“I love your top!”
“Oh this? It’s ancient!”
“Your haircolor is fabulous!”
“Ugh…my gray is getting out of control!”
“Have you lost weight?”
“Pfhhhht! I wish!”
“I saw your family photos on Facebook, they were great!”
“The photographer worked magic; I hate having my picture taken!”
“Your house looks so nice!”
“Ha! You should have seen it two hours ago!”
“Your daughter was so good today at the party!”
“Oh, good–at least she behaves for someone!”
Do any of these exchanges sound familiar? When is the last time you’ve said, ‘thank you,’ without a qualifying statement when someone gives you a compliment? Chances are you’ve been on one or both ends of these conversations. You’ve been the woman who thinks your friend looks stunning in that red blouse, only to be shot down. You’ve noticed your sister’s highlights, only to be reminded that she’s getting so gray that she’ll have to touch them up in two more weeks. A mom brings her child to your house for a playdate and gushes about the light pouring into your living room, and you tell her all about the pig sty that was your house earlier that morning. I’ve done it. I’ve brushed off compliments, given excuses, or (my personal favorite) made a joke to deflect attention from myself.
We have developed an immunity to praise and an inability to say, ‘thank you,’ when it’s given to us. This rejection of praise seems to be a uniquely grown-up thing. When I tell my daughter that I love her purple coat, she never responds with, ‘This? Ugh, too bad it’s not on trend anymore…’ She craves gold stars, validation, and praise. Yet, all too often among our peer groups, the response is to invalidate the praise. And in doing so, we are telling the giver that what she sees is not beauty, but rather a big ol’ facade. When did we stop believing that we are more likely to be fabulous than not? More importantly, why would we think such a thing?
I think more often than not we subconsciously create strategies to deflect praise and invalidate our beautiful truths as a scrim for our insecurities. Maybe we’ve had the experience of being told that we were less than, too much, or too little, and after a while we actually believe it. Maybe we have become so accustomed to giving of ourselves to others–babies, partners, siblings, parents, friends, bosses–that we feel self-centered if we agree that we in fact do run the most successful department in the company. Maybe we’ve become so disconnected from our bodies that we forget that we do, in fact, look fabulous in red.
Because it’s the season of giving, I propose that we practice saying thank you. Period. It’s going to take some practice. You’ll have to intentionally remind yourself when it pops up in different scenarios. You’ll need to channel that six year-old inside of you who stood proud when someone praised you. If you’ve forgotten what it feels like to simply say thank you and accept praise without condition, here are a few examples:
When you deliver treats to your neighbor for the hoidays:
Neighbor: “You make the world’s best sugar cookies!”
You: “Thank you!”
When your colleague tells you that you knocked your presentation out of the park:
Co-worker: “I think your speech convinced the board to fund the project!”
You: “Thank you!”
When your partner reaches across the pile of cardboard as you sit together constructing toys for Santa, kisses you, and tells you that you’ve never looked more beautiful:
Partner: “You’ve never looked more beautiful.”
You: “Thank you.”
Once you start practicing the art of “thank you”, you’ll find you actually believe it. You will see the beautiful, talented, and capable woman that everyone else can see. Now go out there and give your most fabulous self in this season of giving. You’re welcome.