“What do you say?”…my mom would prompt us when someone commented on our cute outfit, or we got the perfect present for our birthday, or a friend offered us half their cookie, or Grandma told us we were the smartest/prettiest/most talented/creative kid that EVER existed.
“What do you say?”
We heard this question countless times growing up and always knew the proper response…
Three cheers! Everyone nodded in approval. Our mom breathed a sigh of relief at our good manners (and her intact parenting skills), and we breathed a sigh of relief that the awkward moment was over. Yes, we’ve been trained to say “thank you” for as long as we can remember.
So, why then, is it so hard when we’re the mom and we’re the one having to say it? Why is it so hard to accept a compliment once we’re adults?
“That meal was delicious!”
“Oh, I just ran by the store on my way home and grabbed it from the prepared meals section.”
“Your hair looks great today!”
“Ugh. I just got out of bed like this and ran out the door.”
“Wow, you’re doing a great job as a mom!”
Chirp…chirp…chirp…go the crickets.
Why is it so hard to graciously ACCEPT a genuine compliment?
Well, when what others see from the outside feels different from what we feel on the inside, it can send us into a tailspin, and don’t I know it.
Let me tell you a funny story about getting my LinkedIn headshot taken recently.
The backstory here is that when my husband passed away, I chose to shift from the corporate world to education so I could have a (slightly) more flexible schedule to focus on my kids. That was 15 years ago and in that time I’ve been out of energy, out of money, out of patience, out of hours in the day, pushed aside, passed over, and heartbroken. I’ve been a mess.
I’ve also been strengthened, encouraged, empowered, and reminded that I am big and brave and strong and smart. So, a little over a year ago, I took this totally crazy leap of faith: I enrolled in graduate school in preparation for what I affectionately call “Life 2.0.” My kids are grown and it’s time for me to fly. I’m super excited. And also terrified.
So, it’s the day of my photo shoot and I’m crazy nervous the whole time I’m getting ready because inside I’m wondering, “Do I still have my mojo?” Despite all my anxieties, I head out to meet my dear photographer friend who greets me with the most enthusiastically cheerful, “Oh my gosh, you look SO PRETTY!” and I. lose. it. I go on and on about what I mess I feel like, and look at the bags under my eyes, and when did my face get this round, and why do I feel so old?
But she didn’t fall for it. She saw right through my anxiety and didn’t let me push the compliment aside. “Well, I say you look pretty, so let’s go take some pictures.”
And we did.
And they turned out great. (Big shout out and THANK YOU to Darlene Jules Photography!)
Mamas, let’s all agree right now to choose to believe what others see when they compliment us, even when we don’t see it ourselves. Even if it feels awkward to accept a compliment, we don’t have to self-deprecate. The best response to a compliment is simply to say, “Thank you.”
And let me tell you, you deserve ALL the compliments: I see what you’re doing out there. I see you working from home while advocating for causes you believe in. I see you guiding your kids through virtual learning while taking a stand against injustice. I see you navigating this crazy world and these crazy times with courage and strength and honesty and transparency.
So, let me be the one to tell you this today. And every day.
YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB, MAMAS!
What do you say?