Saturday, April 7, 2012

Vanity and Accepting Compliments

Image credit: Valerie Everett on Flickr
When I was little, a huge percentage of morality tales and teachings seemed to be about pride and vanity.  I soaked them up without question.  After all, Pride was The Sin that Made Satan Satan, right?  Yet somehow, the teachings were a bit warped, or maybe it was my own mind that twisted them.  Instead of seeing the sinfulness as grasping equality with God, it came to mean that accepting credit for anything good was prideful.

It wasn't specifically my parents who taught me that--they actually praised us quite often.  It was more the culture that surrounded us.  Girls, especially, were supposed to be humble at all times.   The funny thing, though, is that I didn't know any girls who were truly prideful or stuck up.  Most of the ones that I knew struggled just as I did with the opposite end of the spectrum.

Whenever someone complimented us, instead of preening with satisfaction, we were more likely to panic as an internal chorus began to shriek that we didn't deserve it.  (They wouldn't say that if they knew...)  The screams that we were a fraud and fear of subsequent failure (What if I mess up next time?  They will be so disappointed!) were almost loud enough to drown out the love of the original words.

That makes accepting compliments really awkward.  Gothard had a nice formula for that: you simply redirect the praise to another person.  So if someone says something nice about you, you simply explain that the credit really belongs to God, your parents, your teachers, or someone else.  There is truth in that.  But, when your idea of responsibility means that you always accept blame for things that go wrong, but never for anything that goes right, it becomes twisted.

And if your primary love language is words of affirmation?  Ugh! It winds up being a huge emotional mess.  Recently, I have been so incredibly blessed by so many of you who have left encouraging comments on my blog or Facebook page.  My soul has desperately needed to drink up your kindness and affirmation.  But, each time, I freeze up inside.  (This is why it often takes me so long to respond!  I can answer critical questions much more easily some days than a compliment!)

That chorus begins again.  If they knew that you yelled at your kids yesterday, they wouldn't think you were a good mom.  If they saw how messy your house is...  If they knew that you gave your kids ice cream for breakfast yesterday just so you could get a few minutes on the computer...

I don't want that for my daughters.  I don't want every kind word to be distorted by internal critics.  I want them to be able to graciously accept credit for the things that they do right just as much as responsibility for things that need to change.  Which probably means that it would help if I modeled that, huh?  I am trying to work on responding with a sincere "thank you", but I still have not quieted the shrieking demons inside.

Have any of you dealt with something similar?  How did you retrain your mind and feelings? 


Breanna said...

I had the same problem for a long time. There is a book my stepmother gave me, perhaps seeing the effect that teachings like that were having on me (or feeling the same thing herself), called "Speaking the Truth in Love" about helping Christian women develop assertiveness. It focused pretty heavily (as I recall, it was a long time ago that I read it) on the concept that "God doesn't make garbage" and that it is wrong to deny or downplay the gifts He gives you.

I also set myself a challenge for like, a year, to accept all compliments with a smile and a "Thank you." No other words, no diminishments or excuses, two words only. It was way harder than it ought to have been.

Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources said...

I hear you, mama! It's amazing how a hundred positive comments can get deflected or make us squirm thinking of our 'faults' and yet one single negative comment sinks right to the heart and sounds like absolute truth even when we know it isn't. I guess that's why God gives us friends to lift us up, though. Their nice words 'take' a bit more, lol. Oh, and I've been guilty of bribing my littles with ice cream for computer time more than once!

Carrie said...

I've not yet overcome...

The Princess Poet said...

Oh yes, I'm still working on that. DH is always saying cut yourself some slack.

Gilda said...

Yes! I have always have had a huge problem accepting compliments. I guess in my case though, is because I was taught to seek humbleness in a crazy and unhealthy way I think...when I know that a compliment is sincere, I don't know what to do or say or think, I try to shrug it off because I don't want to be/become vain or prideful. I think I need to learnt o be more accepting, more graceful. On the other hand compliments that come just because, don't do a thing for me (that happened a lot at work) then again my love language is NOT words of affirmation (is acts of service) a compliment without an action sometimes is empty to me...sometimes I don't believe it. I have to remind myself that yes, I am good enough because I am the daughter of a king!
Hang in there are the daughter of a King, who loves you with an amazing, unbreakable, everlasting LOVE!