“What a nice blouse!”
“This old rag? I just wear it to clean house.”
If you are a woman, you are familiar with this. (Men take compliments more easily). But for women, a compliment has to be denied, shoved back, or minimized.
At an art show, I complimented an artist on her work. “It’s really easy,” she replied, “I just threw some paint on the canvas.” I’ll bet she didn’t, and once she diminished her own work, I found the price a bit high. After all, if she really “just threw paint” on the canvas, it took no planning or thought.
Of course she worked hard on the canvas. Of course she worried about it. But the second a compliment floats her way, she had to pretend to be someone with no talent, who happens to make a living painting. Why? Because it hurts to admit one has talent, skills, beauty, intelligence, or even good taste. If you own your attributes, you are responsible for them. All the time.
All that may seem like too much work. So we bat away compliments. We don’t want to own them. Most women have also been trained to be humble–particularly older women. We don’t want to seem “full of ourselves,” or risk a “swelled head.” So we deny, deny, deny.
Eventually we believe that we are talentless shlubs who can barely breathe and cross the street at the same time. That doesn’t serve anyone.
First, when you get a compliment, all you need to do is smile, and say, “Thank you!” It’s not hard to do this is you immediately think that you are making the person who paid you the complement happy.
Then, there’s a bit of work to do on yourself. Why don’t you want to be talented, smart, loving, or whatever you got a compliment for? What meaning do you attach to a compliment that makes you shrink from it? Pretend, for the next hour, the compliment is true. Just for an hour. Then you can give it up. If you still want to.
P.S. It helps to give a compliment if you make it about you instead. “Seeing you in that blouse will make me happy all day,” is a compliment that’s hard to turn down.
I read a great quote the other day. It wasn’t attributed, so I can’t send a compliment to anyone for writing it: “It took me a long time to discover who I was not, only then did I discover who I was.”
P.S. For language lovers. “Compliment” (with an i) means a kind expression or praise. You can remember that it’s spelled with an “i” because it’s nice to receive one and nice also has an i in it.
Complement (with an e) is something that fills up or completes something else. “The book cover art was a perfect complement to the chilling story inside.” It means to complete.
--Quinn McDonald has some problems with complements herself. That’s why she writes about it.