Compliments: How You Handle Them is Really About Your Self Esteem

Ok, it is about to get real! I want to share something with you about myself and I hope that it can help at least one person who reads it. For the longest time, I found it really difficult to accept a compliment from someone, especially a stranger. It made me feel...weird. I suffered from low self esteem. Ok, I am being generous. I had no self esteem. It was a vapor. I based my worth on other people and what they thought about me. I had no sense of self and instead, tried to be what I thought other people wanted me to be. I was a shell of myself with nothing inside, just gray matter filled with yearning - for what, I didn't know, but I felt really empty and hollow. Living in this state is volatile....inevitably, your shell will crack. More times than I can even count, my world felt like it was crashing down around me because I was empty inside and relied on others to fill that space. I wanted them to be the "thing" I needed to be happy with myself. Again, living that way will always prove disastrous because all people are broken in their own way. That being true, people will, at some point, disappoint other people. It is just the way it is. People would compliment me on things, like my humor or sense of style or...whatever. You know what I responded with? "No...." Basically, I was telling them that they were wrong, their thoughts were wrong, and their feelings....wrong! Not only would I reject what they were saying, I threw it on the ground, stomped on it, and threw it back in their face. I kept it classy. I had a hard time accepting kind words from others because I spoke unkindly (even hatefully) to myself, so how could anyone else like things about me? I was horrible! Not really, and now I realize that. It took a long time, a lot of introspection, reflection, forgiveness, and patience. I had to teach myself how to be my own friend. I had to learn how to like myself. Growing up, I had a tough home life. My step-mother was physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive and the atmosphere was ambivalent; we never knew what to expect. I was constantly walking on eggshells. This deeply affected my development into a well-adjusted adult. I felt rejected, unloved, unlovable, unprotected, and alone. I put up a wall and surrounded it with a spiked barricade surrounded by barbed wire; the barbed wire was surrounded by fire and that was surrounded by rabid dogs. No one was getting in; no one was going to hurt me. This lasted for many years and affected my relationships. The problem was, I never really made any real connections with anyone. This pattern dates back to elementary school and continued through high school. I attended over a dozen schools, so it was hard to make friends when I was always the "new kid". I dropped out of high school when I was a junior and hardly attended while I was enrolled. I didn't care about anything, not even myself because I felt invisible, and like no one else cared about me either. The loneliness continued. I ended up in abusive relationships in my early 20's, repeating my home life as a child, feeling worthless, and expecting people around me to fulfill the emptiness I felt inside. Instead, they only added to my pain. There was a lot to overcome in order to like the person I was and who I was to become. But at some point, and I wish I could recall the exact moment, I had an epiphany: I had the power within me to be the person I wanted to be. It was up to me to create my own happiness. I had to stop believing the lies that had been instilled in my mind for most of my life. I had to replace those lies with relevant truths. I had to see myself as I truly was and become the person I was created to be. And then, I had to start acting like it. Believe me, I struggled. And, I still felt weird when people complimented me. My self esteem was still extremely low. I still struggled with what "what I want to be" looked like. Worst of all, I was still surrounding myself with toxic people. But, in time, I was able to become much more self-aware. I was able to begin eliminating things and people in my life that were holding me back. I had to accept the fact that many times, I was the one holding me back. That is scary to recognize. As my outlook began to change, my heart began to change;  I began to change. I decided that I would say thank you the next time someone said something nice to me. I would accept the compliment - even if I didn't believe it. Over time, it became easier to say thank you. It became easier to accept their words of kindness. It became easier to believe what they said to me. My self esteem and confidence began to grow. It was also easier for me to smile and return their compliment with a compliment. Now, I am not talking about a lame, disingenuous compliment and I wouldn't use this practice 100% of the time. But, as my self-confidence grew, I wanted to pay it forward. I wanted to find the good in others; I wanted them to know I recognized it. It has taken several years to get to the point where I am today. I would say I am extremely confident (although I do have area where I still struggle from time to time), I love people, and I have no problem accepting or paying someone a compliment. Even my husband was surprised how often I am complimented. That might come off as arrogant, and I don't want it to. My point is, when you are confident and carry yourself in that manner, people notice. You become a magnet. People want to be around confident people. It is just a fact. But it starts with believing you are worth the compliment. It comes from inside. It comes from a healthy self esteem and tenacious confidence. Now, I easily smile, and graciously say thank you. But, you can't just leave a "thank you" hanging naked in the air. It is just awkward. So, I will usually say something like, "Oh, thank you! You are sweet!" or "Well, thank you! Aren't you charming" or "adorable", etc. And, if I really like something about them, I will say it. And, I am not lying or being fake. It is a genuine statement. It feels good to say nice things to other people. It feels good to uplift one another and point out positive attributes of others. It feels good to make other people feel good about themselves. It is all about people being kind and earnest with other people. It is what makes the world go 'round. So, if you struggle with this, the next time someone pays you a compliment just say "Thank you! You are very kind." It might feel foreign to you, and you might have a hard time getting it out. But, just do it! You will be surprised at how this one little thing can really affect your life.                

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