Compliments are scarce

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Compliments don’t come around very often.  And what do we do when they are given?  We shove them aside, ignore them completely, or treat them as if they were an insult.  What kind of messed up thinking is that?  Women are the worst.  Our egos are so fragile that we throw away the one thing that actually makes us feel better about ourselves. We dismiss the belief that we have something worth having…something good…something noticeable.

Know any women like that?

I can think of a few too.

Last night, I asked a group of friends to take part in a group conversation that included two things: it required that we complement our own body and compliment the person sitting to your right, until each of us ultimately received two compliments. What surprised me the most is that the compliment I gave to the woman sitting my right about how I really like her eyes is the same thing that she likes about herself.  But when I asked her if she felt more comfortable accepting my compliment versus her own, she wasn’t sure.  But she knows that she likes her eyes (she can’t hide them) and yet feels embarrassed when someone else notices them.  If I believe that I have a caring heart and someone tells me that, then I should be better at someone else seeing what I see.  So that got me thinking about how to merge that into something more meaningful.

Something that will get you to think about the not only the compliments we give but also the compliments we receive. But we all do it.

For all of us, there is at least ONE thing we wish we could change about our bodies.  If you don’t believe me, go stand naked in front of a mirror.  Go ahead.  Strip down and be totally nude and look at yourself.  I mean, really look.  Don’t turn away and don’t hide.  Nothing will make you feel more vulnerable and more raw than standing naked in front of a mirror.  See the stretch marks…the thighs that touch…the saggy boobs…the flabby chicken wings…the double neck…the gray hair (both on your head and elsewhere)…the sunspot on your face…the dimples in your butt…the broken toe from when you were a kid…the droopy eyelid…the scar on your knee?  You can see them all, can’t you?  Bad things are always easier to find and believe than the good things.  They just are.

Did you find ONE thing you wish you could change?  I bet your list would be a plastic surgeon’s wish list for any patient. You are not alone, my friend.  We can blame society, the media, and every other persona who represents everything we think we aren’t.  No wonder!  We are constantly throttled with ultra thin models to ads for how to look “younger.” How many of us know other women that have turned “29” for a few years now?  What is wrong with just being honest?  Why the games?  Why the pretending?  If we cannot find ONE thing to that we like about ourselves, why should anyone else?

Maybe your compliment looks like this…”I have strong calves”…”I have pretty eyes”…”I like my smile.”

Because the truth scares us.  We are afraid to admit our “real” age, so we cover it up on the surface.  In case you forgot, our insides are still aging anyway.  So we buy the age defying make-up, we color our hair, we put on the stretch mark concealer, and don’t wear sleeveless shirts.  We are embarrassed about how we look.

Here is the conundrum…

If we are embarrassed about how our body looks, how can someone else compliment that same body?

The difference is in what we see and admit to being true and instead of finding everything we don’t like, we need to find the things we do like. So even though you have a few dimples in your butt, you can still can still tighten those cheeks.  Maybe you have scars on your body — that just tells people how tough you are.  As for those stretch marks — do we understand that skin stretches when it gets bigger and shrinks when it gets smaller? (It doesn’t matter the reason.) That broken toe doesn’t prevent me from running and I may have some gray hairs that show up from time to time, too.  Why do we waste so much time on trying to change, hide, and pretend the way we really look?

We were raised in a generation of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”  So instead, if we said nothing, that was better?! That is when it began.  The years of only share compliments, but there was never a guideline about believing what we said.  Instead, we expressed admiration for someone’s new hairstyle because they just asked you if you liked it.  We applaud a nice blouse that a friend is wearing just because she shared that it was new.

When are we going to start being honest with ourselves?  Truly honest.  The true meaning of a genuine compliment is a gift from the one giving the compliment and when we reject it, it as if we believe that person to be dishonest.  We have just called them a liar.  How hurtful is that?  I know it is difficult and makes us feel uncomfortable at times, but that is our problem, not theirs. We have to start believing that the people who are not saying these things because they have to…they want to show you (and me) that they care. And so I must let them.  Words never shared mean nothing. Not to the keeper of the words or the one that not only hear them, but believe in them too.

Maya Angelou

Please know that I, in no way shape or form, remove myself from this dilemma either.  I have never been very good at accepting compliments, but get better every day.  I also did that because women are NOTORIOUS for believing that beauty only exists on the outside and until we accept ourselves completely, we will constantly be finding ways to not measure up to no one else’s standards but our own.  But until we start to notice that good and acknowledge it, we cannot believe that it exists.  It is always going to be difficult.  It always will be.  We do it naturally.  People will not remember the 100 things you do well but they will remember the 1 thing you screw up.  It is what makes us human…we make mistakes and are not perfect by any means.  But we expect it. How can we achieve something that we know is impossible yet something we strive for?

It will never be perfect, but finding the good in our bodies and our attributes will always challenge us.  We will be taunted by the never-ending battle of believing the good and diminishing the bad.  So what if I am 15 pounds overweight?  I work hard, am healthy, and understand that it is a battle I work at every day.  Nothing is in this life is ever just handed to us.  None of us would pick the alternative, that’s for sure.  Let’s do the best we can with what we’ve got and go from there.

If there is one thing I have learned (truthfully, I have learned more than one), it is that honesty is so much more freeing that covering it up.  It exists…it’s there.  We all know it.  Putting our heads in the sand and pretending it isn’t doesn’t solve the problem.  Yeah, it is scary to go there.  But look at what ignoring it has gotten us?  No where different from where we are right now.  I believe we can do better.  That we owe ourselves more. Maybe this is where it begins. And you know what is even scarier — look at the younger generations and what they face with self-image and confidence issues because of women they see that weight themselves three times a day…because they hear women laugh off a loving compliment when they just look radiant…when women downplay their struggles with health issues, like breast cancer.  We have got to get stronger emotionally.  We have to support one another.  We need to stop tearing at each other and build each other up.

Oh, and since we are being, honest here…the majority of the things I picked out as possible bad things one could find while standing in front of a mirror were mostly said about myself.  And I will never dispute my age…I am 46 years old.  Why?  Because everything I told you about my body tells you a little about my story…where I’ve been.  Parts of it have been bumpier than others, but I cannot imagine not taking the ride.  I give more than I should…I care when I shouldn’t…and I believe everything is possible.  Believe me when I give you a compliment and I will do the same for you.

Compliments don’t come around every day…

Michelle A. Homme 2004 ©



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