Graciously accepting praise is not something that I have ever really mastered. I believe that I do good things sometimes, things that are worthy of gratitude or mention by someone else. I believe that I am competent in my job, that I have the best intentions, that I put effort into tasks that are given to me…yet when someone acknowledges this to me directly I am never sure of how to respond. What do I say? Where do I look? How big of a smile should I have? Is that smile giving off the modest, “aw shucks” vibe I am going for? Do I nod in agreement? What if I nod and smile too much? Then I start thinking, “Oh my god, stop smiling and nodding, you lunatic!“, and then I usually make some attention-deflecting, self-deprecating joke and the moment is lost.
I’m not sure what makes me react in that way. I do tend to be a pretty modest person, and I’m in a field where it’s pretty safe to say that I’m not in it for the glory. There may be something there about how I’ve internalized some message about how women should feel that way, but in any case it just feels so awkward. It’s a little ironic that my chosen profession is as a therapist, yet direct expressions of emotion of this type in my personal life instill such panic in me.
Along those lines, I also hate being sung to for my birthday in restaurants (or anywhere, really, now that I am an adult) and I cannot imagine the torture that someone singing a song to me or reading a poem aloud to me would be. I remember a few years back hearing about a contest on a local radio station for two people to do see Dave Matthews play acoustic cuts from an unreleased album in his hotel suite. I grabbed my phone and started dialing, then the reality of the situation sunk in: I would be sitting in front of Dave Matthews while he sang earnest songs about love and the state of the world and social justice. Where would I look? How big of a smile should I have? Do I nod along to the songs? What kind of behavior is appropriate in a situation like that? I hung up the phone.
Today though, at 31 years, 6 months, and 20 days, I think I finally got the hang of it. I was in a work meeting, and some people acknowledged the successes I have had handling a few issues over the past few months. I had been tasked with a lot of new responsibilities and managed not to screw up too badly was able to keep everything running smoothly despite some bumpy situations, and our staff morale has been really great under my leadership. I managed not to make any self-deprecating jokes, and I managed not to minimize my efforts. My smile was appropriately large, and I nodded once and simply said. “Thank you.” It felt really nice.
So, Fabulous Thing #103: Accepting praise where praise is due.