On receiving compliments

As of late I have noticed something odd about the way I stumble through my life. Finishing my studies and trying to enter the jobmarket put me under so much pressure on a professional and employment-related level that I feel every inch of me is expecting to be confronted on this topic in literally any social interaction. Not only is this energy draining but also probably already straining the nerves of everyone around me. Thus, I am flabbergasted  when something as simple, yet wonderfully off putting, as a compliment directed at me breaks this vicious circle of worrisome thoughts.

I have never received many compliments. I have always been a little too chubby, a little too awkwardly dressed, a little too insecure. Hence, I would always try to hide in the crowds and not stick out. I thought I was okay not to be center of attention as there were always people happy to take the spotlight, I thought I could do without being complimented, that it was enough that I knew I was strong and independent. And it is! You do not need anyone’s confirmation that you are beautiful or smart, cause you are, everyone is in her or his own way. However, to be honest, I think this also made me a little arrogant. I used to look down on people that seemed to need attention and compliments so bad they would do almost anything to get their fame-time. Consequently, I never knew how to react when someone actually complimented me on something. As long as it was done on a professional or intellectual level, as long as they complimented my work I was fine, because I knew I had earned it. I had worked hard and deserved praise for the outcomes. Also, I define myself more over my academic background and hands-on achievements, as that is something graspable.

Yet, being complimented for my looks, my clothes, or say the way I dance, is not only rather unprecedented but for me incredibly challenging. And I am proud to say I have worked hard to change that. My reaction to a compliment used to be blushing until my head was unrecognizably red, then laugh and shrug it off. „Meh, it’s nothing…“ „Hahahha, yeah right…“ „I didn’t even spend time on getting ready today.“ I refused to let people’s kind words sicker in, as I always used to look for a hidden agenda or knew they would turn around and laugh at my back because the whole compliment was another prank on me. The reasons for all that lay far back, but they affect me until today.

Anyway, recently, I noticed I have learned to appreciate compliments. I have come to cherish them and use them to flatter myself when most in need. Life can be painful and a whole lot of struggle. A compliment may seem nothing to slay that terrifying dragon, but it does. People are not just wasting compliments, they are gifting them thoughtfully and wholeheartedly. It is important to understand that. Lifesaving even. I still blush awfully when complimented, but out of gratefulness and not of shame. I do not thank those complimenting people in many cases because I am just too overrun by the fact they actually did compliment me, but I do keep them close to my heart and think very fondly of those sweet words.

The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge



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