“You’re always so nice to me.”
I say this incredulously… every. single. time.
I say it with surprise and a twinge of actual, physical, discomfort.
Why? Kindness is not unfamiliar to me — (most) people are (mostly) kind.
And yet? Kindness, especially in the form of “words of affirmation” (aka praise) can make me so uncomfortable that I can feel a slight twitch in my left eye even as I think about it.
I can’t say I don’t like authentic praise — because I do. In fact, I think I sometimes crave it because it simultaneously affirms me and drives me to do better.
So why do I dread, or deflect, or run away from something I also crave?
I have my theories (too many to mention, ranging from “different love languages” to “imposter syndrome” or “lack of attachment in early childhood” or even “too much caffeine”) but it’s mostly a mystery.
My best guess is that it’s all rooted in vulnerability — if I accept your praise, I’m admitting that I care about your opinion of me. If I accept your kindness, I’m admitting that you see me… and being seen can be risky.
Vulnerability *is* uncomfortable, but I’m working on it. And I’m so grateful for every kindness extended to me, even if I tend to deflect it.
I was hesitant to share this (vulnerability!) but decided to do so for a few reasons:
— If you work with children who seem to reject your kindness, I hope you’ll keep trying. Your efforts matter.
— If you see a loved one or a colleague in this description, I hope you’ll keep trying. Your efforts matter.
— If you, too, are an awkward deflector of praise, I’ll hope you’ll keep trying, too. Your effort matters.