In fact when my exercise instructor complimented me on my dedication in doing two classes in a day I mumbled something about not putting in the full effort in the first class because I knew I was doing another one. Afterwards I realised I should have just taken the win and patted myself on the back for putting in the effort.
Traditionally I haven’t been good at taking compliments. Maybe there’s something stiff upper lip to it I don’t know but I have a history of belittling my achievements.
‘Thanks yeah but I didn’t do this bit right and that other part could have been better.’ ‘Yeah it was a bit of a fluke really, not sure I’d know how to do it again.’
Growing up I can’t remember any of my siblings even remotely bragging about anything. We were brought up humble, didn’t have a big head between us (or is that big headed to say). So whenever I received a compliment I panicked. I didn’t know what to do and I was worried about coming across as conceited. To be honest getting a compliment felt so awkward I’d rather have not had any.
As it’s something I’m aware of I’ve worked on it over the years. However old habits do sometimes raise their ugly heads again as mine did this week at my exercise class. But the thing is once you’re aware you’ve slipped back into it, and you already have a strategy in place, you can hop back on it. So the rest of the compliments I received this week I embraced graciously.
This is the strategy I use whenever I’m complimented. I simple reply “thanks”. I file the compliment away in my memory bank (very important) and take a breath. The breath is crucial because it stops me trying to fill the space by waffling and down playing my achievements. Thanks is enough, you don’t need to say any more.
As creatives it’s especially easy to fall into the trap of concentrating on the criticism you get. Everyone and their granny has an opinion on your work or so it feels. It’s easy to listen to the negative feedback and slip into ruminating about what you did wrong or said wrong. It’s only natural, you want your work to be as good as it can be.
But if you don’t want to drive yourself crazy you also need to make time and space for the compliments. When someone acknowledges the work you’ve put in, when they comment on how it made them feel happy or they loved the design, when they say they’re dazzled by your skill, you need to drink that in. Take some time to really bask in it.
In fact don’t just listen to and let it go by, screen shot the comments or write them down. Keep a scrap book or file of all those little moments of appreciation which contribute to making your work worthwhile. Because it’s all too easy to forget. Too easy to concentrate on the nay sayers, the mistakes, the stuff that didn’t turn out like you wanted. And when that happens you need your scrap book of compliments and achievements to lift you and remind you that you are good at this, that there are people who appreciate what you do and need you to keep doing it.
Because when you’re a creative you do impact lives, you give people a spring in their step and make their day brighter by doing what you do. So they need you to remember the impact you have even on the days you’re not feeling it and keep doing what you do best for you and for them.