My good friend Kelly (Dr. Breen Boyce, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist) gave a talk last night to a group of women about the importance of self-awareness, and the contribution it makes to a healthy and happy outlook on life. She gave a wonderful lecture weaving together a spiritual and psychological argument for relating, creating and paying attention to our emotional lives. But what stuck with me after the talk was the way in which she ended it.
At the end, Kelly asked us to pay attention for a moment to how we deal with compliments.
Now, when I casually consider the topic of self-awareness several topics come to mind, but none of them have to do with complements. I think of self-awareness as noticing how my words and actions effect others. Being present to how others might perceive me. Am I being self-aware enough not to come off as too self-absorbed, selfish, self-serving, inauthentic, shallow, arrogant, uncaring, unkind? And I could go on with a list of negatives that I attribute to people that I consider not very self-aware. (Watch reality tv if you need examples.)
But she didn’t ask us to reflect on how we think others perceive us as a barometer of our self-awareness. She asked us what it is we do with compliments when others perceive and express positive things about us. And guess what? A lot of women present said that they have a very, very hard time receiving compliments. Kelly pointed out that we will let the slightest of criticism pierce and wound our innermost being. Sometimes, carrying that pain around for years.
But when complemented, we are fantastically quick to deflect and minimize the affirmations of others.
This is not a sign of humility, but rather an inability to see ourselves clearly. It is only when we can take words of affirmation from others that hold a congruency with reality, and allow them to be absorbed into our sense of self that we can truly know ourselves. When we know ourselves well we can give ourselves more fully to those we love and the world at large.
So when someone tells you you are smart, pretty, kind, wonderful, or wearing a great outfit, bring it into your heart like a treasure and hold onto it tight.
-GO with love