“I think you're a very smart and beautiful girl,” I was told. My 12-year-old eyes beamed with pride and joy, but before I could say thank you, “Don't say that, she'll start believing it,” my protective mother interjected, protecting her strategy that children with low self-esteem are more easy to control.
Fast-forward fifteen years later, and now, if you have something nice to say to me, I beg you to reconsider. I just can’t handle that kind of pressure.
1. If you happen to be someone whom I consider a genuine person that I’d like to become friends with, please don’t give me a compliment recognizing any accomplishments or innate qualities you may find noteworthy, otherwise I’ll most likely become an anxiety-ridden disaster zone.
You see, it’s devastatingly uncomfortable for me to receive a compliment from you because, regardless of how well we’ve been getting along up this point, now that you’ve enhanced me with your compliment, I’m faced with the pressure to balance out the equilibrium so that we have a fighting chance at continuing our friendship.
In other words, I realize that, unless I have something equally wonderful to compliment you on (and can think of it on the spot), this compliment you’ve given me has now elevated me into a dominant position of influence over you, and if it becomes in any way apparent that I in any way subtly accept this dominance, and begin subconsciously posturing accordingly, we can no longer ever become friends, as I, in essence, have now become your superior.
2. Conversely, if I don’t accept your perception of my superiority, then I run the risk of offending you by correcting your miscalculation of me or implying that you, in some way, have poor taste.
In this case, you would not only become disillusioned about me, but will also lose interest in becoming friends with someone as unimpressive and inconsiderate as myself, who obviously has no problem invalidating your opinions and questioning your judgment.
3. Should your compliment seem pretentious and condescending, I’ll become highly suspicious to the point of paranoia as I hypothesize upon your self-serving motivations.
I’ll probably get unnervingly sweaty and say something that’ll make me sound extremely ungrateful for the kind words you’ve offered me. I may literally blurt out something along the lines of, “You really think you know me, don’t you?” or “You look like I need a drink right about now” and the morning after, I’ll discover the extent to which I sabotaged one or many professional opportunities due to my social-ineptness.
4. When I am complimented in front of a “frenemy” (you know, those jealous enemies who pose as a friends, while secretly plotting your assassination), I will accept that compliment in such an offensively over-confident way, that your compliment will smear itself all over my frenemy’s face until my arrogance suffocates them right out of the room.
I will then feel embarrassed for not being able to restrain myself with the least bit of humility, in which case I will then have to resort to the psychological-self-torture I described in point number 1.
5. When I receive a heart-felt compliment from a loved one, I feel so touched that I’m left at a loss for words.
This makes for an awkward, silent moment as I choke on the lump of emotion in my throat and breakdown from the overwhelmingly undeserved love that I feel. Thus, I skip all the gratitude and proceed to make a random and inappropriate joke in order to lighten the mood, swiftly.
My loved ones then feel shorted by my rude response, and, of course, reconsider ever offering me another word of approval ever again.
6. Last, but not least, if you’re a man and you praise my looks, especially at work, I’ll immediately feel a heightened sense of hyper-vigilance as I evaluate the situation in its entirety.
First, I’ll quickly take note of your body language and tone of voice in attempt to read into your motives. For instance,; is your compliment simply trying to establish a matter-of-fact friendship, based on the fact that yes, I’m hot, but you’ve made peace knowing that you will, in no way, ever benefit from this?
Or, are you testing the waters for a biting fish, hoping I’ll be amused by your admiration, so that you can feel obliged to serve up a second-course compliment and then fire off a full-blown flirt shower that you expect will land you a part in an upcoming lay?
In either case, I’ll take so much time analyzing the situation that I end up coming across as a muted, frigid-bitch with no manners. Standing there expressionless, trying to recall the name of the sexual harassment attorney I heard advertising on the way to work that morning.
* * *
Some people are just better off without compliments, and by some people, I mean me. For whatever reason some people feel they need to let me know, what I already know, sometimes I think, maybe a simple, “Hey, thanks” may suffice, but then again, who do I think I am to believe them, anyway?