Choosing Love: The Art of Accepting a Compliment


Today is Day Two of the “Choosing Love” experiment that is sweeping the blogosphere!!!!! (or not).   The challenge is to accept a compliment and meditate on it.  I’m actually taking a class on the discipline of meditation these days, so the word “meditate” threw me off initially, until I remembered what we learned in class:  Meditation is the act of rehearsing something over and over in your mind, dwelling on it, abiding in its truth and allowing that truth to abide in you.  And while that seems like a rather complicated process when you could just say, “Gee, thanks” to a friend’s compliment and move on with your life, when you struggle to accept compliments gracefully, you really do have to do a lot of rehearsing and dwelling.

Case in point:  Sarah left a beautiful compliment for me on my last post.  She pointed out a lot of really beautiful qualities that I (may or may not) have, and yet the one thing that stuck out to me was this phrase:  “I don’t really know what you look like (except for a picture of you in front of a camp fire and you looking crazed holding almonds).”   Yes, friends, out of all the wonderful things she said about my heart, my perseverance, my dedication, my strength…I’m left thinking, “I looked crazed?!”

Gracefully accepted?  Not quite.  Which is where the meditation bit comes in.

I broke down her compliment line by line.  Sarah said I make people feel special.  I can think of a million ways that isn’t true – but what if it is?  What if I DO make people feel special and try my hardest to encourage them?  Sarah said she can tell I put my all into everything I do.  I honestly think I’m half-assing it most of the time, but what if she’s right?  What if I DO throw all my weight behind whatever I’m doing – for better or worse?  Maybe I don’t entirely believe it, but just what if?

Later in the day, a friend sent me a compliment by e-mail that broke my heart with its simplicity.  She simply told me that I was beautiful.  She complimented my cheekbones and eyes and said that I was a “fun-to-look-at kind of pretty” – not just run of the mill pretty.  I kept wanting to e-mail her back immediately and thank her – but wasn’t sure how, because I wasn’t sure how to accept it.  I wasn’t sure I believed it.  Especially not after a week where I’ve been mistaken for a boy multiple times.  (But hey, maybe that slightly androgynous thing is part of the reason I’m “fun-to-look-at” pretty!)  But what if?  What if my cheekbones are prominent and my eyes are interestingly-shaped?  What if my face, for all the flaws I see, is actually something beautiful?

What if these women aren’t lying to me? And why would they, really?  Why would they spend any amount of time picking out specific features of personality or face if they didn’t really believe they were true?  That just doesn’t make sense.  These are busy women who have better things to do with their time than make up fake things to compliment me on.

So yes, I had to use some logic.  But I think I finally accepted their compliments.  Maybe with some practice it will get easier.



Okay, okay, so I sort of already broadcasted my punches on this one.  But guess what I had for lunch yesterday?  Lobster.  Snow Crab.  Shrimp.  And 1.5 Cheddar Bay Biscuits, which I think the pastor I was eating with described as “orgasmic.”  (I wish I were kidding.  I am not.  However, she was right.  Those Cheddar Bay Biscuits ARE orgasmic.)

The pastor I interned with took me out to Red Lobster yesterday after church to treat me to lunch and try to convince me that this whole “vegetarian” thing is ridiculous.  She loves lobster and was determined to share this love with me.  I agreed, and managed to keep the anxiety at bay until we were actually driving to the restaurant.  Luckily, I was following her in my own car so I was able to freak out privately and come up with a plan.  We got to the restaurant and when we were seated, I looked across the table and said, “I’m just going to let you order for me.  I think I’ll be overwhelmed by the options.”  (Not to mention the fact that, left to my own devices, I would order salad.  Zzzzzzz.  Boring.)  She agreed and ordered me THIS monstrous plate of food:

This was supposed to "ease me in" to seafood. Or give me a panic attack. Could have gone either way.

Did I eat the entire plate of food?  Heck no.  Did I try a little bit of everything?  Yes.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes – but I enjoyed the company more.  Once or twice I found myself thinking about the calories, worrying about the fact that my salad came with the dressing already ON IT (ARGH!), wondering how many calories are in those delicious, orgasmic biscuits (which I later looked up online, to be honest).  But then I thought, “Really?  I’m here with a woman I greatly respect and adore, who wants to spend time with me and I’m going to retreat into my head and worry about the calories?  F**k that.”

Then, in an attempt to further beat down the ED beast, I ate dinner.  (Thanks, Veronica, for the encouraging words and reminder that eating a NORMAL portion of food does not mean I get to restrict later.)  I took a complete rest day from exercise.  I wrote a letter to my body telling it that I was trying to love it.

Turns out, I didn’t die, the world didn’t implode, and horrid curses were not heaped upon my family.

Go figure.

(Oh, and did I mention that I did this on the same day that I found my smallest pair of jeans – bought when I was at my lowest weight, mind you, so it’s not like I should be trying to wear them all the time – no longer fit?  Yeah, I was an effing recovery superstar yesterday.)


Other Assorted Things:

It should not surprise me, however, that I had a minor freak out today over five calories.  Five.  That is how many calories over maintenance I ate today.   (And, channeling my nutritionist here: that’s my idea of maintenance, whereby I overestimate calories eaten, and underestimate how many I burn in exercise.  I digress.)

I made some of the most delicious muffins on Saturday night.  Carrot-raisin-ginger.  Completely vegan.  Little morsels of heaven (can I say orgasmic again?  How many times can I use that word in this blog entry?).  I desperately wanted one after dinner.  I went to the gym tonight and while I wasn’t there for hours on end, I was there for a significant amount of time and worked HARD.  I pushed myself harder than I have lately, knowing that my half marathon is not all that far away.  I ate dinner after the gym — which was a fight in itself.  I desperately wanted to run upstairs and calculate everything my little spreadsheet to see how many calories I had left to “spare” for dinner and how many different ways I could fulfill that.  Ridiculous.  Anyway.

