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Modesty or humility is viewed as the hallmark of a well-brought-up girl, which makes it hard for us to be open to any real compliments without feeling like an imposter.
Why is accepting that compliment so hard?
Colleagues: Have you lost weight? You look good!
She (who has spent months doing Keto and weights): It’s the dress that’s making me look thinner!
Guests: Your house is so beautiful and neat!
She (who spent the last five hours mopping and polishing): It could be tidier; there is just so much dust.
Acquaintance: Love your new hairstyle!
She: But it makes me look older. Next time, I should change my hair color!
How often have we heard these conversations? How often have we been participants in them? As women, why do we find it so hard to accept a compliment without indulging in self-deprecating humor or downplaying our achievements?
Years ago, I had taken my little one to an art gallery. She watched a group of art students making sketches of paintings. In a fit of enthusiasm, she took out her notebook and pencils and began drawing. Minutes later, like any other six-year-old, she finished her portrait with squiggles, dashes, and smudges. The art teacher who had been watching her amusedly, peeked at her work and congratulated her.
Him: That’s lovely. You draw well!
She: I know! This is a masterpiece!
We burst into laughter at the little one’s confidence.
We were like that in our childhood; bold, brash, and uncaring. We had no qualms about receiving compliments; we demanded them. Somewhere along the way, we lost that confidence. What happened to us as adults? The answer lies in conditioning.
Modesty or humility is viewed as the hallmark of a well-brought-up girl. In many cultures, a woman accepting accolades or acclaim is labelled a braggart. Call it tough love, gender bias, or just stereotyping; we are made to feel inadequate. We are judged for how we look, the way we talk, the way we walk, and our choices. The critique we are subjected to weighs heavily and is damaging in the long run. This may not be true of everyone, but many of us have gone through such incidents at some point.
I’ve experienced this first-hand in my college years. Once, our boisterous gang of girls was advised by a random stranger on the bus to not laugh loudly, because ‘good girls didn’t do that’. Years later, when colleagues complimented me for my jovial spirit, I wondered if it was their way of telling me to tone it down. Now, I know better.
The cosmetic industry thrives on insecurities. The concepts of fairness and blemish-less skin have been peddled freely. In this perfection-obsessed world, we stare into the mirror, and magnify our imperfections, making it impossible for us to gauge the authenticity of any compliment, however heartfelt it may be. Teenagers and pre-teens spend hours filtering their photos for social media, not believing that they look good enough.
Traditional advertising depicts a woman with a problem (skin tone, texture), who faces society’s ruthless eye-rolls and bashing. After using the product, the transformation takes place, and the compliments start pouring in. The lesson? Accept a compliment only when the problem is fixed. What we fail to acknowledge is that perhaps the only problem is with mindset and not the way we look!
It is only in recent years that the focus has shifted to real woman who are comfortable in their skin, and confidence is now a hallmark of beauty.
When a good word or praise comes your way, you begin to feel uncomfortable. You feel undeserving of the praise. After all, you have been taught to live according to a rule book, trying to meet impossible standards that have generated insecurities. Self-esteem issues crop up and rear an ugly head. You begin to overthink and wonder if there is some ulterior motive.
You find the most comfortable way out; by attributing it to luck, divine intervention, or some other factor and down-sell yourself. Not all women are conditioned this way, but the majority of us find it hard to deal with appreciation (even though we enjoy the validation). Many of us suffer from imposter syndrome; we discount our achievements because we are plagued by self-doubt.
The next time someone appreciates you, instead of making excuses, thank them for their kindness. You don’t need to be awkward, tell an inconsequential joke, or formulate an impromptu comeback or explanation. Instead, what you need is a moment of gratitude, a moment where you accept that you did a good job and are reaping the reward.
Pat yourself on the back and accept those compliments with open arms. Wear that confidence like it’s your second skin. When someone tells you that you are awesome, just utter two magic words, ‘Thank you’.
Girl, it’s time to embrace those squiggles and scribbles and tell yourself, ‘You’re a masterpiece!’
Image source: MaggiePoo on pixabay
Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...
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