I’ve realized lately that I have a particularly hard time giving praise — telling the people I care about that I care about them, offering compliments, letting people know I appreciate them, or even just that I like spending time with them. I’ve also realized that I have a hard time hearing and receiving those things from others, but I think that’s for unpacking another time. . .
Why is this? Perhaps it’s a vulnerability thing — by telling someone that I value her, I feel like it devalues me in some weird way and opens me up to harm. Maybe it’s because I feel insecure, like people wouldn’t really care what I think of them, so I shouldn’t voice it. Or it could be shyness — telling someone my opinion of him, even if it’s a positive opinion, takes a fair amount of extroversion and confidence. All of those reasons are cop outs, though. Realistically, I think it’s mostly fear — fear of putting myself out there, of being vulnerable, fear of feeling insecure, of putting someone else before myself.
This is a particularly bad thing to have a hard time with, because it ends up being really detrimental to friendships and hurtful to people. It makes me come across as standoffish, closed, hard to read — things I’m not and don’t want to be. It’s like when Andi told me, some six months after we met and once we had become friends, that when she first met me, she thought I was a real bitch and that I had written her off from day one. I made no such judgement in my head; in fact, I thought she was great and really wanted to be her friend, but my actions made her think the opposite. I wonder how many people I’ve unintentionally shut out or hurt by acting this way.
I’ve been working on being more generous and forthcoming with my positive thoughts lately, and it’s almost comical how difficult it is for me. I think nice things about people all day, but actually getting the words out of my mouth is so daunting. I’ll sit and repeat over and over in my head some thing that I want to say, and that I truly believe, until I work up the courage to get it out. Whether it’s “Those jeans looks great on you” or “You did a great job handling that uncomfortable situation” or “I thought about you all day today” or “You’re one of the most important people in my life, and I really value your friendship” (that one is actually still kicking around, waiting to get out to a couple of people whom I want to hear it) — the thought of saying the words makes my heart pound.
I know this is something really important to get better at, and that all of my friendships and relationships will benefit from me being more open and generous in this way. Everyone needs affirmation, compliments, kindness. I know I need it, and I want to be able to give it, as well.
“The longer you think, the less you know what to do.” -Death Cab