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Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Complimentary Post With A Side Of Self-Doubt

With this edition of the Thursday Confession, I'll readily admit to posting something within this space that has been recycled from another source. In this case, I wrote this piece approximately a year ago in my Notes section on Facebook. But since not everyone can read those, I figure that for the vast majority of you, it'll be new to you. And, this time around, I can actually post video clips and pictures to supplement my confession the second time around.

This confession is all about compliments, and the art of receiving them. There's a lot of people out there in the world who are motivated by the number of compliments that they get from various people. And, believe me, I get that. Everyone likes to hear something good about themselves every now and then, right?

But what happens when you are at the receiving end of a compliment, and you aren't exactly sure how you're supposed to take it. On the surface, it appears as though it is genuine, and that the giver is sincere in his/her words...but if you dig a little deeper, you might discover that it's anything but.

Well, that's what this confession is all about. The art of accepting a compliment...and why on my report card of life, I've never gotten higher than a C- in that art.

THURSDAY CONFESSION #25: In the past, I was absolutely terrible at taking compliments at face value. Even now, I still have difficulty doing this.

Does anyone remember a singer by the name of James Blunt? I'm sure you all do, since he's been all over the pop charts over the past five years or so. I can't really say that I myself am a fan of his, but I kind of have to talk about him briefly to get into the meaty goodness of this whole article.

Anyways, James Blunt has been a singer for a few years now, and I would hazard a guess that his first big breakthrough was a song called “You're Beautiful”. Now, on the surface, judging by the title of the song, you'd think that it was a lovely song about how beautiful someone is, and how much they mean to the person. Yet, dig a little deeper, and you will discover that the song is really about heartbreak and betrayal. Heck, if the music video showing Mr. Blunt leaping off a cliff doesn't convince you of that, I don't know what will. Have a look at the music video below to see what I mean.

In some twisted way, it kind of leads into the general point of this confession. After all, as I said before, this entry's all about compliments, and why it seems so difficult for some to accept them as they are.

I guess in some ways, I'm kind of guilty of that. In many ways, I find it difficult to accept a compliment at face value. Someone may tell me that I'm, and like the James Blunt song, I over-analyze it and try to find some iota of sarcasm or truth fudging within it. Like, suppose I'm walking down the street and all of a sudden people are whistling and cat-calling at me. In past occasions, I dismissed those as being nothing more than a cruel joke because I felt that I wasn't worthy enough to get such attention. Certainly when I was at my heaviest weight, I completely dismissed it as nothing more but a joke. How could they say that I was “hot stuff” when I certainly didn't feel that way about myself?

Or worse is the dreaded backhanded compliment. The kind of compliments that are given by such fictional characters as Reggie Mantle, or Marie Barone from “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Oh, sure, they may tell you something that appears nice, but depending on the context, it might appear as though they are actually being more condescending than kind. Believe me, I've gotten quite a few of those during my lifetime as well.

There is some good news however. I am getting better at taking compliments and praise at face value every day, and I'm more willing to accept them rather than roll my eyes in disgust.

Still, I will probably always have some smidgen of doubt as to how accurate they are. If someone tells me I'm intelligent for instance, I'm perfectly fine with that now and can own it...but if you had asked me that question a decade earlier when I voluntarily left university because I couldn't hack it, I probably might have told you to go to hell, and that you were cruel for making light of something so horrible.

Yeah, at 22, I was pretty much the definition of “emo”. I'll admit it. Consider it a bonus confession for today, if you will.

I think a part of why I sometimes have a bit of difficulty accepting compliments at face value is probably partly due to how I was raised. I was never really brought up in an environment where compliments were freely given out, so maybe that has something to do with it. Not saying that my childhood was filled with abuse or neglect...far from it, really. But, because I didn't really get many spoken word compliments by those closest to me, I guess in some way, I didn't know how to accept a compliment, or more importantly how to distinguish the difference between genuine praise and a sarcastic remark. And, that's not me making an excuse. At the time, it was how I genuinely felt.

I think a larger part of it comes from the pitiful amount of self-worth I had back then. I certainly didn't feel good about myself at my worst, and it didn't matter how people told me that the terrible things I was feeling weren't true. I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to really let those compliments in at the time.

I'm probably not the only case out there in regards to praise. There's some people who are like me, who couldn't figure out the difference between real and fake compliments. As a result, some may mistake genuine praise for sarcasm, or they'd interpret constructive criticism as a personal attack, or if they were truly like me, they'd hide from the world and not let anyone else in for fear of getting hurt.

And, I know that looking back on it, it sounds so incredulous to me that I could even feel this way about something that should be appreciated.

But I did.

I've taken some great efforts to try and improve my outlook on life, and try to be more accepting of compliments, but I know it's not going to be an easy fix, and that it's going to take a lot of patience for me to get there. It is a challenge though. I won't deny that.

I don't take things nearly as personally anymore, and after some soul-searching, I've come to the conclusion that I am just as deserving of love and affection as anybody else.

I just have to try and let my guard down, and trust that when someone does tell me that I am smart, or I'm kind, or when I'm walking down the street and cat-calling me, I'll believe them, and not try to find something snotty in the tone or the choice of words someone uses.

In fact, when I turned 31 a month ago, I was walking down the street, and a group of people were stopped at the corner, whistling at me. And, this time around, I was more accepting of it. It still felt a bit uncomfortable, but I didn't automatically assume the worst either, so I guess I can consider that a small victory in the battle for eternal self-esteem.

I guess I'm just babbling on a bit, and for all I know, this confession may not make any sense whatsoever...but it's something that I have been thinking about for a while, and in my quest to understand myself better, I feel I have to jot everything that's been bothering me down. No matter how crazy sounding it looks to someone on the outside, or how nonsensical it appears to me.

But, that's the kind of guy I am. At one time, I used to be afraid to share things with others, because I was scared I'd be perceived as weird, or flighty, or be made fun of. Now that I'm older, I don't care what people think. These are my thoughts, and my thoughts alone to do with what I want.

Some may look at it as me sharing too much about myself at any given time, but I've only scratched the surface. I still have many, many issues to work through. Many demons left to slay. Many secrets to unearth.

One day, I hope to truly be an open book. Instead, I choose to let you all in one chapter at a time.

In the meantime, I'll do my best to keep telling myself that I'm, and take it from there.

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