Seeing Yourself as Others Do

One of the (many) things about myself that I’ve been trying to “work on” lately is my inability to accept a compliment.

From the “you look amazing!” screeches from friends and family when I started losing weight to the occassional compliments I receive on my wardrobe, I have never been able to look someone in the eye and genuinely believe their positive words. I’ll spare you the sob stories of how I was ridiculed by everyone for my appearance as a child and teenager — including my parents — but I’m sure it has a heck of a lot to do with why I can’t accept that someone legitimately has something nice to say about me today, more than a decade later.

Why is it that I still carry around 15-year-old memories of my classmates calling me “fat” and “ugly,”  but when someone says they like my haircut or that my arms are really starting to tone up, it’s almost immediately forgotten?

While I’ve slowly been learning to appreciate my new body and graciously accept any praise with regards to my weight loss accomplishments, it still pains me to realize that when someone offers a compliment that goes beyond my physical appearance or choice of shoes and relates to who I am on a deeper level — my intellect, my talent, my strength — I find it impossible to accept their words as fact.

I’m one of the lucky few that’s found a man who is quick to offer his encouragement and praise. But any time my boyfriend is regaling me with compliments, I can’t help but argue with him. I can’t remember the last time he told me I looked nice, and I offered him a simple “thanks” in return. Instead, I usually suggest he go get his eyes checked.

And yesterday, when he went on and on about how proud he is of me for working so hard at pursuing my writing dream, I not-so-gently informed him that, in fact, I’m a total failure. Because, after all, I haven’t yet published a bestseller or landed bylines in all of my favorite newsstand magazines…at the ripe old age of 25.

If I could look in the mirror and see the woman he sees, I would never again suffer from lack of self-esteem. I’d never again ridicule the way my thighs look in shorts, I wouldn’t hold myself back from pitching my dream magazines for fear of not being good enough, and I definitely wouldn’t walk around thinking that I’m a failure just because I’ve managed to lose 90 pounds and not 100 pounds.

If we could treat ourselves with the same kindness, respect, and understanding that our loved ones do, and learn to recognize all of our positive attributes instead of constantly focusing on the bad, could you imagine how much happier we’d be? And how far we could go?

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