Take the compliment

How we respond to the world reflects how we feel about ourselves

I’ve been a bit unnerved by the way people in my life respond to compliments. I tell my friend, “You’re an amazing artist,” and she replies with, “Nah, I’m not that good.” Or I tell a girl she’s beautiful and she says, “Oh my gosh, really?” as if she needed to hear it to believe it. I won’t pretend like I’m any better at accepting compliments. When someone tells me, “What would I do without you?” I laugh in embarrassment and try to give someone else the credit.

I’ve questioned why it’s in human nature to not own our strengths like we should. I have to admit I see it more in my female friends than other genders, but this is not a sex-specific thing. We’re all super insecure and we try to hide it.

The thing is: our words and our actions reveal deep beliefs we hold about ourselves.

I’m writing this because I’ve been reflecting deeply on the way I have acted in my life and how it impacts my self-esteem. There was this one small instance that still burns: I was standing in a long line at a fancy party to grab a drink. It was my turn, and I was headed up to the counter to make my order. Quickly, a man stepped in front of me and ordered his drink, cutting me and the entire line. Behind me, people were complaining. My friend nudged me and said, “Say something. You’re going to let that guy take advantage of you like that?”

I figured it was probably not the right time to say anything. I was in a room full of older people, very rich, very high up in the business. I was invited there as a guest and didn’t want to make a scene. So I said nothing. Absolutely nothing. The man ordered and left, never even looking at me. It felt like I didn’t exist.

This is just a small example of what’s reoccurred in my life several times. It stems to other experiences, like when a guy told me he liked my hijab because it left “more room for the imagination” about my body. Or when I talk and several people cut me off. It isn’t just what happens to me that ticks me off, it’s how I react. What I do in response to these situations speaks volumes about how I recognize my worth.

The world is going to be hurtful to us — that is something we cannot control.How we treat ourselves, however, is a whole different ballgame, and it’s within our reach.

So here’s a promise. A promise of less silence and more noise. A promise of less sorry’s and more thank you’s. I want to see more straight backs and raised shoulders. I hope we haven’t let our insecurities become us or erase us. I hope we’ll take the credit we deserve, and stop downplaying our strengths as if we’re only made of weaknesses.

This post was originally published on my Medium blog.