August 18, 2009
Over the weekend I had the rare opportunity to sit down and watch an old movie. I love old movies, and I especially love Audrey Hepburn, so when I saw that Two for the Road (with Albert Finney) was about to begin I gathered up the unfolded laundry and settled in on the couch to watch (and fold).
The first thing I noticed while watching this movie (other than the fact that Albert Finney reminds me of Simon Cowell) was the way Audrey Hepburn carried herself. She was a tall woman, and most of the time when you see tall, thin women, they tend to slouch just ever so slightly. I know that Audrey was trained as a dancer when she was young, and so I suppose that is why she carried herself the way she did. Her posture was practically perfect: she always had her shoulders back, her back was straight, and yet she had a very easy way about her. She looked like she belonged in her body, was comfortable with it. I think it came from being confident, even though I know she had insecurities like every other woman (she hated her nose and wanted to have it and her teeth fixed). But it was natural for her to stand in such a way, so she looked elegant, not gangly.
The point is, she looked confident, whether she really felt that way or not. All weekend long, whenever I thought about that movie, I would put my shoulders back and stand up straighter, and pretty soon I started to feel confident. And then I started thinking about how I finally learned to feel confident and how that led to learning to accept and OWN a compliment.
All through my teenage years, I was insecure – about my abilities in school (even though I was a good student), about my acting abilities (even though I had the lead in 2 school plays and 3 supporting roles), about my body (even though I was muscular and weighed 115 pounds). When I went off to college and moved in with my BFF, who is uber-confident by the way, my insecurities and inhibitions slowly went away. D was tenacious – when she wanted something, she did what she had to do to get it done. She was confident that she could work through the obstacles and have success, and most of the time she did. Her confidence rubbed off on me, and soon we were unstoppable (at least that’s what we told ourselves at the tender age of 19!).
Of course before I could own a compliment, I had to first accept it and that was hard. My mom was one of those women who had a hard time accepting compliments and so I grew up thinking that when someone complimented you, you immediately denigrated yourself. For example, “your hair looks nice” would be followed by my reply of “oh, ugh I really need a haircut.” But what I realized later was that, by denigrating myself in that way, what I was really doing was invalidating the person who complimented me. When I thought about it like that, it was much easier for me to simply say, “thank you” and leave it at that.
When D and I began sharing an apartment, one of the things that D taught me is to accept a compliment unabashedly. For example, before a night out on the town, I might tell D, “Wow you look really pretty!” and then she would say “I am pretty.” It was said tongue-in-cheek, but only a little bit. We owned the pretty and weren’t afraid to admit it. Soon it became a regular thing for us: “Hey, you look good today!” “I am good!” and so on.
When the TV show Friends ruled the world (yes it was the 90’s), we took Monica Geller’s “I KNOW!” to new heights. D would say, “Oooh I love that shirt on you!” and I would reply back, “I KNOW! Don’t I look awesome in it?!” We did that all the time, and when you do that all the time, you believe it. Agreeing with the compliment lets you accept it and absorb it! It’s a win-win for everyone!
So if you are one of those types who can’t accept a compliment graciously, here’s what I want you to do:
• Stand up straight! Channel your inner Audrey and pretend you are the most desirable actress of the 60’s. This alone will get you more compliments. Walk into a room like you own the place – in other words, fake it till you make it – and you will make it eventually.
• Own the compliment. Don’t be afraid to stake your claim! If someone tells you that was a smart idea you had, fire right back with “I am smart”. You get bonus points for following it up with a sly wink.
• Agree with the compliment. Add your own observation to the compliment (but only if it’s super-positive!).”Hey I like those pants” to which you reply, “I know! They make my legs look super long!”
• If you aren’t ready to do all that, then please, at the very, very least, just say “thank you” and let it go at that. Do. Not. Put. Yourself. Down! Ever!!!!
Think you can handle that? I think you can, and remember, it’s okay to be Sassy once in a while!