It’s that time of year again Heffalumpies. You know, the silly season. For those of you in the northern hemisphere, you’ve already started with your Halloween and Thanksgiving and stuff. The “holiday season” is really hitting it’s straps now that it’s December, there is Christmas schlock in all the shops, the carols are already worming their way into my brain and I’m seeing everyone’s stress levels steadily climb, what with family stuff, trying to find the perfect gifts for everyone and going to all the holiday events that happen at this time of year. Not to mention how expensive this time of year can be.
Unfortunately, all of that stress and running around tends to mean that we let our self care slip by, because we’re too busy to really focus on making sure we are ok ourselves. Often we drink a bit too much, eat a whole different way to the rest of the year (all that rich holiday food) and don’t get enough sleep. Not to mention the self esteem crushing that can often happen when one is visiting family. The exact reason I DON’T visit my biological family, this time of year or any other!
It’s a tough time of year for a lot of reasons and our self esteem is usually the first thing to get battered and bashed in the process.
So how about a little experiment? Are you all up for trying something fairly unobtrusive but that I believe is pretty powerful, to keep that self esteem ticking along strongly for the rest of December and into the new year?
It’s pretty simple, but I wouldn’t say it’s easy. I’ve had to learn it myself, and it did take some time to pick up. What is it, you ask? Well, just this:
Every day, for the rest of December, whenever you talk to someone in your day, find something about their outfit or their personality or actions that you like, and compliment them on it. Everyone. From the people at your bus stop, to the folks at your work, to waiters or servers in cafes and restaurants, even if it’s someone making you a sandwich or selling you a drink. Your colleagues, your family, your friends, anyone that you encounter during your day. If you find yourself sitting next to someone on public transport, or in an elevator with someone, have a go at finding something for them too.
I know, I know, it sounds kind of cheesy and Pollyanna-ish when you write it down, but I have noticed something. It started with a woman I work with, who every time she speaks to me, compliments something about me. It might be as simple as my earrings, or my shoes, or my dress. Other times it might be a task I did at work, or how I handled a situation. Or sometimes it’s just something about me – my laugh, my knowledge of trivia, my phone manner. Every single day, without fail, Wendy finds something to compliment me on. I started taking more notice, and discovered that she does it to everyone around her. Every single person in the office. Anyone who comes in for a meeting. People she encounters during her day, no matter how brief. If she speaks to them, she compliments them on something.
At the same time I was noticing that she always complimented people, I noticed that she is one of the calmest, most joyful people I know. She is joyful of countenance and seems to cope better with stress than almost anyone I know. This is not simply because she looks for positives, but also because by just being who she is, she makes people feel good, and they like working with her. They return the joy she puts out into the world.
So I started trying to do the same. It was really hard at first, because I either felt so hard on myself I cast that onto other people, or I was too scared I’d make a fool of myself. I started with friends and people I felt comfortable with. Every time I see them, I pay them a compliment. Then I progressed to just finding things that I could compliment other people with, even though I was too scared to voice it yet. I’d think to myself “Her earrings are so cute!” or “He always makes me laugh.” Eventually it became habit, second nature to find things about people that I liked.
Then something interesting happened. As I paid more attention to the positives in other people, I started to pay more attention to the positives about MYSELF. I started to feel more confident, and yep, my self esteem went up and my stress levels went down. I started voicing those compliments to more and more people. The more I did it, the more I noticed people’s demeanor changed around me. I noticed more smiles. The general stress levels dropped in everyone, not just myself.
I’ve even started doing it to strangers. If someone at the bus stop or in the elevator has a nice dress or shoes, I’ll say “I like your shoes.” or “That is such a cute dress.” It’s amazing how someone lights up when you pay them a compliment, and it’s amazing how good it feels to light someone up like that.
Of course, there are some caveats to this exercise. Let’s see…
- Keep away from comments about anyone’s bodies, since I have found it’s rarely (if ever) acceptable to comment on someone’s body, and besides generally speaking, ones body is deeply private anyway. Remember our motto here at Fat Heffalump: If it’s not your body, it’s not your business.
- Be genuine. If you genuinely can’t find anything about someone, then skip it.
- There will be times you forget, or you’re in a crappy mood or you just have other things on your mind. That’s ok.
- If someone is a douchecanoe – don’t waste your time on them. Move on to someone else.
- Don’t load your compliments with baggage. Instead of saying “That dress highlights your shape.”, say “What a beautiful dress.” Don’t load the compliment so that it casts judgement on someone’s appearance and it can imply that they aren’t as “worthy” other times. Just keep it simple - I love your earrings. You handled that difficult customer so well. Cute shoes! Your laugh is so infectious. Fab handbag, where did you get it?
- If you aren’t bold enough to say it, think it. Start with the people who are close to you that you feel comfortable with. Challenge yourself to add another person each day.
So, do you think you’d like to give this a try for the rest of December? Are you up for an experiment?