I ate and I was still hungry.  I took a muffin from the refrigerator.  I brought it upstairs to my computer and sat it down.  I looked at it.  I updated my spreadsheet.  I did the math.  Five calories.  Five.  Freaking.  Calories.  I suppose if I were really anal, I could break off a chunk of the muffin and subtract the five calories and call it even.  But I don’t think you understand how amazing these muffins are.  Truly – if we are ever in the same town, you should ask me to make a batch of these muffins and you will see their appeal.  Five calories.  I looked at the spreadsheet for the rest of the week – under most days.  I could eat an extra five calories and still come out under for the week.

But really, I just kept thinking of the precedent I’d be setting.  This week is going to be rough (more on that in a second).  Why start out engaging in ED behaviours?  Why not eat the damn muffin and then blog about it and vent my anxiety and frustration that way?  Why not write a blog entry where I curse like a sailor and don’t even realize it until I get to the end and then go bust out my crazy-person-emotion-sheet to decide that I am feeling scared, unnerved, sleepy and dirty?

Incidentally, the counseling homework that has the potential to make this week so difficult also involves my crazy-person-emotion-sheet.

My counselor wants me to spend this week writing the story of the night I was raped.  Taken advantage of.  Erm, whatever.  And not just writing the timeline of events (which I had to do with my last counselor), but writing what I’m feeling as I’m recounting the events.

Just thinking of this assignment makes me nauseated.


Tomorrow’s challenge:  Make a “you’re beautiful, you’re loved, and you matter” playlist.


6 thoughts on “Choosing Love: The Art of Accepting a Compliment

  1. Is it possible to gracefully accept a compliment? I don’t know, but I don’t think it matters in the end, as long as you accept it. You can blush, scuff your feet, mumble and splutter, but if you can genuinely accept it, that’s what counts.
    People wouldn’t go out of their way to compliment you if they didn’t mean it. People wouldn’t say nice things about you, pay attention to little parts of you, if it wasn’t worth it. You ARE worth it, and you DO deserve them.

    Be proud of what you’ve achieved. You did things you feared doing. You took a leap of faith – and here you are to tell the tale. You just proved to yourself that it’s possible to go against ED, as hard as it is. You proved to yourself that it’s okay to eat more, to have what you want, to listen to your body. You proved to yourself that it’s the RIGHT thing to do. One day you will look back at this, and you WILL be proud.


    • Eleanor, thanks for your comment and your encouraging words!

      I think the art of gracefully accepting a compliment boils down to being able to say “thank you” without scoffing or mumbling or (as I am wont to do) saying, “Ha! You’re kidding, right?”
      I also think that accepting a comment – hearing it and responding with a simple “thank you” or even “I find it really hard to believe that, but thank you” – is the first step to being able to genuinely accept it and let it affect you.

      Thanks, too, for the reminder to be proud of my achievements this weekend. :)

  2. Oh no! I didn’t mean to make you feel bad by saying you looked crazed in that photo!!! I’m so sorry! :( Sometimes expressions that would sound warm and friendly in person don’t sound right over the Internet–I’m so sorry that happened here!

    On a different note, this post EXEMPLIFIES the strength I was talking about. Here you are, rocking some really hard recovery steps, and wondering if you’re strong? Re-read this blog post! You ate lobster and orgasmic biscuits, you let someone else order for you, you went out to eat, you ate a muffin and didn’t compensate for it, you meditated on the compliments you received, you envisioned your end goal and took a step towards it instead of away from it. I would say that makes you pretty darn strong.

    Plus, you sent me a really kind email. Again, what did I say? You are someone who encourages and puts their all into being a friend? Yup.

    Also, someone similar to me had to do an assignment like the one you’re describing discussing some trauma that happened in his life. He did it with the help of his therapist–they made the timeline, and then he went through it and described his feelings with the therapist, because he didn’t feel safe enough writing the assignment at home. If you feel like this will compromise you at all, you should think about following suit. You’re still talking about and processing what happened, but in a way that keeps you safe. Just a thought if this keeps making you scared and nauseated.

    Have a great day!!!

    • No need to apologize – the comment was absolutely hilarious and I received it in the friendly and humorous manner it was intended! I simply used that example to highlight how distorted my thinking is – I can easily grasp on to the least complimentary thing someone says (and twist it into something horrible if I allow myself – which I did NOT do here). I know enough about you and your heart to know that you would never REALLY mean I look crazed. Or, at least not “crazed” in a bad way. :)

      I appreciate the fact that you, like me, are an analytical thinker and you just provided evidence to back up your compliment. Logical analysis FTW. Compliment accepted.

      I am definitely still scared and nauseated at the prospect of my counseling assignment this week, but have no idea how to approach it. It’s not that I don’t feel safe doing it at home (which was not the site of the abuse, thank God, or that would be a whole different can of worms to open), it’s just that I don’t feel particularly safe doing it anywhere. I do, however, have grand plans to reward myself with frozen yogurt or something when I finally do sit down and do it. Hopefully when it’s over, the nausea will pass, too.

      • I just re-read my comment above. I need to stop commenting before I drain my cup of coffee in the morning. There are like 4 typos and 2 missing words.

        Good gosh.

        I approve of your fro-yo reward. I have pushed myself through many unappetizing tasks with the promise of fro-yo (none as hard, but still.) Let me know if I can help with moral support.

  3. Pingback: Choosing Love: The Ties That Bind « A Wilderness Love Story

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