"I just think it's silly to be stingy with compliments. If you see someone and they strike you as beautiful, why not let them know?" - Jill Scott
Last night, I had a spur of the moment thought that popped up, after watching an Instagram video from Matthew Hussey, where he discusses about how to give out 3 types of compliments in order to create deep attraction.
More so than the video in itself, I've had this seed in my mind, speaking of the notion of compliments for a while now. A friend of mine reached out and gave me one of the kindest compliments I've received off late. And upon further conversation with him, he mentioned that he had the idea of wanting to be able to gift out compliments based on learning about an art festival known as 'Burning Man', in the USA.
This was the seed; one compliment that brought about a beautiful conversation, and then seeing a video which sparked off another series of thoughts in my mind.
And so, I asked my friends and family last night - 'What is the biggest compliment you've ever received?'
I received various responses to this, and it took me a while to be able to form my own response to my own question. Responses shifted from physical attributes, to personality based compliments, and even to the extent of "I don't really like receiving compliments and I tend to deflect them."
I think it could very well be human tendency to shy away compliments. To either sit and turn your head down in the face of passing nice words, or to laugh it off and say "No that's not true!" Because we all know the deep rooted sense of shame, albeit completely unconscious, when we hear something positive about ourselves, in whichever form this is. And when I mention 'shame', it may not even be a burning feeling, but very literally a quiet voice that says "That can't be true".
Could it be imposter syndrome?
Could it be our own mind telling us that we don't deserve to hear admirable things about ourselves? (In which case, what has humanity come down to?)
Or is it just the fact that we don't believe the words that are being said to us?
Our own critical voices in our head can take over so easily, and from what I've heard and seen we do tend to be our own worst critics.
Why we shift away from compliments is just one aspect of this random questionnaire I started last night; that hadn't been my intention when I'd started. Having said this, I do think I knew deep down that there were going to be people who hesitated or deviated away from compliments.
To test this theory out is easy enough: how do people react when given a compliment?
I saw gracious acceptance versus further aversion, which could very well be an indicator of low self-esteem or self-worth. Although that would be something for those who have a background in psychology to say, and not just your random writer online. :)
So, what is the best compliment you've ever received?
More imperatively, what is the biggest compliment you give yourself?
After I asked my circle about the best compliment they'd received from others, my follow up question was this: What is this biggest compliment you give yourself?
Once again, the answers differed, from either end of the spectrum; "I don't like to compliment myself", being one end to, "I believe I am resilient, empathetic, or intelligent" on the other side. There were just a few of the responses.
If it's hard to receive compliments from others, I imagine that it would only be harder to be able to give that to yourself. Self-compassion and the self-love journey has always a tricky one; this also highlighted by the enormous number of individuals on Instagram giving out tips to carry forward this journey.
Having now considered the aspect of compliments outside of our own selves, and compliments we've given to ourselves, I have one more for you:
"What is the worst thing you've said to yourself, and if you could go back and change this, what would you say instead?"
This question has brought up a differing set of answers, once again. I couldn't help but note that this goes a layer deeper. Conversations delved into a large set of mental health struggles and the idea of self-worth (more precisely a lack of the same).
I didn't plan these questions.
What started off as one question led to a series, allowing for a flow of conversations naturally to come to life around me.
My last question was with the intention of nothing more than the hope that after speaking of compliments and kind words, people would be reminded that they can speak to themselves with positive affirmations. Go back to your worst moment and realise how far you've come. If you haven't come far, then use what's been said in the form of 'compliments' or reaffirmations to speak to yourself with kindness.
I believe my last question can be a challenging question to answer. To go back in time to your worst moment and to remember what you've said, and to then change it (which some people may not prefer to as well), can be heavy and intense.
Self-love is an incredibly hard journey; for anyone who's on it, they'll know it. It is not arrogance, and it is not selfishness. If I may quote Taj Arora; self-love coach and author, she describes self-love as the following:
"Loving yourself is not the same as being in love - self-love is not the same as romantic love. Loving yourself is honouring your boundaries and not tolerating disrespect. It's pushing past the fear that stands between you and your dreams. Loving yourself is having the courage to leave situations and people that are not serving your growth. Self-love is not something you feel, but rather something you do each day."
This is something I've always come back to whenever I've struggled in my self-love journey. This definition reminds me that self-love is a daily practice to carve out amongst a difficult life.
I may have gone off on a tangent.
So let's come back.
Perhaps answering my own questions can give a perspective here:
What is the best compliment I've received?
I get a fair bit about my physical attributes; that I’m pretty. I also hear that I’m a good listener and that I’m reliable (perhaps rather that I get that sense as an indirect sort of compliment). And finally, I hear about my own resilience too, in the face of adversity.
I don't know if it's being a woman or my recent circle; compliments have surrounded my looks for a fair bit. Or at least, that’s what first pops up. Which brings up a whole other thought process for another day.
As for the compliment I give to myself?
I do believe I’m resilient. I do my best to be compassionate (although this has been a serious struggle off late), and at the same time hold my boundaries. I also do tell myself I have a great smile (because I think I do 😅). And a warm smile can brighten up someone else's day. Smiling is contagious!
A compliment or something I’d say to myself right now is that I’m proud of myself for not settling for less than what I deserve.
It's a hard journey; incredibly hard I'd say, and I don't think people quite get it. I'm fortunate to be able to do this for myself, because I think it's one of my greatest acts of self-love.
Finally, the worst thing I've told myself and what I'd change if I could go back in time...
I sigh as I wrote out this final question. It's one thing to write about kindness and compassion in the face of compliments and to actually put it into practice.
The worst thing I've said to myself (on a very subconscious level) is that I am not worthy of love and affection. And that I'm not worthy of anything good in life.
I'm not even going to lie, this is something I still struggle with on a near-daily basis. It's been really, really hard. Having said this, if I could go back to those moments and speak to myself differently, with kindness love and compassion, I would say: "You will see your worth one day. and you do deserve all the love, all the affection, and all the good things coming your way.
You are worthy, of everything.
And there's no doubt about that at all."
I'll end on this note.
The power of a compliment can go a long way. The power of a kind word can go a long way. It doesn't have to be anything monumental when you give someone a compliment; even the smallest of things that may seem like it's on the surface can be extremely meaningful for someone who's having a dull day.
So I hope the next time you feel like complimenting someone, don't hold back. :) You might just make someone's day, and the power of compassion and kindness in this world can not and should not be discounted. We are all worthy of this, no matter what we tell ourselves.
Have you got some time? I've created a survey with these same questions, and I've love to hear what your responses would be. These questions can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes to answer, depending on how much time it would take for you to introspect yourself.
If this is something you enjoyed reading, please share it with your friends and family, alongside a kind compliment! Let this be a ripple effect on the world around us.
Lots of love and sunshine,
Link to my survey: