If someone says you look nice/pretty/handsome, don’t deny them or downplay their statement. Accept what people tell you as their truth, acknowledge it positively, and move about your day. By downplaying other’s intent we’re just re-investing in our own negative self-talk and devaluing ourselves and them for saying something.
Recently my son entered a crafting contest and as we dropped off his entry, the lady taking entries commented on how nice it was and even commented on parts she liked. Grudgingly he acknowledged her compliment, but he wasn’t super happy or positive in his response. As we were leaving, I commented that she seemed to like it and he said: “She’s just saying that.” Now, this kid isn’t generally much of a pessimist and he wasn’t disappointed with his project before we got there, this was enough out of character to make me pause. Often I get the most insightful WHILE I’m explaining something, so I just responded with what I was thinking, luckily with enough mindful filter to not just lecture or negate his feelings.
As I asked him why he thought that, I tried to allow him to have his feelings while also help him and myself realize, assuming someone’s intent when they say something is just negating THEM while also feeding our own judgments. I suggested to him, as I now do myself and others, that the best you can do is accept someone’s compliment honestly and presume them to be telling you their feelings. Now, you may say that to the complimenter by way of being modest, but your best bet is to accept their kind words with a smile. Whenever possible, shut up the chatter of your “monkey mind” which relishes negativity and incorrect assumptions.
Accepting things at face value can go a long way in different directions with different topics. In this case, my son had negative self-talk regarding his creative efforts. It can also happen in how you’re viewing yourself, that pain in your side may be “side cancer” or it might just be a sore muscle. If you stub your toe on your way out the door it might be because it’s Friday the 13th and there’s a day of bad luck coming your way, or you might have just been rushing and didn’t pay attention to your footing. That person may have cut you off in traffic because they’re mean or they hate you, or they might have failed to see you and then cursed themselves for their idiocy for the rest of their day. We don’t always know the other person’s story, we don’t always know the full circumstances of each event in your life.
Rather than presume the worst, try instead to assume the best or at a minimum just go with the neutral result. Maybe the compliment about your hair is genuine and the person making it really likes it, maybe its more than that, maybe that person is having a bad day and your effort to beautify yourself has uplifted them. Maybe that person has been admiring you from afar for months and just worked up the courage. Maybe when you stubbed your toe it will remind you for the day to slow down and pay attention, maybe that little misstep causing pain in your morning will make you mindful when merging on the highway and not try to dart in front of a fast-moving truck. Maybe if youl’re going to go past face value, you can just spin it to be better than your initial assumption.
Of course, presuming something better is at fault, is just putting a positive spin on the same thing… the assumptions we tend to make. You’re switching negative self-talk into positive assumptions or even wishful thinking. While that can be good for self-esteem, it can be dangerous on it’s own as well. Your most healthful, mindful approach will continue to be to just acknowledge that the thing happened, then release it from your mind. A compliment? “Thank you.” and move on. A pain? “Ouch”, and move on. A random disruption in your flow? “Dang. Darn. Whoopsie.” and move on. Mindfulness is being present in this moment, it isn’t ruminating on past events leading up to it or dwelling on events for the rest of your day. Pretend you’re just a stick floating down a stream, just float and be present.