“I love your dress”…and my reflexive response is “This? got it for $12”.
“Those earrings are gorgeous”…earns a polite but sharp “These are just cheap costume jewelry”.
- Why the need for explanation?
- Why the rude response with no intent of being impolite?
- Why the inability to value their input and take it seriously?
My answer — I am humble.
Humility — a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness
The truth — I surround myself with modesty and disappear inside it. I hide.
Without that protection…I am exposed.
With it…I am trapped and void of gratitude.
But when you live without gratitude, you miss things. The happiest moments don’t even register — dead air interrupting the broadcast of your life.
This is where I’ve spent the last few years. I have avoided gratitude by practicing extreme modesty and not allowing myself to truly be proud of anything in any particular moment. An emotional zombie — I was flat lining and not able to see how absent these feelings were from my daily life.
Until someone told me. They were simple words, but I felt the burn on my cheek as if they jumped through the air and slapped me.
“Learn to take a compliment!”
And as the color drained from my flush cheek, the movie reel began to play in my mind showcasing the last few years of my life.
- Those times when someone had taken the time to notice something I did, or said, or wore.
- That feeling of embarrassment that would fill me up with the guilt of being unworthy of praise.
- The strong barrier that rejected any acknowledgement immediately upon entry.
- The resistance of the attention. I didn’t want the attention. No — I didn’t deserve it.
Many of you have read my blog.
Some of you have clapped and even commented.
When you respond to my words, it transports me to this disconnected state nestled between disbelief and shock. Shock that you would take time from other activities in your life to read my words. Disbelief that upon reading it you had a reaction so strong you took even more time to tell me how it made you feel…and even encourage me to keep writing.
Gay Hendricks calls my behavior Deflection in his book The Big Leap and explains that it is a common Upper-Limit behavior. An Upper Limit is a limited tolerance for feeling good. He explains how we crimp the flow of positive energy by avoiding it altogether. Yes…that sounds very familiar to me.
In order to expand your tolerance for things going well and transcend your Upper Limit, you need to expand your ability to feel positive feelings and allow yourself to enjoy the love, financial abundance and creativity that is rightfully yours.
Someone told me recently that they had been watching my “evolution” on social media as I share events I am hosting or speaking at and of course, my blog. My evolution. How profound to hear about your own growth over the last few years through conversation at a graduation party. How incredible a realization that others are watching you. I had not considered that just by living and sharing, I was having an impact on anyone else.
I have always tried to do things for the right reason. You know — the unselfish reason. Not for financial gain, not for personal gratification or to make me “look good”…no, not any of those. I wanted to make a real difference. So when you notice me, I cannot comprehend that you genuinely care and definitely cannot accept it. You see, if I did, then I might feel good about myself. That good feeling has a friendly companion that rides shotgun…guilt.
Guilt because you weren’t supposed to give me credit.
Guilt because now I have somehow diminished any and all value of what I have done — ignoring completely the people that I may have helped.
Because that is not why I did it. All the time and energy I have invested in the deflection of positive feedback and avoiding the perception that I am greedy or looking for attention was destroyed — by your kind words.
When my father-in-law passed away in May, I wrote a blog about him. This blog has reached over 1500 people. Even as I write this, I am in awe of this statistic. You may be one of the 1500.
If I’m being honest, I have to tell you that I believe this has everything to do with how loved he was, is and continues to be and absolutely nothing to do with my writing. I just refuse to receive this information as any positive reflection on me. As we received the endless crowd on the day of his wake, I was greeted with repetitive exclamations of…
- “Are you the one who wrote that beautiful piece about your father-in-law?”
- “Your words moved me”
- “What an amazing tribute”
There I stood holding my place in a line full of unbearable grief between my husband and my brother-in-law just feet away from their father.
There I stood and all the words that had poured onto the page less than one week before had now left me mute.
There I stood — paralyzed.
I looked confused by their words. We were mourning this incredible man…this was not the time to give me praise. I was embarrassed by the attention and terrified that if I accepted it I would appear selfish making all those words written rich with emotion now hollow and worthless. If I accepted this praise, it would lessen the “amazing tribute”.
Because of course there wasn’t enough to go around.
Because I definitely didn’t deserve it.
Because I continued to hide where I am not seen and there are no expectations on me. You see, this wasn’t so scary just because it was his wake. It was because my writing was being acknowledged and people liked what they read. In some cases, they loved it.
I was not willing to receive this. So I hid behind “that’s not why I wrote it” and stared blankly at the thoughtful strangers when they wanted to hug me. My dismissal of their praise was diminishing the value of my words…of the “amazing tribute”. My husband finally grabbed my hand and told me, “just say thank you”.
A wave of foolishness flooded my body. In an effort to be selfless and deflect any and all acknowledgement, I had been rude. Extremely awkward and downright rude.
Why? Why couldn’t I receive praise for something I had done?
You know what I have learned? I am not alone.
There are a lot of us out there — those who associate praise with embarrassment. Those who cringe at a compliment and turn a happy moment into an awkward and uncomfortable one.
The best way to show off your insecurity is under the disguise of modesty. So now I try not to hide and practice a different kind of resistance. Resisting the urge to deflect, I choose to just say “Thank you” and allow myself to experience the joy instead of dismissing it.
Maybe this is you too?
- You respond to every compliment with a compliment — “No, you’re amazing!”
- You minimize your achievements — “It was nothing.”
- You give your success away to someone else — “It was really my colleague who did the hard work.”
So here is my gift to you — Stop. Right. Now.
Practice gratitude. Savor every bite. Just say thank you.