How you receive compliments gives a big insight into who you are as a person and what your highest values are.
First of all there’s how you respond to compliments, and secondly there’s the actual content and context of the compliment and what that means for you.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
Let’s start with number one. As with many things, this is rooted in feminism. Why? because it’s almost impossible to step away from the societal expectations of what it is to be a ‘good woman’ which is drilled into us pretty much from the moment we’re born via the nuances of language and behaviour that we are exposed to from birth. So….what’s your typical response to a compliment? Do they make you blush? Cringe? Do you immediately think of a ‘yeah but’ to try and counter it? Or is your immediate response to feel pleased? Self assured? Even agreeing with the complimenter?
If your response is usually a positive one then great! You’ve managed to smash through those societal expectations of the delicate self-deprecating female to actually knowing you’re worthy to being on the receiving end of the praise you are getting. But the truth is, too many women have the initial response of brushing the compliment off or just not believing it.
These are a question of overall self-worth and respect. Once again, both concepts that can be a bit wobbly given the bombardment of ‘you should be like XYZ’ we face in the modern world. But once again, both concepts that can be exaggerated tenfold in motherhood or when trying to conceive. Never are your choices more under scrutiny then when you’re a mother! And never is your own sense of femininity and womanhood questioned as much as when you’re trying to conceive. Believe me, I’ve been there. It can be hard.
Content & Context
The second part to my initial comment about compliments is around the content and context of the compliment and the meaning this holds for you.
What kind of compliments make you swell with the most pride (after you’ve had the battle with your inner critic!)?
Do you value compliments on your looks… for example, the clothes you wear or the make-up you have on, your hairstyle or your weight? Do you thrive from comments around your intelligence and qualifications, or acknowledgement of your skills, experience or academic achievements? Maybe for you it’s people complimenting your home and the way you keep it or have it decorated, or even on your cooking or stellar hosting skills? Or perhaps it’s people laughing at your jokes or engaging with your stories.
The last thing to consider is the things that you compliment other women on. What is behind those compliments if you dig deep? I do think that whilst genuine compliments are a wonderful way to uplift our peers and boost their esteem, they can sometimes be used to put people on a pedestal, or deflect a feeling of unworthiness that comes from within ourselves.
A Personal Example
Yes I’m going to just go ahead and put myself right out there gulp! I (like a million and one other women) have always felt self conscious about my looks and I often find myself giving compliments to other women about how great they look.
Those comments do come from a genuine place and I think it’s always lovely to hear that you look nice, however if I begin to unpeel some of those layers it could be that there’s a bit of deflection in there too because of my own inner critic. And the thing that really got me thinking about this recently… I burst with unequivocal pride when someone comments on my qualifications or expertise. And why not?! I’ve spent 7 years in higher education FFS, that deserves some credit right??!
Peeling Back the Layers
When I really begin to peel back those layers though, it takes me back to my teacher’s pet school days (yes I was always the ‘boffin’) and the validation I often sought and thrived off from being top of the class. Peel back again and it exposes that little bugger that always seems to be waiting at the deepest darkest depths of our psyche called “I’m not good enough”.
This is something I have been reflecting on this week because it’s interesting to think about the ways in which we seek validation from the world. And for me it’s been interesting to really unpick something that on the surface seems so harmless and even positive!
That’s not to say that all compliments should be shrouded with negativity or disregarded. Not at all. More just for us all to give ourselves/our inner voice/our inner child a metaphorical pat on the back of reassurance and love and to say ‘compliments or no compliments – I AM GOOD ENOUGH’.
A Quick Exercise
So a quick 5 minute exercise for you to do this week is to grab a pen and paper and have a bit of an explore of what your own values are around compliments.
Finish the following sentences:
- When I receive a compliment from someone I feel…
- The compliments I give out the most are about…
- I feel most special when people compliment me on my…
- The reason this means so much to me is… (dig deep here!)…
- The person/people I most value getting compliments from is/are…
And finish with an affirmation:
Regardless of compliments, I am [worthy/loved/appreciated/wonderful/good enough/insert your own]
Oh and you might be wondering what this has to do with nutritional therapy. The truth is, not a lot! But it does have a lot to do with holistic health and nurturing all sides of ourselves which is integral to the therapeutic relationships I build with all the women I work with, whether in my nutritional therapy business or my public health nursing.