One time, during my awkward, uncomfortable teen years, I learned a lesson about compliments and gratitude. It’s something I still remember and feel glad that I learned it. Though it was tough in the moment to hear.
My uncle Richard was about my size back then. I wasn’t quite to my tallest height of five foot eleven and 3/4 yet. I was about five nine and Unc was close to the same. I was still more of a slender build at that point while he was growing a bit around the middle instead of in height.
He had a newish-looking pair of stonewashed jeans that didn’t quite fit him. The long and short of the story was that he was willing to give them to me, provided they fit me and I wanted them.
We were poor, so of course I wanted a free pair of stonewashed jeans. Hook it up, Uncle Rich!
They ended up fitting like a glove. I was happy and grateful to my kind uncle for giving them to me. I checked out my own ass as I walked past the mirror near his front door.
I’d hit it.
We stopped by my Aunt Annette’s house at some point soon after that. I was on Day Four or Five in a row of wearing my same new Hot-Ass jeans. My auntie must have noticed, too.
“Whoa! Are those new jeans, Nephew? Sharp! They look real nice on you!”
Before I thought about it, I launched into a nice long diatribe instead of just saying “Yes”, and “thank you”.
“Oh, these? No, they’re not new. Uncle Richard gave them to me. They’re just a little too small for him, but fit me perfectly. I think they’re pretty new looking still, though. They seem like it. It was cool that he gave them to me.”
It was something to that effect, anyway. We had dinner with my aunt and left to head back home. I didn’t think twice about what I’d said to my aunt until we’d gotten into the car and started driving. My dad started talking:
“So, why did you give your aunt the long and involved version of your new-to-you jeans?”
Uh oh. Here we go again. Another lecture. I received these far more than I cared for. I started to feel shame creeping up. I felt my cheeks start to flush and I was thankful it was dark. My dad had a way of making me tear up at times when he was being critical of me.
“Uh, I don’t know. I just was explaining what happened. Where I got them and all that.”
He didn’t go off on me, but he explained that when people give you a compliment, it’s ok to say “Thank you” and be appreciative without launching into some long and involved back-story as to how it happened. Less is more, sometimes, he said.
His point was that it’s ok to just take a compliment when one is given to you. By pointing out that the jeans were not in fact, new, that I was detracting from my aunt’s compliment and putting the focus on my uncle who was kind enough to give them to me.
At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the lesson. It was always something nitpicky with my dad and me. Some things you learn in life, you don’t appreciate until further down the road, when you see the wisdom in the lesson. Even more so, until you’re a parent yourself.
I thought of this because I see so many other writers on Medium who struggle with compliments. Often they will respond in an awkward way, deflecting the praise given to them, or creating some other influence or reason they were able to write a skilled and enjoyable writing piece. Or worse yet, they don’t believe in themselves and doubt the sincerity of your compliment.
Not this guy. I appreciate your kind words and I believe in myself. I don’t doubt compliments when I’m fortunate enough to receive them.
Because I have self-confidence that is growing every day that I write, and perhaps because of that lesson from my father 32 years ago, I can take a compliment. It hasn’t been a problem for most of my adult life.
I’d still rather give them than receive them, though. I love to be that person who tries their best to build others up and encourage them. I know that not everyone believes in themselves to the level I might. Imposter Syndrome can be a motherfucker. But I’m always going to compliment you when I see fit.
I feel that so often when I see it in the writing that I find here on Medium. There is a lot of it. And so much of it is so damn wonderful. I read stuff that makes me laugh, think, and cry.
Those are the pieces I want to compliment. I sure do appreciate the talent I am surrounded by here and especially from our writers at Bouncin’ and Behavin’ Blogs. Y’all are truly the best.
So when I say, “Thank you” for all that you do for our publication and for making the world a more interesting, better place through your writing, rest assured, I mean it. And I’m going to tell you, whether you like it or not.
This is where you say, “You’re welcome.” and feel good about getting the well-deserved compliment you received. &:^)