Pandering For Compliments / by Dana Bergstrom

Are you kidding me?!

I'm taking a business course and the latest exercise is to email 25 people asking them to list your three best qualities.

The purpose is to help pinpoint one's top strengths in order to focus and build upon those qualities in business and life in general.

Ask 25 people the top three things they like about me? Noooooooooooo waaaaaaaaaay!

I got so anxious just thinking about doing this, that a mass of conflicted energy rose up in my body. I started to squirm and began to laugh and tell horribly HORRIBLY inappropriate jokes.

Pauly! I can already see your list!

1. Left boob!       

2. Right boob!       

3. Vagina!

I snorted, howled, and rolled around on the couch until I recognized that this was nervous laughter. Pauly looked at me, smiled, and shook his head in disbelief.

I didn't even want to ask my husband! How was I gonna do this task?

I wrote a few versions of the email and they each included a number of self-effacing, silly comments to somehow relieve my anxiety. They all had to be deleted.

But I really wanted to get this exercise over with. So I tried again and sent out nine new emails. I made an attempt to ask nicely, but the notes still had a weird, conflicted and apologetic vibe.

I was getting even more nervous and ansty. I had 16 more emails to send. How was I gonna do this?

I couldn't stand all of the insane, fear-based ego stuff clogging up my brain anymore, so I sat down at my computer and typed out my crazy thoughts just to get them outta my head.

I don't recall getting lots of compliments from family while growing up. When I was young I once asked my folks why they didn't tell me I was "cute". I'd heard other parents fawn over their daughters but mine didn't. I was told a story about an older relative who was praised mainly for her appearance. She'd gotten into some kind of accident and became extremely depressed because she no longer had her looks.

Pauly doesn't give me many compliments either. I asked him about it many years ago because I SHOWER THAT MAN WITH WORDS OF AFFECTION ALL THE LIVELONG DAY, simply because I love doing it! But he rarely says boo to me. His primary love language isn't giving compliments, it's acts of service. But he did say he didn't give them because he thought the compliments might go to my head. Apparently, he wasn't raised on loads of adulation either.

I automatically assumed that if I emailed people and got a bunch of lovely responses about my strengths, I'd turn into a megalomaniac. I'd become a bizarro Donald Trump, a female with orange hair and a pale face. I'd walk around telling everybody how effin great I am! I'd soak the compliments up, milk 'em, and get high off 'em until there was nothing left of them and therefore nothing left of me.

What if I start to think that I'm just a human who only has a few good qualities and I forget about my infinite nature as energy? What if I become addicted to external authorities/compliments and I can't stop asking everybody what they think of me? Or what if nobody emails me back at all because they think I'm an asshole?

"Okay okay. I recognize your voice, inner bully", I noted as I was typing. "You're all about worrying and worst case scenarios, aren't you?"

By looking at my unpleasant thoughts, I was able to uncover the false belief behind my fear:  Getting too many compliments is addictive and dangerous.

However, I know that what I focus on is what I get.

"As you decide so will you see. And all that you see but witnesses to your decision."
A Course in Miracles T-12.VII.11:8

So I made a decision:

I will not be attached to whatever is said (or even not said via non-reply) and I will see this as an interesting experiment.

These positive traits that others see in me are not actually me. They're just qualities I can focus my energy on and use while I'm here in this temporary body.

Yesterday I sent out a new email to the final group of people that was perfectly clear. I asked for their input without fear or any sense of apology.

Guess which ones got an immediate response! Yep, yesterday's note which I wrote knowing full well that it did not matter if they emailed me back or not! (A few people have responded to my conflicted, early emails, but not all.)

As the responses roll in, I'm putting them into a spreadsheet, noting where there's overlap and similarities.

It's been a fascinating exercise to help me learn more about my strengths as perceived by others. It's interesting to note how they match up or don't match up with what I perceive as my own. And my ego hasn't been inflated one iota. There's nothing dangerous or addictive about it!

Once again, my inner bully decided to make a big deal outta nuttin'.

But I'm onto that bugger, more often than not.

So...maybe I'll give myself a compliment...

I'm getting better at catching my ego and not letting it run me.

And as a result, I get to feel peaceful and happy.