bug repellent

a blog by @captainsafia

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Thanks for the Compliment!

I’m an accomplished and intelligent young woman.

There I said it.

I have a handful of things that I wish to accomplish while my skin is still smooth and I don’t have to worry about what hip replacements my health insurance covers. I approach this handful of things with a lot of drive and energy and produce good results.

But for a long time, I refused to accept that. I refused to accept that I was good at coding, good at teaching, or good at public speaking. I wasn’t enough and God forbid anybody tell me that what I was doing was great or fantastic. I would quickly retort with an “Oh, I’m not doing that much” or an “Oh, this is just me doing my thing” or an “I can be doing way more if I had the time.”

Today, something changed. Someone approached me with a thank you for helping them wrap their mind around a particularly difficult programming concept and a compliment towards my problem-solving abilities. I responded with “Thank you! I’m glad that I was able to be helpful with my skills!”

It was liberation for me. I am good at coding (and constantly improving), I’m good at teaching (and constantly improving), and I’m good at public speaking (and I’m constantly improving). Compliments aren’t sources of squeamish behavior, but an external validation of an internal metric.

So how exactly did I get here? It all boiled down to four things.

  1. Nice words never hurt anyone. Nice words are good.
  2. Compliments are meant to uplift, not belittle or reinforce absurd expectations. Nobody is telling you that you are doing a good job because they expect you to give more.
  3. Internalize kind words. Remember the nice things people say about you when you are down.
  4. The phrase “Thank you!” is your friend. Practice saying it automatically in response to anything. Do it in front of your bathroom mirror. Do it in the reflection of a window. Do it before you sleep at night.

So compliment away! I promise I’ll take it well!