Yesterday I was sitting on a bench enjoying the quick moment of peace I had prior to the concert of my favorite violinist. A skinny man in his early thirties with blond hair and a checkered blue shirt, sat down beside me and after a few moments, turns and begins to speak. He asked me who I was with and I mentioned my best friend. After a moment of conversation, he told me that I was beautiful. I thanked him and told him that I appreciated the compliment. Almost instantly the conversation turned awkward, with an energy that could be best described as “off.”
As soon as I responded he told me, “Yeah you probably already know that.”
I could tell by his body language and the scowl on his face that he didn’t approve of my “Thank you for the compliment.” In an attempt to lighten the conversation, I quickly responded with, “Yes I do, but it is still nice to hear that from someone.” As soon as I said that, he quickly got up and walked away as if my comment mortally offended him. This isn’t the first time that this has happened to me. In fact, I have noticed if I don’t belittle myself to the person complimenting me, then I seem to be perceived as arrogant. I don’t think I’m conceited, I am just confident and I felt especially good that day because I took an extra ten minutes on my hair.
I wasn’t always confident. In fact, I used to hate the way that I looked and I used to hate every little thing about myself. I made a very conscious decision to change my self-perception. When I decided that I no longer wanted to be broken and I wanted to have the self confidence that people I admired possessed, I spent years working on myself to create the confident woman that I am today. Every day I thought of something that I felt I didn’t like about myself. I thought about why I didn’t like it and then set out to change either my mind or what it was. Step by step, I became a person I really liked; and the process continues to this very day.
I do find it interesting that we live in an age where self-confidence is said to be sexy but then when it’s displayed is considered arrogant. In order to properly take a socially acceptable compliment, I would have to say, “Thank you but…” and then say something negative about my appearance to receive yet another compliment reaffirming the compliment stated. Only then I am seen as humble and down to earth and to have accepted the compliment gracefully. The reality is that being humble and down to earth has nothing to do with self-confidence. In this instance it is part of the unwritten mores of the modern social contract. You can know your self-worth and still be humble.
I believe that all humans are equal. I am cognizant of my own value, am aware of my own self-worth and know that I am worth more than to be belittled by myself or by others. This is why I have even left the ones that I have loved the most, no matter how much pain it caused in my own heart. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
I am saddened that compliments are perceived as only flirtations. People are more hesitant to say something nice, in fear that it will be taken the wrong way. In a culture that is quick to criticize, we should be equally willing to point out the good in each other.
Which brings me to another strange phenomenon. People assume that because of my physical appearance and self-confidence that I must have been lavished with compliments my entire life. Because of this assumption, I have had individuals go out of their way to insult me. There was a time where I had to stop reading my social media because my in-box was full of unsolicited messages such as “You’re fat,” “You’re so ugly,” and “You’re stupid,” along with private messages that were paragraphs long on all of the reasons why I sucked as a human and why everything had been handed to me on a spoiled silver platter. I had to learn to leave misery and negativity where it belongs and it doesn’t have a place in my life. As we learn to accept compliments with genuine grace, we must also learn not to accept gratuitous insults with the same poise.
The first step in gaining this self-confidence was learning to take compliments. Next time you find yourself saying words, “Thank you but,” stop! Simply take the compliment and accept it. ”Thank you” suffices. Don’t degrade yourself just to gain another compliment and don’t cheapen the compliment by denying it. Don’t rely on others to bring you up. Instead, bring yourself up. You are beautiful. Take that and walk with it, no if’s or but’s.
So now that I have spent years building my self-confidence, I will not respond with a degrading remark about myself and you shouldn’t either. Self-love means knowing your self-worth. It means taking compliments without degrading yourself. Self-confidence is not arrogance. It just means that you love yourself and you can only truly love someone else if you love yourself first. If someone calls you arrogant or insults you after complimenting you, just walk away and realize that when someone tries to put you down, they are just reflecting how they feel about themselves.