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Debbie Rae Does... Embracing a Compliment

Updated: Jun 25, 2021

Why can I remember, word for word, what the teenage bullies said about me, ‘She’s a fat slut, who isn’t even pretty. I don’t know why she has friends.’ I was in a toilet cubicle while they were laughing at the sinks. I stayed there and cried for the next two hours. When a teacher accused me of bunking off, I was too humiliated to tell him what had happened. I took detention rather than hear the words from my own tongue. Yet, I have repeated the words in my head for over 25 years. That is truly ridiculous!

Sure, what they said was far from complimentary and would sting anyone to overhear, but what about all the nice things friends, family and people’s whose opinions actually matter to me, say? When I was asked by a therapist to recount some compliments people had paid me over the last year, I struggled to recall one.

The challenge: Pay attention to every compliment you are paid for a week. Really listen, take them on board, perhaps even have a conversation with the person giving the compliment about their opinion. This might sound horribly vain, but why? Why have we as a society stopped feeling ok about believing we are fabulous?

It felt weird, to begin with; two women in my Zumba class approached me in the changing room to ask how long I had been doing the class. One said I seemed to know the steps before the tutor; the other said she wished she could move the way I did.

Rather than brushing off their kind sentiments, I talked to them about how much I enjoyed dancing and thanked them for making my day. I thought about what they’d said all day. It sounds silly but no more silly compared to how much it would have played on my mind if they had said I was a horrible dancer. Paying attention to the compliment made me smile; I thought my best dancing days were behind me.

Recently I’ve put on a bit of weight and been feeling down about my looks. When I went out for dinner with my husband, he said I looked like a model; he even asked to take a picture together; this is something he is notoriously shy about. In the vein of the experiment, I took his words as fact and not as the lies of a blind, crazy person, as I usually would! I spent the entire night walking with my head held high, feeling fabulous, even after the rain had flattened my hair and my lipstick had long disappeared from my lips to my wine glass.

After tracking for one week, I had received 18 compliments, ranging from some great reviews of my book, my children saying they loved my cuddles, a cashier who wanted to know where I’d got my new dress, and the best one: I was asked for ID to buy booze!

Don’t get me wrong, I probably have as many insecurities as you, but imagine what it would mean if we took the compliments we were given as valid. How good you would feel if you were as beautiful as your partner says, your clothes as fabulous as your friends gush?

Try it for one week; believe every compliment as fact, not fiction. When you realise how good it feels, you'll never look back. You'll also realise how empowering and generous it can feel to give a compliment, something I'm trying to do more now!

Has a negative comment hurt you more than a positive one? What would it take for you to pay more attention to the positive ones?

Remember to spread the Love 💕

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