Monday, September 14, 2015

Do You Give Compliments

I have always been a notoriously good compliment-giver. At least that's what I've always been told. It's something I get compliments on a lot--a bit ironic huh? I think it just comes down to the fact that I am really bad at pretending--if I think something I have to say it. That means if you look good, I'm going to tell you--even if that means I tell you your butt looks good in a pair of jeans and you feel awkward. 

This summer I worked with a bunch of teachers across the country to develop a digital math curriculum aligned to the Common Core--one of the most challenging and exciting projects I've ever taken part in. Before we began creating the curriculum, we had one big meeting of all teachers, coaches, and staff in Washington D.C. 

 I packed light for the trip and included just a lot of maxi skirts (which I didn't feel good in). I was really nervous about working with all of these talented individuals--especially since I'd been out of the classroom for a year. It wasn't so much being out of teaching as it was being out of "the loop" that made me nervous. I felt really intimidated every time I had to meet with a different group and start talking and learning together.

complimenting others

The 2nd day we had a meeting with just coaches--those helping coach the teachers through the creation of lessons. I was really nervous as the training was specifically talking math content by way of statistics--I'm an elementary teacher and statistics are not my forte, not by a long shot. We met in our domain groups--all of us covering fractions from beginning to end. One of the teachers came in and sat across from me. She was stunningly beautiful and I wanted to compliment her, but I felt a bit of jealousy creep in and I kept it to myself. She was nice, though. And she was a middle school math teacher and was extremely intelligent. 

About halfway through the training a friend who I had made there and I started talking. She was telling me that she was having a hard time reigning in her eating with the constant bombardment of food. (True, there was food at every corner). She filled me in on her recent weight loss and told me that she was really trying to keep the weight off for good this time. I had been enjoying my time in this setting--none of these people knew me before I had JaiseAnn so none of them actually knew that I had gained weight--let alone how much. I was enjoying being treated just as I was for once-it was incredibly liberating. I wasn't sure if I wanted to start a weight-loss conversation, but I did. I shared my own current struggle with her and some of my feelings about it. Just then, the pretty teacher across the table said, "I just have to butt in here--I'm really sorry you feel that way, but I just want you to know that I think you are just beautiful. You don't look overweight to me. You just look like a normal, healthy, beautiful person. Don't get too down about that, I would have never known."

I honestly had to hide back tears. JaiseAnn was 16 months old at that time and that was the first compliment I had received (from a stranger or otherwise) since she was born! When I gained weight, people started treating me differently. People would text me to see if they could bring treats or what I'd want for a meal and ask "if that was okay, they didn't want to tempt me." or "Is it on your diet?" (I don't need to be babysat-bring me something and if I don't feel I should eat it, I won't. It is nobody else's job to watch what I eat, I can do that on my own, thank you.) But one thing I significantly noticed was the decrease in compliments. And it was significant. 

Everything changed-the shoes that used to get compliment after compliment were no longer noteworthy once I put on extra weight. A cute new skirt? Nobody even noticed. There were no compliments on what I wore, but there were also no compliments on the things I was doing. I seemed invisible to everyone. I was going through a difficult time, yes, but I had also made some great accomplishments. 

I didn't really notice how much that affected me until I got that compliment from the girl across the table. I thanked her. But after I got home, I made sure to send her a note--really thanking her and explaining how much that compliment meant.

I also told her that her genuine kindness had caused me to reflect on my own kindness. Was I still noticing the good in others? Or had I become so insecure that I couldn't seem to find nice things to say because those nice things were somehow a threat to me and an indicator of my own inadequacy? I decided that I would make an effort to share those things when I notice them. I don't have to challenge myself to notice good things--in people's appearance or personality--I really do pick up on those things rather quickly--and I should take advantage of that. I should share when I notice. I should try to uplift someone and pass along those good feelings.

How do you feel about giving/receiving compliments? Does it make you uncomfortable to give or to receive? 

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