How I handle compliments.

By , Concord, NH
I think back to how I react to receiving compliments, I immediately crinkled my nose. I thought back to when I was at my support group on Monday nights that is held at church and has religious undertone – this never bothered me, I was raised to be a Christian and naturally accepted it as a way of life, but there were compliments I recently received in the group. I reminisced to when these compliments were given to me.

The point of the group was to be able to share traumatic experiences in your life and work through them. I remembered the night I had to share my “story.” Sharing my story with the group was almost as traumatic as the events themselves. After we had all told our stories, we were asked to looked at various pictures of Jesus and discuss what kind of emotion it evoked in us. I looked at some of the pictures and then casually disregarded them.

When no one spoke up on how they felt, I decided to. I said that the pictures didn’t mean anything to me – Jesus was holding children or smiling and having fun with various people of walks of life and it didn’t mean anything to me. “But Jesus understands what you’re going through…” One of the ladies in the group was suddenly saying, and I realized I hadn’t been listening because I was thinking about Jesus and how much I honestly didn’t care if He “loved” me or not. To me, I would have rather been understood than loved. Understanding was much more valuable in my opinion which was part of the reason why I usually disregarded most compliments.

It seemed to me, most people had either an ulterior motive for handing out compliments. If there wasn’t some reason, usually they were being passive and using compliments as filler statements. I grew up with my parents saying they loved me but they constantly degraded me. When my parents what they thought of me, or so I told myself. I ended up growing into a defensive personality with both positive and negative feedback.

When I consider compliments, they almost make me angrier than criticism. I have an immediate reaction to being combative and paranoid when someone says something nice to me. That comes from a history of being told things that seemed like compliments but they had a double meaning. I am not trying to blame everything on my parents, but hello, the you are raised really impacts how you see things once you leave the nest. So now if someone gives me a compliment, it’s nice and I try to be nice back even if in my head I’m either disbelieving it or feeling like someone is trying to bullshit me for some reason. How I accept compliments also depends on who gives them to me.

When I was growing up my parents used to define me by comparing me to each other. My parents divorced and my mom would compare me to my father, and my dad compared me to her. “You’re lazy like your mom,” I heard. The comparisons were always different. Since I was punished for things I didn’t understand, I grew up in fear of being myself around anyone. So I cloned whoever I was with. I thought if I was exactly the same no one would notice me or say anything. When pieces of me would come out that specific to which I was – I always liked to write, paint, draw, and someone gave me a compliment about that, I was quietly happy. I didn’t know how to process it.

I have had a love hate relationship with compliments since I learned that people don’t always use them to just be nice but they do have ulterior motives. I was one of these people who used to make people like me so I wouldn’t be alone. So to me, compliments make me feel like something is up, as if I need to be on my guard. The opposite of a compliment, being criticism tends to make me defensive. Neither form of feedback has much difference when they are given to me. Compliments make me paranoid and criticism makes me defensive.





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