Far too often, I am suspicious of compliments.
I don’t even know why. Why I get defensive and critical when someone says something nice to me. While when someone says something nasty to me— or, let’s be honest, about me, because bullies are cowards— I hurl myself at the person to convince them they are wrong and I am a good person. Which is honestly a best case scenario.
Because also— I am stupid and worthless. So, of course the person saying the cruel statement is probably correct and that person saying something nice about me? Why would you say something nice about me, I’m stupid, you’re obviously stupid too! Which is how I’ll react when I’m in less of a good place.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Human nature will tell me that this is a form of protection. Suppose we allow ourselves to believe something nice said about ourselves– only for that person to take advantage of our relaxed guard to stab us in the back. Because that happens, you know. People have certainly done it to me before. It makes sense to take protective measures.
Except sometimes it gets a little (read: crazily) out of hand. Someone can be nice to me for years, put their own self at risk, do crazy things for me– and I still look at them with suspicious eyes.
As if they will one day jump at me and exclaim, “Hah, all those kind and loving words for the last decade…all those acts of service for you…it was all a clever plot to gain your trust and love so that today I can tell you that I really hate you! Hah!” Don’t I feel the stupid one, right?
I do believe nice things– said about other people.
It’s quite funny, but I believe almost every nice word said— when it’s not about me. It’s true. Even the worst person in my life, well, if they say something loving I instinctively believe it. I can believe that the most hardened criminal is capable of good. The mastermind criminal in Daredevil? Sure, he’s a murderer, but I believe he meant every loving word spoken to his girlfriend. Why would he lie about that?
It’s one reason I need a protector. You can treat me like dirt, but if you come back and are nice, I instinctively want to believe you’ve changed. I need someone to smack me (mentally) and say, Hey, Kitty, remember what they did? Maybe don’t be quite so trusting this time around.
I don’t know that I’ll ever change, but I listen to my friends who say I’m a good person and counteract the negativity.
Because you just never know how anyone really feels about you. So maybe we ought to default to giving the positive benefit of the doubt?
It’s very true that when compliments are strewn about thoughtlessly, it can be hard to believe them. They only said that to get attention. They are building their brand. They are trying to get elected. But I do believe we ought to try to believe the sincere compliments, the long term kindnesses.
Because it doesn’t matter if the masses of compliments are fake and manipulative. We can’t control that.
Our friends and close loved ones?
We need to believe them.
Because they are who matter. Because they are the ones who know us. So why are we listening to those who don’t know us? My littlest one tells me, “I’m so lucky to have you and Papa.” That’s who I need to believe. Wisdom from a child.
I believe, ought to try to focus on the good things said about us, rather than the negative. To receive compliments warmly, rather than with distrust. Listen to the good words. Don’t ignore the bad, but do listen to them with a grain of salt and as a caution to improve oneself but not as a damning statement of one’s self worth.