Last week my little sister came over and we spent a few hours chatting over coffee on that rainy afternoon. We curled up in the reading room where bookshelves line the wall from floor the ceiling on one side and the other three contain large picture windows, allowing us to we peer out into the rainy street.
Although my sister is 4 years younger then me, she’s got a solid 2 inches on me, she’s a working woman and married herself but she’ll always be little in my book. We spent the afternoon taking about husbands, houses, fashion, cooking, jobs, friends and everything else sisters and good friends find themselves in conversation over. She commented on a gallery wall in our living room that I had just finished up and how much she loved what I had done with the space. She complimented me on the pieces I had chosen and how everything came together so beautifully. Instinctively I said something to make myself sounds less than, something bordering on self deprecation. I realized it in the moment, but didn’t know why I would say something like that and what was worse is that I couldn’t seem to stop myself.
My little sister is a wedding stylist on the weekends, a doughnut decorator for a bakery during the week, her out fits are consistently fabulous, her and her husbands’ apartment is modern and chic with the perfect touch of comfort and homeyness, plus she’s one of those people that somehow manages to look like a million dollars with her hair in a pony tail and a baseball hat on.
When she complimented me on my gallery wall rather than thinking ‘ok this girl has got good taste clearly and she thinks my gallery way is awesome’ and then responding with a simple ‘thanks!’ I let her compliment send me into a tail spin due to my lack of confidence.
Spinning further and further into my lack of confidence, I thought about how the gallery wall she’s been planning out for her living room will probably look a thousand times better than mine and that she actually knows how to decorate and style whereas I’m not as good at that sort of stuff. My thoughts progressed to how she was probably just saying that to be nice but she really sees everything that would have looked better and all the frames that are a little crooked because I didn’t bother using a leveler and just eyeballed everything instead!
Ok seriously, how ridiculous?
She’s my sister for goodness sake not to mention one of my best friends.
Pretty sure she didn’t compliment me just because she had nothing better to do.
Pretty sure she didn’t even notice the frames that were a little crooked.
Instead of simply saying ‘thank you.’ why in the world did I tail spin out into all of that?!
When someone compliments me or tells me I did a good job, I’m doing pretty good if I can sheepishly smile and mutter a quick ‘thanks’ before darting off to divert myself from situation rather than having to confidently stand there, accepting their praise or compliment.
I’ve always thought of myself somewhat as a confident woman. That’s what I wanted to be at least and I knew that my long time boyfriend, now husband, always found women with confidence attractive in a mature sense.
But I never realized how much I have lacked confidence for the majority of my life.
I couldn’t accept a compliment to save my life.
Instead I would turn it around, self-sabotaging myself with some self deprecating comment or another, feeling almost embarrassed that someone would recognize me.
As I’ve begun to notice this practice, this self sabotaging, self deprecating, inability to accept compliments confidently complex, I’ve come to see how it’s (1) totally my issue and my shame and (2) that I get to choose. It’s my choice as to whether I will continue to feel embarrasses and two inches tall, responding in a self deprecating way, or whether I will take a step in the direction of the confident woman that I want to be.
Taking the first step in direction of becoming the confident woman that I want to be means recognizing the vulnerability of receiving a gift, and then choosing out of humility to receive the gift of another’s words to me.
So I’m starting out small these days because I think that’s how it is with any endeavor, you start small.
With my closest friends and with my husband, when I receive a compliment, praise or affirmation, I accept it with a sincere and gracious ‘thank you.’ Because goodness knows, out of everyone in the world, those are not the ones who are inclined to give me empty praise and insincere compliments.
So I take it, accepting the compliment, and say ‘thank you.’ I still feel sort of weird and squeamish, a little shy and sheepish at times, but I go away walking just a little bit taller with my head raised a little higher, stepping into just a little bit more, the confident woman that I’ve always hoped to be.