We all have something that we struggle with, but it seems as if most people that I know struggle with one simple thing – receiving a compliment. Many of us find it hard to accept a compliment from someone. For many people, when we hear a compliment there is this little voice in the back of the head that negates the positive and affirming words that someone just shared with us. We tend to pay little attention to the positive and affirming words of others, finding it much easier to unquestionably accept the criticisms of others. For many, these criticisms seem to be affirmations of the belief that we are not worthy; that there is something inherently wrong with us. Many of us have become experts at self-rejection. We have come to the place where we believe that we are unworthy until proven otherwise, rather than believe that we are worthy and to question why others would criticize who we were created to be.
Many of us find it difficult to accept compliments but easy to believe the slightest criticism. We accept them without question. It is as if we see them as a reinforcement of what we have already come to reject in ourselves. Those words just reinforce the self-rejecting messages that so many of us give ourselves. When people do encourage us, do pay us sincere compliments, for many of us there is this voice in the back of our heads that wonders – if they knew the real me would they still love me?
All my life, I have struggled with owning my intelligence. My friends who know me do not understand how I could possibly not think I am intelligent. My biggest fear when I was doing my doctoral studies was that one day my faculty was going to find out exactly how stupid I was and then they would see what a lie my life was. The day came when I had the opportunity to show them and at some level I thought I had succeeded, but I had not. Those who knew me, who had listened to me think out loud for years in their classrooms, knew what I had yet to come to accept in myself.
I had to work on my self-esteem and I had to question all those people in my life who had ever told me I was not intelligent. I had to question why one of my professors had told me I had a brain the size of a pea. I had to question what motivated those who contributed to those feelings and I had to question why I chose to believe that myself. I had to unlearn this message that had been planted in my head and in my heart when I was a little girl, and replace it with a new tape. I had to allow myself to listen and internalize the positive feedback of my friends. I had to change the question in my head from would they still love me if they knew the truth, to what new truths about me can my friends share with me today. At first, it was not easy, but over the years, I have come to understand that God has blessed me with certain gifts. I came to realize that to deny them is to deny how God has been working in my life and to deny part of who God ordained me to be.
I don’t know what messages of self-rejection others are dealing with, but it is important in our own spiritual growth and development that we stop that cycle. Not long ago, I gave a homework assignment to my congregation to tell themselves at least three times a day that they are worthy. And each of is worthy. If we were not worthy, then God would not have created us. So if you need to start this process of total self acceptance somewhere, start with that – start by telling yourself. I am worthy.
And we need to begin to think about compliments differently. See compliments, sincere compliments are gifts of praise. When people pay us a compliment, what they are saying is thank you – thank you for what you have done. Thank you for who you are. Thank you for how you have touched my life. Thank you for making a difference in the world. Thank you for having the courage to just be you. The next time somebody pays you a compliment, just say thank you and allow it to wash over you and through you like a wave of positive energy.
If you think about a compliment as energy, then you would see it as this wave of beautiful light washing over you. And when you accept that compliment it brightens the other person’s life too, because they know they have made a difference in your life. In the process of giving and receiving a compliment, both parties are blessed. So make a difference in the world today – pay somebody and yourself a compliment.