Take It, Like It and Own It

Thumbs-UpHoly shit, gang! We made it through last week! *happy dance* High fives all around. I hope you all had a stellar holiday with the people you need most in the world. I know I certainly did. Oh! And it's December. Where are my WriMos? How did you do? Did you kick your manuscript's ass and nail out 50k? Even if you didn't make it all the way, I'm proud of you. A's for effort. (Now keep going. Just because it's December doesn't mean we slack, does it? No.) Anywho, it's been a crazy week with WILD CARD being officially out into the world. People are reading it, reviewing it, pimping it.  I'm on a blog tour.  If you're one of the people who have purchased,  read, reviewed, pimped or otherwise helped me spread the word about the book: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! Seriously, I can't say it enough.

Also, if someone ever tells you that your book is coming out on the same week as a major holiday...? Stock booze. Seriously. Stressful, kittens. Stressful.

However, the holiday-published-author-mash-up gig was enlightening, too. I went to three events for Thanksgiving and managed to eat myself to near death at only one of them. (But you should thank me. You didn't need all that wine and apple pie. I did you a service by eating it. You're welcome.)  Anyway, at each of them the whole "author" thing preceded me. Friends had talked me up to other friends who were reading the book or about to start it. And let me tell you....it was awkward. But it led me to some insights to get me off my ass to write this blog post. It's one I've been thinking about for a while now, actually, and I think it's something that everyone needs to ponder.


We hear all the time about dealing with rejection and growing a thick skin. As an artist in such a subjective field, you know you're going to become bitter lovers with rejection. (You're not sure how, but she ends up in your bed every once and a while.) Everyone talks about how they take a punch, but have you ever put as much thought into taking a compliment?

I admit it: I am still learning this particular skill. Compliments embarrass the shit out of me, and it's blatantly obvious. I blush, I look away and scurry to the next topic as fast as I can.

But I have watched people dealing with praise and I think it's interesting that many of us really don't know how to deal with it. We're not used to it. We're so programmed to expect failure and rejection we don't stop to think about what happens when we succeed. (Maybe it's because we live in a culture steeped in fear, but that's a different rant.)

Anyway, here are some of the common reactions I've seen--or been guilty of--when receiving praise.

1. Dismiss -  Stop me if you've heard this conversation before:

"This dish you brought to the potluck is fantastic!" "Oh, it's nothing. Just something I threw together at the last minute."

Very often when someone offers a compliment, the gut reaction is to deny it. We treat the praise like an accusation. Or maybe it's because genuine praise seems so alien, we have to scrape it off as if it were pond scum. I dunno why, but this happens. Often. (Seriously, come to my house for dinner some time and tell my husband that he did a great job in the kitchen. You will see this in action.)

2. Justify - This one is similar to dismissal, but at least it pretends to take the compliment. For example:

"Congratulations on your promotion!" "Thanks. Not surprised, though. The other applicant ended up going on maternity leave, so I was really the only one left to get the job."

Congratulations! You've just followed up a compliment with a put down. You've cheapened yourself and the words of the other person. No, really. Justification implies that you don't deserve the credit, that your good work or fortune was entirely out of your control. This may have roots in the "easy-come/easy-go" fear that you will lose what you have (and thus you're trying not to be attached to that accomplishment). Or it might be that you genuinely don't think you've done anything noteworthy. But here's the thing, someone else thinks you have. You've belittled the accomplishment and yourself in one fell swoop.

3. Explain/Shift - Try this one on and see if it feels familiar:

"I'm so glad I got to finally see you dance! You were wonderful!" "Oh, thanks. I didn't do much, though. The choreographer is the one who deserves all the credit." 

I personally err on the side of modesty and grace. And if I'm part of a group effort or collaboration of any kind, I definitely want to share any wealth of goodness reaped from the venture. I think that's important. However...all too often we seem to shift praise as quickly as some shift blame. Again, this diminishes our role in our own success.  Quit that shit right now. Own your successes just as you do your foibles.

4. False acceptance - In my opinion, this might be the worst one. It's where you simply say 'thank you', but immediately start bashing yourself in your mind. Outwardly, you are gracious (and that's great--no one likes a douchebag), but inwardly you're a total hosebeast. "Oh, she's just being nice." or "Well, he's just saying that because ____." In this case you not only diminish yourself by believing you're not worthy, but you're also insulting the other party by presuming they're lying in some way. Bad juju, man.


So how do we develop this lost skill of accepting praise? I think it starts with gratitude, being truly thankful for the compliment. Accepting the words in the spirit they are given. Someone is trying to tell you they like you or your work or your outfit. Let them.

Beyond that, though, I think there's work to be done on the way one processes self-image. At the root of it all some of us just don't believe we are capable of good, praise-worthy things. When compliments come, though, we all need to accept them in the spirit they are given. Take them with gratitude and acknowledge (at least to yourself) that you deserve that praise. You've earned it. You did the work to get your grades up, or finish NaNoWriMo, or lose 10 pounds, or run a 5k, or quit smoking, or or or. Hell, for some of us just getting out of bed in the morning is a Herculean feat. Accept that you have earned the compliment. You don't have to explain anything, or give a speech, or be overly modest. All you have to say is 'thank you'.

Be proud of yourself, your accomplishments. And allow others to be proud of you, too.

(And you know...don't be a dick about it.)

What about you? How do you respond when someone offers you a compliment?

Here's to a great week, y'all. Cheers and nerdmaste.