On a particularly bad day a month ago, I decided to start a compliment’s diary. It’s far too easy to focus on the negative comments that people make, and the darker thoughts we may have about ourselves. I was feeling a little overwhelmed by criticism, and rather bleak. However, I realised that I’d also received some rather touching compliments that day- my brain just hadn’t processed them. I decided to write down the kind things that people said each day- here’s what I learnt from doing it:
1. I get way more compliments than I ever realised
Keeping this diary has made me realise that, actually, I do get quite a lot of compliments. When you’re feeling down it can be easy to feel that no one likes you, and to pick out your own flaws. The reality is, we all have to take personal criticism- especially at work. That’s fine, but it can easily drown out the nice things that people say. Taking a couple of minutes to write down the compliments I’ve received makes me process them properly and appreciate them.
2. It really helps you focus on the positive
Writing them down means you remember them better and they start to stand out over the insults and jibes. You become more resilient to criticism because you can contextualise it better. Amazingly, you actually start to develop a more positive mindset overall because you’re feeling better in yourself.
3. I am mainly complimented on my appearance
As positive as the overall experience has been, it has been a little disheartening to realise that most of the complimentary things people say about me, are about my appearance. This is mainly true at work, where people will frequently tell me how much they like my outfit or say I look pretty, but won’t tell me I’ve done a good job. To some extent, this makes sense. Commenting on people’s appearance, especially women’s, is socially acceptable and completely normalised within our society. Whereas, praising anything larger or more important can seem odd in the constraints of a polite, formal, British workplace. I do think that paying more genuine compliments is something we could all get better at though.
4. The vast majority of compliments are from women
I am mainly complimented by other women- both at work and in my social life. The exceptions are only really amongst my family, particularly my father, who is endlessly supportive. Make of this what you will, but pretty much every compliment seems to come from another woman.
5. I give more compliments than I receive
Whilst, I have been fortunate to realise that people are actually far more complimentary than I realised, it has also hit me that I give far more compliments than I receive. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it does go some way to explaining the emotional tax I was feeling before the experiment. It fits a broader pattern of listening more often and generally being the one to reach out first. However, whilst it’s not great to give compliments for selfish reasons, it does actually make me feel as good to give them, as receive them.