I’m one of those people who has a hard time learning how to accept a compliment. It comes from years of self-doubt and an inability to believe in my own worth. One of the thoughts that has made it easier for me to accept compliments, or to at least acknowledge the fact that one has been paid, is consideration for the person paying the compliment.
If someone has gone to the effort to offer you their sincere congratulations or praise, than the least you can do is graciously accept that compliment. What amazes me is how many people, who are not afflicted with my past, will seek to brush off compliments with vague generalizations or trite denials.
False modesty is in some ways far more egotistical than the most aggressive self-promotion. In some ways, dismissing someone else’s opinion is the same as saying “What do you know?” When you think about it, there is actually more humility in accepting a compliment graciously than in pretending not to deserve it.
There’s a big difference between humility and false modesty, with the former implying a sense of dignity and the latter simply self-serving. Sometimes I fear that the world we live in, or our society, which is the world I’m most familiar with, knows far too little about humility and far too much about the pride that goes with false modesty.
To me humility and humbleness indicate an ability to show gratitude for the praise you are receiving and the ability you have been gifted with. Sure you’ve had to work hard to refine your skills to the point where you receive praise, but without some core ability that you were born with, unique to you, that hard work would be for nothing.
The ability to interpret inspiration as writing, whether fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, is a gift whose origin I’m often at a loss to explain, but one I’m eternally grateful for. I only need look at the void left in my day when I’m unable to write, for whatever reason, to know how bleak and desperate my world would be without it.
I know that my circumstances are exceptional, in that due to health problems, I’m severely limited in my abilities. It even scares me to think about what would happen if I couldn’t write, because after that is left only passive entertainment and depression.
I guess it’s only natural that I’m so straightforward about this, considering my circumstances and how much it means to me, but shouldn’t everyone who has that creative spark feel some gratitude for that gift? I know this isn’t a subject matter most of us are comfortable with; it probably evokes thoughts of new age bull or other forms of religion.
But the type of gratitude I’m talking about has nothing to do with any specific belief system; it has to do with an individual’s attitude towards what he or she is doing. If they feel like they are God’s gift to the world because of their abilities then gratitude is going to be in short supply.
But if they have a certain amount of humility in what they do, a realization that they are only one voice among many, an inherent gratitude is expressed through that appreciation of others and knowing one’s place in the world. The problem is that in North America we are taught that ours is the best way, or to put it bluntly, the only way.
Television, newspapers, movies, politicians, and anyone you care to think of offer a continual barrage of information proclaiming we are inherently superior to other societies. Our cars are better, our politics are better, and our religion is better.
What kind of humility does that foster in people? Instead of seeing ourselves as being on equal footing with the rest of the world, we consider ourselves better and separate. If we think of ourselves as a superior society, what does that do to our ability to be humble?
Although it’s easy to blame only North America because I live here and am exposed to it on a daily basis, most of what I’ve talked about can be applied to all societies. It is a very human thing to believe that one’s way of life is superior to another. I’d hazard a guess that we wouldn’t face half the difficulties we do as a species if we were all a little more accepting of each other’s differences.
There is nothing wrong with feeling pride in what we do, or who we are, it’s when we allow that pride to be translated into superiority that it becomes a problem. When we begin to believe everything is all our own doing, whether as a society or individually, we become arrogant and believe ourselves to be superior to others.
Some of us have more intelligence than others, some of us have better manual dexterity, some are faster, some are more compassionate, but none of those gifts translate into superiority anywhere except in our own minds. Remembering that they are gifts and it’s only polite to be grateful for a gift might go a long way towards dispelling our arrogance as a species.
When someone compliments you on a job well done, say thank you – to both the compliment and to your gift that inspired the compliment. It really does make you feel good about yourself.