If someone were to walk up to you right now and tell you that you looked nice, what would be your response? Often mine includes, “well I showered today”. Why? Well, it’s easy to dismiss a compliment because I don’t know how to respond. It always felt cocky, overconfident, or arrogant. It wasn’t until this last year of really working on myself that the way I think about myself really has to an impact on the way that I show up for my village and my community. While I understand how hard and difficult it can be to build healthy relationships with others, it inevitably starts with building a healthy relationship with yourself.
Have you ever asked yourself the question “why?” I don’t need to know the question necessarily but more so, think to yourself, “why do I do that?,” allowing yourself to become honest with the root issue. I started realizing that I needed to do the internal work after working with students for so many years after witnessing them often make a disparaging remark about themselves. There’s currently a ton of hype around manifesting your destiny, affirmations, and good vibes. I have a lot to say for a different time about all of that, but I can’t argue with the science of how the brain works. Negative things stick to our brain like Velcro, while positive things often slide away like Teflon. When we think negatively about ourselves, we produce a trail (think ant farm from the 3rd grade) and over time because the trail has been established, it becomes easier and easier to travel that path. In knowing that, when students say something negative about themselves, I have students replace that negative thought and pathway with three positive statements. It’s easy to think of the negative, but difficult to continually speak positively over oneself.
There’s continued debate about the positive to negative ratio to re-work those negative networks, but I still think it’s good practice. We are so quick to latch on the negative: the “not enoughs”, the “should ofs”, the lack ofs, or wrong decisions but it’s difficult to think of ourselves in a positive way. The scary thing is that our brains our so strong that when feeding those negative networks, we will start to believe them. For instance, recently a college-aged student made the comment that “she is so stupid” as a joke about a decision she made. It made me sad because I know how intelligent she is and that she made the decision in the moment and it probably wasn’t the best decision, but all that to say, I wondered internally how much she really believes that about herself. It hit me then that it’s easy for me to be sad for her that says that but yet I do say things about myself like that and never blink an eye at it.
I’ve been working on when complimented by someone, not shrugging it off with a disparaging remark, but rather just saying “thank you”. Obviously I’m not perfect and am working on this daily, hourly, and even minute to minute some day, but working towards reminding myself what I am when I do think negatively about myself. I want to be my best advocate and fan and how can I do that when I’m tearing myself down all the time?
That’s my encouragement to you is to replace your shrug off to compliments with a simple, authentic “thank you”. The next time a negative comment starts to attack you, I encourage to remind yourself of three positives about yourself.
Here are some examples:
- I am… (intelligent, compassionate, gracious, loving, etc.)
- I can…(do dishes like nobody’s business, love others well, plan a party, watch Netflix, etc.)
- I am a…(great friend, super mom, loving partner, hardworking employee, etc.)
Let’s be our best cheerleaders this week! Let’s start by re-writing the conversation that we have with ourselves by doing the hard work internally first!