I like giving people compliments. If we’re being honest, it’s rather self-serving – making people feel good makes me feel good. And it’s all about meeeeee!
But I’m always amazed at how people respond. At yoga the other day, one of my classmates was wearing a big ol’ t-shirt that had obviously been around a while … but the color was pretty much the color she should wear all the time forever. She looked radiant.
When class was over, I said, “I’ve got to tell you – that color is dynamite on you!” And I smiled and didn’t think too much of it.
She looked stricken. And then she said, “Oh my gosh. That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. You made my year!”
Soooo … yay, I made her feel good. But … that was the nicest thing? That was the highlight of her year? Oh honey. That hurt my heart. I figured things must be pretty brutal if that’s how she felt, but at least I brought some sunshine in? It must be pretty sad if a random compliment has such a big impact.
And then? Then I lost my shit over hearsay from 30 years ago.
Here’s the deal. My sweet, dear friend is always telling me I should be a storyteller on The Moth. I am so fortunate to have a pal who a) has known me since seventh grade; and b) still believes in me so wholeheartedly.
She told me a story about how she’d told her mom about The Moth, and, well, you know her mom talks 24/7 and it’s just part of her charm. And her mom had told our junior high school librarian about The Moth and how I should be on it.
Small towns. Amiright?
And then? Then, our junior high librarian said, “Oh, Becky Brown? Yeah, there was talk in the teachers’ lounge about her. There was some question as to whether or not that writing was really hers because it was so good. But it turned out, nope, that’s really her writing.”
I am 43 years old. I have, mercifully, been out of junior high for 28 years.
But the idea that educators in the holy, inner sanctum of the junior high teachers’ lounge thought I might be cheating or plagiarizing because my writing was so good?
Well, it made my year. It turned me into my yoga classmate in the lovely green t-shirt. And it gave me a little perspective.
We’re all desperate for affirmation, for love, for kindness. (Evidently in my case, also for 30-year-old accusations of plagiarism.) Everybody seems to be mad at everybody else and we’re hurting.
It strengthened my compliment resolve.
I try to say at least one nice thing each day to someone who is not a) my dog; or b) my spouse. But what if I upped that to two people each day? What if we all upped it to two people each day?
By the way? You look really nice today.