That awkward face you pull when someone compliments you and you don’t know what to do
‘I feel like people are too nice to me, I need someone to say something mean’.
I have this strange thing about people being nice to me sometimes. If someone compliments me on my outfit (on a rare non hot-mess day) or whatever I say thank you and appreciate it because I make a separation between my appearance and ME as a person. But when people compliment other things that I feel are more closely connected to who I am as a person I feel so weird about it. ‘Ah Itunu you did a good job as Head Girl’, ‘I like what you wrote the other day’, you know that type of compliment- that makes me feel super happy and simultaneously quite anxious. And where I have been very open about my opinions and interests recently compliments (and criticisms) have been dished out more frequently.
I couldn’t quite pin-point why I feel the way I do about compliments. There is the whole overthinking aspect that makes you question if the person really means what they are saying- but that wasn’t it, at least not entirely. I was talking with a friend today (the second woke girl OK the first woke girl) and she was saying how sometimes there is a standard to which people hold you when you are open about your feelings and opinions. And when people have expectations of you, they are more likely to be critical of/upset with you, if fall short of their expectations. At that moment I had an epiphany THAT’S WHAT I’M SCARED OF, THAT’S WHY I DON’T LIKE TOO MANY COMPLIMENTS.
When people compliment something that you do, whether that’s saying that they think you’re a good writer, dancer, singer, sports-person or even if they complement how you look-there is pressure to perform. It’s like if Joe Bloggs always says you look nice in red and you see Joe when you’re dressed in green, you may think ‘I wonder if he still thinks I look nice’ or worse yet ‘I don’t look nice, because Joe likes red and this is green’ Why do you feel this way? See, Joe has set a standard; you in red = buff, therefore you in another colour has the potential of falling short of his expectations. My friend was explaining how she experiences a similar thing. As she is really open about her feminist beliefs and her belief that women’s bodies should be respected (which I assume many people praise her for) when she wears something a bit revealing people immediately say ‘ahh but I thought you weren’t down for that sort of thing’.
It’s that pressure that makes me awkwardly giggle when someone says something nice to me. That pressure to be what people THINK you are. When I write, people form an opinion about me and what I am interested in and what I think about. That bit doesn’t scare me. (I did English Lit, analysis has been drilled into my bones). What scares me is when I unknowingly write, do or say something different to whatever standard they have created for me. It’s like what I was saying yesterday about being slightly fearful that some people would think I was ‘selling out’ when I got a weave. It seems like the silliest thing but because I am always talking about how much I love my natural hair, and I love seeing people in natural hair and braids I thought some people would assume (and I think people did assume) that I was anti-weave. So if they had previously said e.g. ‘oh I like what you wrote about natural hair’*, when they saw me with weave I would have BETRAYED them.
Truth is, it’s not that deep. Like it really isn’t that deep at all. This whole fear of falling short of people’s expectations, yeah it’s scary but they’ll get over it, I’ll get over it. One of my core beliefs is that people are far more complex than we give them credit for. I am far more complex than what I tweet about constantly or write about constantly and because I may say, write or do certain things that doesn’t mean I match whatever you (hypothetical you) think I should care about.
It’s human nature to make assumptions about people and what they care about based on what you know about them (or people similar to them). It’s like the harmless person who goes over to a black boy with headphones and asks him if he is listening to rap. (This isn’t even hypothetical, I’ve heard about this happening). That person obviously is using what he has seen and experienced to help him understand and essentially categorise the black boy. Now, he may be completely right, but when the black boy reveals he is in fact listening to Fifth Harmony you know stuff may get a bit weird for both of them.
But that’s ok. And that’s what I need to remind myself. It’s ok to fall short of people’s expectations. It’s ok to write something that not everyone agrees with. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to accept and embrace a compliment- not just the ‘I like you hair’ compliments as well. It’s all ok because at the end of the day, if I can’t embrace a compliment, what’s going to happen when I get criticised (whether it’s constructive or not). If I can’t say thank you ,and mean it, when people appreciate what I do then what am I doing exactly???
I was taught that ‘if you’re scared of what people may say about you, then you shouldn’t be a journalist’. (I want to be a journalist) I took that to heart and proceeded to write what I REALLY wanted to write about and I hope to continue to learn, grow and write more. And now when people compliment me, I am going to appreciate their kindness and use it to push me to be even better.
And I’ll live to slay another day.
*I haven’t written about this YET