The first graders in my school collect compliments. Each recognition that the class receives is transformed into a paper ring that is added to a growing chain of different-colored compliments. The class practices math facts as the chain grows to 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and each time the chain reaches 100 praises, the class earns a ‘Compliment Party’.
If only we each had chains of the admiration people have given us, strewn around our homes and offices, continually filling us up with good feelings. If we celebrated each time we reached 100, how often would we be reveling in these good moments? Those would be memorable, fun parties! Unfortunately, criticism is the spiciest ingredient in the recipes of feedback that we receive; we often continue to taste the burn from any perceived disapproval long after we’ve forgotten the delicious sensation of appreciation. Most of the acclamations we receive wouldn’t be remembered long enough to be displayed.
But we can change that if we try. We have the ability to choose to focus on the positivity around us. We can consciously talk ourselves out of obsessing over the perceived reproach.
I tried it out the other day. I decided to pay attention to every kindness that I received. I rolled each one around on my tongue like a caramel candy, savoring it, so that I would have more of a chance of retaining the sweetness and remembering it later. Anything that someone else did that made me feel good, was deemed worthy of collecting – a driver motioning me to go before them in traffic, a smiley “good morning”, a good word about my hair, a nice comment about a Facebook post, and emails that thanked me somewhere in the message. It was really fun to do and obviously raised my own joyful energy, causing me to dole out more compliments to others. I even continued the chain later in the day, by commending myself as I accomplished things or felt joy throughout the evening. My self-praise actually felt just as good!
I truly wish our default thoughts went to focusing on the admiration we receive. How we judge ourselves based on external feedback is front and center on my mind as my daughter and her peers are hearing back from colleges. Right now, one of my more important jobs is as a Reality-Reminder, reminding the kids that talents, skills, abilities and intelligence are not changeable as a result of different college decisions. I resent the roller coaster of ups and downs in self-confidence that are solely dependent on strangers’ judgment of college fit. The text that sighs, “I’m stupid” one morning. The one that follows it that evening that crows, “I’m smart!” Knowing you are a capable and fabulous human being should not change from one acceptance decision to another. I am appreciative that my own daughter has figured out how to hold on more tightly to the positive responses she has received and is pretty quick to let go when a rating doesn’t serve her well. It is not always automatic, though, and takes a lot of practice, self-talk, and friendly reminders – but it is worth it.
In an ideal world, comments and perceived judgment from others would play no role at all in our feelings of self-worth. We would know our own value and would have clarity around changes that we feel we’d like to make for our own growth. None of it would be reliant on unsolicited verbal or non-verbal feedback from others. But that’s not the world we live in. We are going to receive messages from all around us that will make us feel all sorts of ways throughout each day. This creates an opportunity for us to raise the collective happiness factor by doing good deeds and showing appreciation for others.
It also means that we can benefit from starting our own compliment collections. They could be tangible notes that you collect or write down as you receive good wishes, a file you keep in your drawer or on your desktop for just this purpose, or just a conscious awareness that causes you to focus on what poured some joy and pride into your soul.
A text and an email that I received from two different people in the same week are flavoring my own life-purpose recipes with the sweetness of confidence and gratitude. I share them here to further concretize my own intentions and to spread the joy that the senders and recipient experienced.
Hi Diana! Great news – I got the job! I’ll be a ____ for ____. I love ____, I’m so excited to work with her. Thanks for everything – you made me a believer! I know that the time I spent with you at your workshop and at your house had a lot to do with my being able to pursue this.
Hi Diana! I am following the plan that we set up for me for the upcoming year and it looks like it is starting to move to the right direction! I got a new job opportunity that might totally change life…Diana, I have no words to thank you, I feel that during our last conversation you gave me a blessing and that feeling that I am able to change my life and start working towards the goals we set together!
This extremely appreciated feedback is at the top of my new and growing compliment collection. If I could figure out a way to turn it into a paper chain, I would. I want to retain (or recreate, when necessary) that feeling I had when first receiving the notes. Like a vision board, putting the emphasis on what feels good and what is going right, allows each of us to approach life with a confident attitude and positive mindset.
If you need a compliment or two to start your collection, let me know! I’m happy to give you something to savor. Or, we could do what my kid did with me a few months ago. She felt I needed a boost so she put her hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes and earnestly said, “Repeat after me. You are beautiful.” I looked right back at her, smiled and said, “You are beautiful.” She then said, “You are smart.” Once again, I said to her, “You are smart.” Only then did she realize that she’d been complimenting herself and we were overcome by peals of laughter. Now we do that to each other for comic relief. So, whether you’d like to have your own accolades to relish, or to inadvertently flatter me, I’m happy to oblige!