Have you ever noticed that after a conversation with someone who pays your three compliments and makes one critical remark, you forget the compliments and just remember the criticism? I know I do. Why is this? I can clearly remember insults from 15+ years ago. One example that’s crystallized in my memory dates back to the 5th grade when I wore a brand new Valentine’s Day outfit to school on my birthday, which consisted of a red and white striped dress with a red heart on the front, and medium silver hoop earrings that I borrowed from my Mother. I went to school feeling like a million dollars, I absolutely loved my new dress, and was excited to celebrate my birthday. As soon as I arrived, a girl in my class said, “Nicole isn’t your dress a little short, and aren’t your earrings a little big.” Where does a 5th grader come up with these things? At the time, I shrugged it off. And, even to this day, this is probably the favorite outfit I’ve ever owned. Yet, I still remember the comment, the subtle dig. Fast-forward 15 years, and this person added me on Facebook, and constantly posts things about avoiding haters, and mean people. I find that a little funny.
The reason I write this post is not to recount my favorite outfit, even though it was amazing, but rather to try and explore why compliments are so hard to accept, or even remember. I remember this silly comment along with many others, yet I can’t point to a single positive compliment from this time period, even though there were numerous. Why do negative words stick, and positive words of encouragement slide off? I don’t have a definitive answer, and I’m certainly no psychologist, but I wager to guess, it can be harder to accept or feel worthy of positive compliments.
How to Change This?
What I’m going to do is keep track of positive comments. My method of documentation will be in my iphone, since my phone is always with me, I can jot down the info in a note in real-time. I’m going to keep track of every compliment I can remember from trivial things, like the Mac makeup counter salesperson that tells me she likes my hair color, or my dentist saying I have good teeth, to something more meaningful such as when a colleague emails me, letting me know they thought my release summary was clear and well written. If I’m having a moment of doubt, I will look at this list, and have proof of positive third party affirmations. What will most definitely be harder, is trying to brush off the criticism. However, I will do my best to avoid dwelling on insults, criticism, or careless comments. And, I will also try to remember that usually a rude comment has more to do with the person that’s delivering it, than the person on the receiving end. Lastly, I will try and be more careful with my word choice. I would hate for someone to remember a careless hurtful comment I made 15+ years ago.
Image of Be Nice To Yourself © Fiona Childs – https://www.facebook.com/FiFiChilds