Thursday, May 26, 2011


I have been fumbling around in my brain for nearly a week trying to write this post. It's a post on a topic that's so difficult and touchy for people to talk about that I am not sure it's going to come across the way I want to, but I want to write it so I am going to try.

Being sick or under the weather or recovering from something brings great things from the people around you. When catastrophic things happen, if you are lucky, people link arms and create a fortress around you, they surround you with love and bring you delicious food and make you laugh. They also tell you how they feel about you, what impact you make in their lives and in their world, how much they love, need and respect you. As a result, through all of the shit of illness and all that comes with it,  you glow.

But that glow is a funny glow. It's a timid glow. Sometimes it's a glow that questions whether it has the right to shine out. "Oh no, don't say that!" you find yourself saying to people with an embarrassed look on your face. Or "thank you (blush, stutter), I really don't..." If you are not good at receiving compliments or the attention of others, it's a bizarre and daunting experience of exposure to something that on one hand can be so thrilling, but on the other hand can be so hard to accept.

Why is it so hard for us to receive words of appreciation, compliments, loving thoughts, validations of our own self? I remember a friend telling me about an experience that she went through a number of years ago where two of her friends sat on either side of her and whispered, one after the other, beautiful and sweet compliments about her in her ears. She said it was almost torturous and that she sat there with tears streaming down her face while these beautiful words entered her brain, like her body was trying to physically reject what it was hearing. I could relate to this so well, especially at that time in my own life, as we were both in a space of doubt, difficulty and depression. In truth,we want others to see that special glow within us but are so hesitant to accept that other people see it and validate it themselves that it becomes something to reject instead of something to embrace.

So I'm writing this because my birthday felt a little bit like my friend's experience. I spent the night with people I love deeply, wonderful friends who spent the evening showering me with compliments, love and affection. It was humbling and it was torturous, it was inspiring and it was intense. It made me wonder, every day since, why I had such a tough time with the attention. When I compliment my son or daughter, I get a huge smile. When do we shut that off? When do we decide that the person must be lying or "just saying that to be nice" or want something or certainly must not know us very well if they are to have that opinion of us? When do we stop believing that we are worthy of the compliment? And when do we become unable to just say, with the biggest smile, "thank you, that means so much to me to hear you say that"? Because, in our heart of hearts, it does mean the world to us. And it should.

So I think we should all practice a little exposure therapy on each other. Try to offer 3 sincere compliments today to people who aren't expecting it. Do it again tomorrow to the same people and see what their reaction is. And perhaps the day after. And the day after that. Does it make them squirm? Does it start to lighten their mood? Do they give you a big smile in return? Consider it an experiment. Work at it with a researcher's eye. Ripple it out to see if it takes.

As luck would have it, I was writing this post when my wonderful friend Deb Fisch sent this amazing little film out on a parent's listserv that I am a part of. It validates everything that I have been feeling in ways that I think I could never convey as well. It's 16 minutes very much worth spending today.

Enjoy. And thanks.

No comments:

Post a Comment