Why Everyone Should Ask For Compliments

Most people in the U.S. believe that it’s socially inappropriate to ask for or even subtly hint at a need for compliments. There are many reasons for this, among them that the compliment would supposedly not be heartfelt if you asked for it, that it’s self involved or selfish to want to hear nice things about yourself, or that it puts the person you’re asking in an awkward and uncomfortable position and is therefore rude. But at the heart of it seems to be the idea that needing validation or wanting someone to say something nice is vain, and only people who are shallow, manipulative, or not very nice would try to get other people to say nice things about them.

Excuse my French, but that is a big old pile of bullshit.

It’s a very human need to want validation and kindness from others. Very few people are capable of thinking nice things about themselves all the time, and in many other circumstances it’s considered normal and acceptable to ask for help if you can’t think of an idea for something, if you don’t know how to do something, or if you just need it. Asking someone to say something nice about you is a way of asking for help. In most cases, it’s shorthand for “I am having a hard time seeing nice things about me right now and I’d like to get an outside perspective. Can you help?”

Even in the cases where it’s not, it just straight out feels good to have someone compliment you, or to know why they like you, or to know what you do that’s helpful and welcomed. All of those things not only feel good but also give you important information about what other people like and what you can capitalize on in your personality. And (here’s the important part) there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel good about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with asking other people to help you feel good about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have an external source of validation and kindness sometimes. And it’s never wrong to ask for something if you’re feeling like it would improve your life.

I am utterly perplexed by the idea that it’s inappropriate to ask the people who are your friends/family/support system WHY they are that. People who choose to be in your life do so for a reason, and they choose to be around you. Those choices shouldn’t be a taboo subject, from either end. Not only should it be 100% ok to ask a friend for a pick me up, it should also not be considered weird to out of the blue tell a friend why you love them because that is information that is helpful, important, kind, and just good for you.

For the more scientifically minded, having other people affirm that your emotions are valid, that your life choices are valid, and that your beliefs is valid, is statistically really good for your mental health. When people don’t offer those validations, or specifically invalidate you, you’re way more likely to develop mental illnesses and other problems. So just from a straight out efficacy and health standpoint, asking other people for validation is a great preventative measure against sucky and costly problems down the road.

So please, for your sake the sake of your relationships, ask someone to compliment you today. Accept that you deserve love and kindness, and that you get to talk about that with people you love. And offer a few compliments to someone else, because they really are just great things. It can take some practice, and it can be terrifying to ask, but more often than not the people who love you will come through with some amazing things you didn’t even know you brought to the table. And you’ll both feel way better.

Dichotomies: How to Brag and How to Sad Brag

I was reading a post earlier about labels, and how we often feel ok with labeling ourselves descriptively (atheist, female, etc) but not in a complimentary manner (hero, humanitarian, etc). While I feel like this is true, I wonder why. What is so wrong with noticing when we’ve done good things and labeling it ourselves? I feel that one of the problems that many people have is that they feel they can’t own the good things they do: they feel they have to wait for outside recognition because it’s considered bragging to talk about it and label it themselves. Well I’m going to be honest: I think we could all use a little more self-validation. While sometimes bragging can lead to comparisons and competition, I think if we stopped waiting so long to see when OTHER people notice that we’ve done good things and just said “I did a good thing” to ourselves, we might actually see a reduction in how competitive we are. We don’t need to one-up people in order to be noticed: we can notice ourselves.

So I’m going to take this moment to pat myself on the back for things that have been going really well for me lately, not because I want you all to feel jealous or compare yourselves to me, but because I’m genuinely excited and happy, would like to share, and want to be able to say that I feel GOOD about myself in a few areas. I have two job interviews in the next two days and one of them is for a job that I’m actually really interested in. I’m actually making enough money right now that I can put things away for retirement. It has been over a week since I self-harmed and I am going to continue that streak for AT LEAST three more weeks because I want to be cut free when I go to California. I have been in a bad job situation for 3 months now, and I have not crashed and burned. I have managed to deal with it, to brainstorm solutions, to find ways to tolerate the distress. There have been slipups certainly, but I am doing better than I have in YEARS. HOLY SHIT I AM AWESOME. When things go like this for me, I often look like the featured pic.

However despite being able to say all of this, and despite the fact that I can recognize that I have done some things quite well in recent history, I think the ability to speak our successes always needs to be a dialectic. I am always a proponent of being OPEN, and I think that this is no exception: if we’re going to be able to recognize our own successes, we also have to be able to recognize our own struggles. And we can recognize that these things may be one and the same. We have to be able to hold “I did some amazing things” at the same time as we hold “I am struggling so hard right now” and recognize that both can be true. Now first of all this is incredibly difficult. At the same time as I recognize that I have some wonderful opportunities right now and that I’ve done some things very right, I can also recognize that I’ve done some things very wrong. I’ve been struggling in my relationships lately, especially with the amount of effort I’ve been putting in to just feel sane with myself. I HAVE slipped up while trying to deal with this job, and I’ve let my mindset fall backwards in many ways. It has been a very hard couple of months for me trying to navigate the waters of semi-adulthood, paying for my own apartment, figuring out how to feed myself, working a full time job.

sad

This is more what I look like when I think about those things. But I have STILL done awesome things. I have started a personal blog, started blogging for CFI On Campus, started planning a (very tentative) conference with some friends…

So I would like to propose that we as human beings become more comfortable saying out loud our strengths and weaknesses. Not the namby pampy job interview version of this, but actually going to twitter and saying “I did something awesome. I’m proud of me”, and not feeling guilty about it. And then going to twitter five minutes later and saying “I’m still struggling. And I’m not guilty about that either”. Human beings are remarkably capable of being contradictory things at the same time. We are filled with dichotomies. It’s something I’ve been spending a lot of time with in my DBT therapy, and I think it’s something that all of us need to learn to be more comfortable with.

 

Written by Olivia