The Art of “Thank You”

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It was one of the first phrases she mastered.

My little one-year-old. A golden spout of hair spilling out of a tiny elastic and a huge smile denting into her round cheeks. She took whatever was offered with the sweetest squeak, “ten too!”

I’ve always been proud that my kids are so well mannered with their “thank you’s.”

But why is it so hard for me?

I appreciate generosity in all forms. I always say thank you when anything is given to me… anything, that is, but a compliment about myself.

The minute one of those are offered, I forget all manners and fumble my response. Like someone just handed me a bomb that I have to quickly defuse and hand back.

It usually goes something like this:

Other Human: “Your hair looks nice.”

Me: “No way! I have so many split ends. It took forever to make it look normal today.”

OR

Other Human: “You look great.”

Me: “Yeah right! I’m such a mess. I had to put on so much makeup just to look alive!”

OR:

Other Human: “You have a beautiful smile.”

Me: “Ha! My teeth are huge! I’ve had to use Invisalign for years…”

It sounds ridiculous. I know that. But for some reason taking a compliment with grace is one of the hardest things I’m learning to do.

I look at my little girl with such envy. Anytime she’s given a compliment, it’s met with an exuberant, “Thanks, I know!”

Why can’t I do that?

I was recently speaking with a few friends, my mother included, about this. My mom gave me the side eye when I lamented about the difficulty of saying ‘thank you’ when complimented. I’ve been on her ass about her constant self-deprecation. It would be easy to blame her for my inability to take a compliment. She is, of course, the one woman I look up to more than anyone in the world. But in reality, it’s not her issue. It’s societal. Women are programmed to be humble. To walk through life, quiet about their accomplishments.

Don’t fight me on this. I’ll gladly praise any women who defies this notion. But for most of us, it’s a truth we live with. We’re not ‘supposed’ to flaunt our accomplishments. Whether it be success at work, in our home, or on ourselves, we are taught to be modest.

Modesty is fine, but if often suffocates our triumphs. And we don’t deserve that.

We deserve to be celebrated. And to celebrate ourselves.

A compliment is simple. It’s an expression of happiness that another has gotten from something we’ve done or something we are. For me, there is no greater pleasure than bringing joy to another person. If nothing else, don’t deny them that joy. And if you’ve got it in you, receive it. There’s enough negative energy floating around that it would be a shame to reject the positive.

I know it’s difficult, ladies. I see many of you swallow hard before uttering that simple ‘thank you,’ but know it’s worth it. Once we start absorbing that positivity, we can emit even more of it. We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to our kids.

The minute we allow ourselves to feel worthy of praise, we release a bit of self-doubt. And self-doubt is one of the biggest things that hold us back.

So next time someone has a kind word to say, I’m going to harness the round-cheeked, wide-eyed delight that my girl so easily displays. Compliments are a gift, and we are responsible for showing our little ones how to appreciate them.

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