I have a hard time accepting compliments. This always becomes more apparent when I go home, where I invariably end up feeling a bit like a celebrity — even if it’s to no one but my grandparents, always ones to offer praise and adulation. People I know from Canfield have a certain conception of me — overachieving, level-headed, practical, goal-oriented, studious, successful. And despite a few (fairly public) bumps along the way, I largely lived up to that during the years I lived there. Even when I come home now, six years after moving away, my spiel about what and where and how I’m doing lives up to that, too. I have lots to be thankful for and proud of.
So why do I have such a hard time being gracious when someone pays me a compliment? Whether it’s superficial or more thoughtful, whether it’s about my appearance or personality or actions or achievements, I feel uncomfortable and usually end up brushing it off, likely seeming rude and stuck up and incredibly ungrateful — which is the exact opposite of how I feel. It’s like the situations in which I can’t give praise or am too afraid to embrace friendships because I feel awkward, so I end up putting people off and pushing them away.
Like so much else for me, it probably comes down to confidence. I don’t have the confidence to tell myself positive things and believe them, so hearing them from other people — especially friends, members of the communities I’m part of, people whom I value — just makes me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps I’m worried that it’s too good to be true, that I have to be guarded and cautious in accepting compliments because if I allow people’s opinions of me to matter and take to heart what they say, I’m opening myself up to being hurt by those people, should they choose to do so. Which is true, sure; but it’s pretty stupid.
Perhaps I’m also paranoid about becoming too wrapped up in praise — so much that I react too extremely in the other direction. I feel, though, that there’s a place for sincere praise as a way for God to build us up, through each other. And if that praise is given and received in earnest, it can be reflectant of him, not a something that makes us prideful or separates us from God.
I fear that if I don’t learn to be better at being gracious about receiving these words, I’ll run the risk of closing doors, of driving off people I care about because I can’t accept their affection and offer it in return, of missing out on ways that God wants to speak to me.
“And I’m halfway to you, but I’m taking a break where I walk with a limp and I sleep with the stakes, and I blow up my lungs with the air that I need, and my dreams I’m on my knees, and I’m washing your feet with my hair.” -Page France