When I published everything you f*cking need to know to be happy (but were afraid to ask) yesterday, I thought it would be a good idea to start breaking down some of the things I struggle with.
Today, it’s compliments.
The battle that rages inside is when someone compliments me on anything – appearance, work, or whatever, I think they want something. Because when someone tells you something nice, there is a condition attached to that compliment.
Today is a good example. I take the silly picture and post it on my FB and instagram pages. People compliment how pretty I am.
What do they want?
I struggle to find a way to answer. I used to be self-deprecating about those compliments but then I started thinking people would take the self-deprecation for shilling. So I stopped the self-deprecation and started thanking them instead and by changing my verbal response, I am begin the long road of accepting myself.
The gratitude of thanking people started when TheBassist and I were dating. I would tell him how much I liked/loved/adored X,Y,Z. How very handsome he is (because he is). What a great body / body part / thing he did because I saw it to be true. I know others think/thought the same way about him. So what was the problem? (It’s inconceivable to me others might have self-hatred issues. Everyone else is awesome!)
He always said something along the lines of the years of self-hatred, it’s hard for him to accept the things that people see about him. He doesn’t see them in himself so why would others see them in him?
Thus, whenever you tell him something kind about himself (he’s handsome, wonderful bass player, fabulous intellect, etc) he says, “Thank you.” No qualifiers, no explanation, just two words. He’s learning to start loving himself.
My self-loathing runs deep and as far as my view of my attractiveness or brilliance1, I don’t see it. That’s not entirely true — I know there are attractive features about myself physically (I have great breasts, my eyes are fabulous, my hair is pretty killer) and mentally (I enjoy and have conversational skills on many things, I can often make people laugh), but as an overall package? No. I don’t see it.
A couple of years ago before TheBassist came back, the implosion of my marriage to TheExHusband is simmering below the surface. One discussion was already under our belts about how unhappy I was in our marriage and the reasons why. He didn’t want to see a couples counselor. I felt stuck. It wasn’t as if I didn’t love him, but the pain of being married to him was getting to be unbearable and I could not conjure up a reasonable explanation to leave him.2
TheExHusband and I’s love life had already begun the decimation. He said some pretty awful things. I took those awful things to heart. I would silently cry when watching any kind of romantic shenanigans on TV or in movies. I wouldn’t leave my husband, I was relatively young, but then I saw the rest of my life being in a near sex-less marriage. Having passion? Hah. Hah. Hah.
Not long after that discussion, I flew out to California for a job interview. It was a last ditch effort on my part to see if I could get a job before I left my old place of employment (and before getting serious about the writing). An old friend, whom I’ve known since my days with ExFiance #2, lives about an hour away from my hotel. Old friend and I recently got in touch after not speaking for years. We agree to hang out when I’m in California to catch up, have dinner, the usual.
Now I haven’t seen old friend in over a decade at this point. I’ve aged, I’ve gained weight, and I’m nervous about seeing him because I’m already assuming he’s going to find me an ignorant, fat slob which only adds to my loaded self-esteem issues. I need everyone to like me even if I perceive myself to be an ignorant, fat slob.
We make plans for dinner, he gets in touch when he’s in the lobby, and here we go. I swallow the bile of my thoughts and proceed down stairs. As I turn the corner, he’s leaning up against one of the pillars.
He’s grown insanely hot. He’s tall. His intellect is amazing. He plays hockey and his body just simply rocks. The rush of lust confirms I was not dead in the desire department, but logically and reasonably, I knew I couldn’t act on those feelings. I made a commitment to TheExHusband. I gave him my word. Somehow I had to fix my marriage but now?
Now here was lust. Desire. I bathed in it.
So there is old friend and I’m tongue tied. I am lusting after him and yet the bile of hatred is now brimming because there is no fucking way he’s going to want to have dinner, let alone desire me.
What the fuck am I going to do?
We scamper across the Bay Area, I get slightly drunk, and we end the night on hugs. I knew if I didn’t not get the fuck out of there, I was going to make a move and not only was in that moment would I be fucking up my marriage (I gave my word) but I was also ruining the beginning of a close friendship, with the bonus of adding more to the hating of one’s self for being an ass. Besides. He probably didn’t see me with the same lust, so hey, this is all working out. Off to prep for the interview I go.
Cut ahead a few months when old friend and I are chatting online and the only thing I remember about that trip was, other than the fact I didn’t get the job, I had empirical proof I was not dried up. So I tell old friend, with much bravado, if I had stayed later that night or called him after my interview the following night for dinner, I would have made a massive pass towards him – hah hah hah. I am hilarious.
Except he tells me if I had, it wouldn’t have been turned down.
Shut the front door.
Turns out old friend has had a massive crush on me since the days when ExFiance #2 and I were together. ExFiance #2 knew about it, old friend’s wife knew about it, and they would tease him.
Me? No. Fucking. Idea.
(I always act surprised when I find out someone has even thinks I’m remotely attractive. As if I’m not worthy for that persons lust/desire/admiration or they are fulfilling some kind of fetish. When they tell me years later, I’m even more flabbergasted.)
Compliments and admiration are multiple edged sword: They give you the admiration you desire from people, they reaffirm the good work you’ve done on X, they make you feel good, but they can be intimidating as hell. These feelings negate the the admiration someone has just given you, whether you’re looking particularly nice that day, wrote a brilliant piece, or you did something kind for them.
We all want to feel good about ourself but it’s hard to accept this kindness especially for those of us who have years, nay decades, of self-hatred to chip through.
There are a couple of things we need to remember:
- When we feel like shit about ourselves, remember these are just thoughts. They cannot hurt or harm you.
- Having thoughts about X is a shared human emotion. When you’re not feeling particularly kind about yourself, someone else is having a similiar or exact thought about themselves that very moment. This is not to say you two should have a pity party but that
- You’re not alone
- You can be kind to yourself by being thankful for what you have. Once you can accept on being kind to yourself, you will be more receptive to people being kind to you
It will take a long time, no arbitrary date can be set, but anyone can forgive and love themselves. I know you can.
Today I am grateful for my readers, far and wide, who share with me their own struggles and dreams. Who feel my word resonate with them. Who find me funny, brilliant, or just a bit goofy. Who think I have much to give to this world and yes, who think I’m attractive.
P.S. As I was writing this, and the second I hit publish, the very first thought in my mind was those reading were going to think I was shilling for compliments. This is why it’s important to ditch the self-hatred because it gets you no where.
1. I have a post on this very topic hanging out in the wings. I need to summon up the courage to post it.
2. He has seen a therapist, he is now on anti-depressants, and we’ve had long conversations about this period in our life and he’s very contrite. He’s not a bad guy – he was just in a terrible place.