FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS? By Terri White . We all love them. Compliments boost our morale. Some beg for them. Others feel embarrassed. Even so, it’s always nice to be appreciated.
Recently, I posted this on my FaceBook page: “What do you love the most about me?” Was I fishing for compliments or just curious? It’s eye-opening how others perceive us. Much to my surprise, several mentioned my intelligence and abilities. As a late bloomer in school, I never stood out intellectually. Even in my 50s, I never considered myself above average. Nonetheless, I haven’t hesitated to accomplish a goal. If a door presented itself, I opened it and walked through. Again and again. I credit my parents for how they modeled that all their lives. Many of those doors led me on memorable adventures – another trait mentioned.
I’ve often wondered what has led me to take risks, so when I stumbled across a quote from Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychologist, I experienced an “aha!” moment: “The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.” Not my problem. I don’t need every “jot and tittle” figured out before I march through an open door. Eventually, I gaze back, amazed at the wild ride that enriched my life – and those of others, too.
Some liked my inquiring mind. I am curious about life. In fact, when I homeschooled my kids, they remarked that I was interested in everything. Of course! Life is full of beauty, mystery, and wonder, and I want to understand it. Hence all those questions. Others expressed appreciation for my kindness and thoughtfulness, stating that I treat everyone the same regardless of one’s station in life. Those warmed my heart. Frankly, though, I’m not always so nice. Often I feel like strangling people. Not literally. But I slip up. Fume inside. Blurt out unseemly expressions. If you always maintain perfect decorum, let me know your secret. I also want to photograph the glow from your halo. “Your leadership skills are unsurpassed,” exclaimed a parent who sends her kids to T.E.A.C.H. Oh my! That set my head spinning because last winter a parent accused me of the opposite. Obviously, you can’t please them all.
Years ago, one of my students frequently missed class, was often late when he did show up, and rarely followed the directions for homework – that is if he decided to actually do it. After contacting his parents, his dad responded, “I’ve had teachers like you before! You are utterly inflexible!” Geeze. I felt like he threw a bucket of poop on me. I started wondering if I WAS inflexible.
Ten minutes later (no exaggeration), another student pulled up to the curb, bounced out of her car, and handed me a card and gift. “Mrs. White, I forgot to give you your Easter gift and card.” Then she whizzed off. Inside, I found an adorable crocheted rose with a note stating, “I love your class! You are THE MOST FLEXIBLE teacher I’ve ever had.” I kid you not. Those exact words.
Taking risks to accomplish goals often makes one a target for those folks sitting on the sidelines of life. It’s easy to watch a game show from the comfort of one’s living room and shout out all the answers – correctly. You’re not under the spotlight, pressured to win the prize. It’s easy to criticize the quarterback for fumbling the ball while lounging in your easy chair. You’re not in the fray. It’s easy to criticize a decision about any undertaking – teaching a class, running a school or charity, operating a business - when you don’t know all the reasons involved. I’ve often experienced the brunt of criticism and will likely again.
Compliments and encouragements: the icing on the cake. Sometimes just a smile brightens one’s day. A simple “thank you” can make all the difference. A hug. “What a great job!” Or “You’re so creative!” They are the oil that keeps the engine running smoothly. Because we all mess up. The beauty of humanity is that we are all in this sea of life together. The readers and the writers. Without you, there’s no me. For all the risk-takers, those more reserved, and everyone in between, let’s splash compliments on those that come into our lives each day. We just might make someone’s day.