the things you tell yourself." - Willis Goth Regier, In Praise of Flattery, 2007


  1. Yet again, very insightful! Accepting compliments also reminds me about accepting people's generosity. I have a former co-worked who loved to buy me lunch. We'd go out and he would offer to by our food. Other co-workers would refuse to let him do this. To me it was more insulting to him to not let him be generous. I learned to smile and say thank you. I've tried to remember this as I received compliments also.

    Something else to think quick people are to give a compliment back to the person when receiving one. Maybe we should savor the moment instead of trying to think of something nice to say back. Thoughts?

  2. Hmmmm...I tend to not like people to buy me things because I hate feeling like I owe someone. I never once thought about how the giver feels as it relates to how I feel when I am able to be generous for someone. Good food for thought.

    And I agree on compliments. I think there is nothing wrong with an exchange between two people that is heartfelt but giving perfunctory compliments are another reason we don't give them credit when we receive them.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!