Has someone ever given you a compliment that you seem to remember forever? Those really sincere, beautiful compliments that you think of for days afterwards?
Recently I was driving my special needs son to school (it’s about 2 hours of driving a day for me) and I started thinking of all of the most powerful compliments I have ever received in the 33 years of my life so far. It was a wonderful thing to think about – so different from all the worries that I usually focus on. It made me feel so grateful for the people who decided to see the good in me and tell me about it.
For example, I was never very popular in high school. I was never asked out to any dances – homecoming, prom, etc. I had some friends at school but we didn’t really do anything together outside of school. So basically at the end of high school, I didn’t think too highly of myself. Imagine my surprise when during our Senior yearbook signing, three different guys told me that they liked me and would love to go on a date! I will remember the things they wrote in my yearbook and their names forever.
Another compliment I will always remember was from my last year at a church girls camp. I don’t remember all the details but I think the group of girls I was with was doing something wrong. I think we were trying to plan a skit for the rest of the camp and the skit was getting a little edgy or inappropriate. One of the adult leaders reprimanded us about the content of the skit and told us that we need to be better examples. I think all of the girls were rather mad about this but I wasn’t. And then afterwards, the same leader told me “Sage, you are a rock.” I don’t remember exactly what she said next but it was something like: “None of the adult leaders ever need to worry about you. You always do the right thing.” I was really shocked by this compliment and I have always remembered her words: “You are a rock.”
As I think back on other compliments I will always remember, I realize that most of them have to do with my appearance. Isn’t that interesting? I suppose it makes sense since I live in a world that is hyper-focused on how a person looks. However, I remember that all of those memorable compliments happened when I didn’t feel very pretty. Like when I was chaperoning a youth dance one time and my brother said that I walked by and one of his friends said “Ughhh, why are all the chaperones prettier than all the girls here?”
How did I start thinking about all the best compliments I’ve ever been given?
I think the compliment that spurred all of these musings today came from my husband last night. I was giving him a back massage and talking about whatever was on my mind. I told him about how when I go to the Young Women Activities at our church (activities for girls ages 11-18), all the other adult leaders are always SUPER done up – perfect makeup, perfect hair, perfect clothes, the whole package. I mentioned how I felt like I was underdressed when I show up without any makeup with my hair pulled back into a tight bun. And my husband said something really interesting. He said: “Well, what would all those leaders look like without any make-up? Probably pretty ugly. They need it. You don’t.”
I was really shocked again. I had been putting myself down for not taking care of myself and doing my makeup everyday. But he saw things very differently!
Why are these memories so powerful?
As I thought back on all the good things that people have said about me during my life, I wondered why these compliments have made such an impact on me. And why they still have an impact on me.
I think it’s pretty normal for us to hyper-focus on all the things that we do wrong. I’m always trying to improve. So when people gave me a really sincere, powerful compliment, I was always surprised. Most of the time I was shocked. That is because I had been thinking really negatively about myself and I assumed that other people were thinking negatively about me as well. So I think these few compliments were so memorable for me because they shook me out of my imagined reality. They showed me another way to view myself. They showed me a beautiful new way to think about myself.
I am so grateful for the people that chose to tell me the good things they saw in me. And I am committed to do better at giving sincere compliments to other people. You never know if what you say will become a compliment that never dies for them.