I spent some time with my best friend tonight. We often end up in these intense conversations about the world or life or how we view ourselves. (We also engage in some random and ridiculous conversations, but you know balance is important.) Tonight she offered me some insight that was incredibly powerful.
I’ve spent most of my adult life thinking that when someone compliments you, they’re doing so out of some warped social obligation rather than actual sincerity. That’s what you do in civilized society, right? Trade niceties?
I don’t recall being this way as a child. But somewhere along the way I learned that when someone compliments you, you’re supposed to argue and negate any positive feedback. It didn’t seem to matter how many times my parents told me I was special or smart or beautiful or strong. (Brilliant, actually. Brilliant is the word my mother most often uses. I’m just saying.)
Still, the world seemed to suggest that I should contradict every bit of praise I’d been given. You don’t want to seem arrogant. You don’t want to risk thinking you’re pretty if no one else does. You don’t want to look like you’re trying to outshine anyone else.
It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I can simply say thank you rather than arguing with someone when they compliment me. And I’m still not quite there yet.
It took me even longer to realize that this was something I should even be trying to do.
It’s not an easy thing, to accept praise. I have been making a sincere effort to do so. That’s not to say, though, that I actually believe what they’re saying. Or that I even think they believe what they’re saying.
But what if people actually did mean what they said? What if, when they tell you you’re smart or pretty or talented, they actually meant it?
And here’s the insight I was given tonight. Most people actually do mean it.
I think that’s true.
I mean, there will always be manipulators and liars.
But I think that most people probably are sincere when they offer you a compliment. I know I am. If I say it, I mean it.
I don’t think we start out thinking we aren’t supposed to believe the praise, but it seems to happen pretty quickly. Especially as girls, I think we begin to lose this belief in ourselves at a young age.
One of the most powerful things we could do for our world is to help young girls hold on to that ability to believe in themselves and one another. That must be so much easier than trying to relearn it 40 years down the road. By then, far too much damage has been done.
So, let’s start there, by helping just one more girl hold on to that ability to accept the praise that is given to her as truth.
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Thank you to my strong, beautiful, intelligent, loving, selfless, supportive, amazing friend who is my cheerleader and constant source of praise.