Don’t Get A Swelled Head!

This is an unfortunate statement that has been around for a long time.  Why do I say that it is unfortunate?  Because it implies that we are not suppose to say good things about ourselves, in other words, we’re not suppose to brag.  (Someone in my office once said, “It’s not bragging, if it’s true.”)

I am here to tell you that feeling good about ourselves is a good thing.  It is fuel in our gas tank.  If you are in a car and have no gas in your tank, you’re not going to go very far.  So it is with us.  When we have not accumulated a sense of things well done, we don’t have as much energy or confidence to go into work the next day.

I remember hiking Squaw Peak with a friend.  I was telling him about Dr Spock being in town and how I followed his keynote speech with a workshop on Self-Esteem in Children.  Now, in the audience was a reporter from the Arizona Republic who had three children at home.  She stayed  in the auditorium for my workshop and took notes.  Those notes became a write-up that took a quarter of a page in the Sunday morning paper!  I clipped the article and sent it to both my children, who put it on their refrigerator doors (where all important papers should be displayed).  I was telling my hiking companion about the newspaper article and his comment was “Well, don’t get a swelled head.”  I felt slammed and went silent.  What could I say in my defense?

That was many years ago and I remember his words to this day.  I tell this story often to demonstrate that our saying positive things about ourselves is frowned upon in public – and it even restricts us in our heads.

As a therapist, I encourage my patients to keep the compliments they receive.  To write them down, to keep them in a special box or container.  I even suggest that they write down the percentage of the compliment that they can take in.  Strangely enough, we don’t or can’t take in 100% of a compliment.  But usually we can take in a portion of the compliment.  Try this on yourself – write down three compliments you’ve kept in your lifetime.  Now, write down the percentage of each of these compliments that you can keep or take in.  Interesting?  My observation is, that if you can’t remember three compliments from your lifetime, then you never got a filing cabinet.  (more about Filing Cabinets in the next blog).

If you are someone who could or should be paying compliments to a spouse, a significant other, a child, a co-worker or a friend, here is a list of things to compliment specifically, and I say specifically because, if you pay a global compliment, such as “you are the most wonderful person in the world”, that compliment is not going to ‘go in’.  Compliments need to be more specific so that the receiver has a better chance to hear the compliment, believe it, and take it in.  Compliment suggestions: Appearance,  Belongings,  Behavior,  Accomplishments,  Achievements,  Attributes,  Values,  Ethics,  Character Traits,  Manners,  Talents,  Intelligence.     If you pay attention, you can begin to tell if the person  you just complimented takes in the compliment, or if they bat it back to you.  If they don’t take it in, then they don’t really believe what you just said to them!

More next time on the Filing Cabinet you were suppose to get as a child and the many reasons why people push compliments away.