Apparently this Friday heralds National Compliment Day. Every year, and always on the 24thJanuary, it’s a day when we are encouraged to hand out compliments like confetti. And it couldn’t come at a better time following so closely on the heels of January ‘Blue Monday’ – which, according to psychologists, is supposedly the saddest day of the year.
Just to be told we look fabulous or that some achievement, however small, hasn’t gone unnoticed can make such a difference to how we see ourselves, yet how many of us fail to recognise the remarkable power of a compliment? And more to the point, how many of us actually accept a compliment and run with it?
It seems that by nature we tend to concentrate on our flaws rather than the things that are good. How often do we unexpectedly catch sight of ourselves, even just a blurred reflection in a shop window, and immediately home in on fact that our hair appears to resemble a large mushroom or that our thighs have clearly tripled in size. Of course it doesn’t and they haven’t, but in a society that places so much emphasis on appearance it seems this is what initially dominates all the other aspects of our self-esteem. It comes down to how we see ourselves, and we never quite see the best.
The irony here is that a compliment should do just that, but it rarely does. We see beauty in others but somehow this always makes us question our own. And if someone does pay a compliment we demure and immediately direct them to some imagined colossal blemish that absolutely nobody else can see. If we’ve done something well we start muttering how easy it was. In reality it probably took hours, left us prone with exhaustion and indisposed for days. An exaggeration I know, but you get the gist.
So why is it that we can’t take a compliment?
I think that partly – and putting any inherent characteristics aside – it comes down to a societal mindset, to being women in a world that still seems to objectify and underestimate our capabilities. In turn this takes us into a natural inclination towards the negative rather than the positive. Of course we can all put on a new dress, new shoes, perfect makeup and immediately feel like a million dollars, and that’s a good thing if it’s on our terms and our style. But if we can learn to ignore the media-defined ideals of beauty and embrace our own, and identify ourselves in ways other than how we look, I think that’s when we start to appreciate our own value.
We also need to stop apologising for ourselves – something that at one point or another, male or female, every single one of us does. Our flaws and our limitations are part of the beauty that makes us who we are as individuals. Understanding and accepting them is what makes us attractive. And what’s key here is a connection between mind and body. If we feel comfortable in our own skin, we start to appreciate who we are as well as how we feel about ourselves. There’s a wonderful quote – ‘No one is you and that is your power.’ So true and yet we seldom see it.
Knowing our own self-worth isn’t easy when we tend to lean towards modesty and self-deprecation far more than we do self-love but, as obvious as it sounds, self-love is exactly what it’s all about. We just need to shift our perspective a little bit. Trying to be who we want to be rather than who we actually are is what holds us back. We are unique and learning to love our individuality, warts and all, is empowering. And, in turn, valuing ourselves allows us the generosity to empower others with a compliment. We are worth so much more than we ever think we are.
So it seems to me that – despite how readily we are able to compliment others – it’s not until we acknowledge our own beauty, inside and out, that we can actually accept a compliment ourselves. Confidence is compelling AND it’s infectious. Smile at a stranger and they will smile back. Tell someone how much they make you laugh and it will feel as if they’ve missed their calling as a stand-up comic. Most importantly, on National Compliment Day, tell yourself that you’re not so bad after all. Then you really can start looking and feeling fabulous!
“Know your own worth, hold your own power, be you.”