Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Turning compliments into criticisms

Women are strange creatures. Our ability to read between the lines, over-analyse and second-guess is quite remarkable.

It's good when people take time to say nice things to each other. If my friend is looking particularly stunning, it feels like a good thing to tell them so.

Is it just me?

I am gifted with the ability to turn pretty much every compliment into a criticism, and I doubt I'm the only one. I think this is a peculiarly female trait. 

Here are some compliments, and the subtext that I apply when they are given to me:
  • "Your hair looks great today" (Your hair is normally terrible)
  • "You’re looking very slim" (You usually look fat)
  • "You look really well" (You have put on weight)
  • "That was a really great idea" (From someone so stupid, that is remarkable)
  • "That dress really suits you" (I can’t believe some of the clothes you turn up in)
There is no pleasing some people.

Lack of faith

There is a serious point. Maybe you could accuse us of being fickle and unpredictable creatures who are impossible to please, and maybe you'd be right. But the bigger picture is about confidence. So many beautiful, clever, amazing women I know lack a basic faith in their own beauty, intelligence and brilliance.

Of course, many men lack confidence too, but it is particularly prevalent in women. Supposedly one of the reasons for the gender pay gap is that women don't ask for extra money. we don't have the same kind of confidence in our own abilities that a lot of men do.

When someone compliments us, we find it hard to believe that we are what they say because we lack the basic confidence in ourselves. It couldn't possibly be that I have nice hair, and that someone was kind enough to tell me. It simply has to be that I am slightly less of a car wreck today than usual.

Should we stop compliments?

This doesn't mean that we should stop complimenting each other. If anything, maybe we don't say nice things about each other enough, so when it does happen it's hard to believe.

I have observed my family elated over my two-year-old's accomplishments - 'she ate all her dinner', 'she walked all the way to the playground', 'she sang all the words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star'. No one congratulates me for cooking her dinner, carrying her all the way back from the playground, teaching her Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I'm not expecting them to - but we routinely praise children, and rarely say nice things to adults. 

I'm not asking for a round of applause every time I finish my lunch, but maybe we should help each other gain confidence by telling each other (men and women) a little more often when we do something good.

Thank you for reading me. 


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