We all want to be noticed a little. A nod here, a pat on the back there. Recognised for our talents. Acknowledged for our achievements. So why is it so hard to ‘be’ with it all when this actually happens?
I have had the kind of week that these dreams of notability are made of. Compliments have been forthcoming from all sorts of directions in every area of life – my work, my writing, how I look, how I act. And don’t get me wrong – it’s really amazing to be in the midst of all of this. But at the same time, if I’m honest, I find sitting in front of someone waxing lyrical about me, however genuine, uncomfortable. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. Trying to give others compliments is almost as difficult – not to give them per se but rather to see the recipient actually feel the ackowledgement and take in what you are saying about them.
Mum always taught me to be gracious when receiving compliments, saying that it takes courage to acknowledge something about someone else in a way that makes them stop and accept it. I try to live by this. But letting it actually sink in, moving me, delighting me, let alone repeating it to others seems vain and narcissistic. And not at all in keeping with my laconic, self-effacing Aussie style. After all I am born of the culture that cultivates none other than The Tall Poppy Syndrome.
As children we do nothing BUT seek approval and recognition. It’s what defines us. But it’s also what we live in to – how we behave and interact shapes others’ opinions of and interactions with ourselves. So our individual worlds are increasingly shaped by what we are willing to acknowledge about ourselves as it is mirrored in other people.
So when does this self-appreciation society stop? Is it when we feel that we disappoint others and don’t live up to expectations? Perhaps when others don’t live up to our expectations and fall off the proverbial pedestal? Is it knocked out of us by well-meaning grown ups who tell us it’s not ‘nice’ to brag, or to show off? Or maybe in the playground at school in our first games of one-up-man-ship, child to child (and absolutely no adults required).
Psychology somewhere probably has a multitude of answers for this and I don’t envy parents who navigate the maelstrom of opinions and advice available on the subject in an effort to raise healthy, happy, resilient children.
But on the other hand, maybe there are no answers. Just the human condition, the society that surrounds us and our best guess at charting our own watery depths.
So in light of all of this, I have decided to do my best to bask, from my position atop the pedestal, in this unexpected deluge of appreciation. I may even resort to a little exuberant wallowing in it…some joyful splashing about perhaps.
But just a little mind.
Apparently, no-one likes a show-off.