Sometimes we just aren’t feeling like we deserve positive affirmations or compliments. On even our best days, we don’t expect that kind of positive attention.
I was walking near our office the other day, wearing a typical outfit with a colorful scarf. Going about my business, a cute young woman who was pushing a baby stroller paused as I walked toward her.
“You look so beautiful! I just loved watching you walk down this block toward me,” she exclaimed as I approached, “You’re so vibrant and magnetic.”
Now, on this particular day, I wasn’t necessarily feeling “vibrant” or “magnetic,” nor did I expect to get such positive attention. But I did put forth an effort, as always, to look my best when I got ready that morning. Let me tell you, her compliment made me feel like a million bucks! The rest of the day I felt, well, vibrant and magnetic!
You see, it’s not about receiving compliments on our looks or costuming ourselves to dress up for others when we go out. It’s about getting noticed. We all WANT positive affirmations and attention (whether we admit it or not). It’s about having someone notice us and say, “Wow!”
We all have a deep yearning to be seen. We long to be heard, to be known, to be understood. Yet, when it comes to attention, especially positive attention, many of us have a knee-jerk reaction to feel embarrassed and push it away. We might even cringe, feel undeserving or shush the person lavishing us with praise.
What do we say when someone compliments us?
What we should be saying is, “Oh, go on!”
We can receive positive attention for all sorts of qualities. Receiving positive attention for our looks, style or outfit is great, but that’s only one avenue and not the most important. Even more deeply touching to our soul is when someone notices the qualities about us that aren’t as obvious—when someone looks beyond the surface and notices the qualities of our personality.
We all possess positive qualities. Every single person in the world has positive traits. There are unique qualities only YOU possess. There are talents you display and are gifted with. You see, you are a gift to the world.
As children, very early on we’re taught to be humble and even self-deprecating. We’re taught not to brag; not to be “too much” and not to be too outgoing. We’re told to blend in. We learn to be shy and quiet. We learn to downplay compliments and attention. We learn to fit the mold and not stand out.
Others of us balked at this conformity. We longed for and sought attention in any way we could get it—by yelling, acting out, doing things that weren’t so healthy or positive. Why? Because that little kid inside us was saying, “Look at me! Notice me! I matter!”
None of us comes from a perfect background. No one is conditioned to feel perfectly important, unique, special, and loved (no matter how much your parents doted on you and complimented you). We all possess a void where we yearn to be seen and known.
It’s part of our human nature to long for a connection with others. We yearn for attention. We yearn to be acknowledged and affirmed. We want to be more engaged and more connected with those around us.
So how do we get those positive affirmations we need?
Our yearning to be seen and acknowledged is strong. It’s a universal yearning and it’s inherent to our happiness. Yet, many of us have tamped it down for so long we don’t even know how to receive the attention and affirmation we long for.
Here’s the secret—go out and put your best foot forward. Practice self-care and treat yourself as you deserve to be treated!
Don’t throw on the least dirty outfit from the laundry hamper and spritz on the dry shampoo. Put in effort. Even if you aren’t at your ideal weight, can’t afford your favorite designer, or aren’t feeling the emotional bandwidth to put in the effort. Fake it until you make it.
You can appear polished, professional, and together, even if you aren’t 100%. There’s a magic that occurs when you wear an outfit that’s pressed and clean, take time to put on your favorite tie or necklace, or style your hair. You exude more confidence.
You’re saying to the world, “I value myself. You should value me, too.”
Be genuine about it. You don’t need to feel like you’re costuming yourself or attempting to be someone you’re not. Be the best version of you. When you look and feel your best you show you’re comfortable with yourself. Comfort breeds confidence.
Speak up! Jump in!
The next time you know the answer to a question in the meeting, share it. Don’t worry if you have all the details correct, or hold back because you don’t want to sound silly or even precocious or overbearing. Share your knowledge!
If you know how to do something—fix a problem for a coworker, help someone figure out directions or answer someone’s question about what’s playing on the radio, step up! Offer your talent, your gifts, and your capacity to others around you. Smile with confidence. Own it!
Remember the last time someone said something negative to you? (I’ll bet you do.)
I might read 20 five-star reviews on Amazon for one of my books. You know what jumps out at me? The one-star reviews. The negative comments always stick with us much longer than the positive. We cling to the negative attention. We fixate on it. We repeat it to ourselves over and over like a broken record. We wonder what we could have done differently to silence that ONE critic.
Here’s the deal: that critic doesn’t know you. They might be having a bad day. They might be projecting their own garbage on you. Maybe they had a headache. Maybe they’re seeking attention themselves and don’t know how to get it, except to be a negative jerk.
Make compliments count fifty times (at least!) as much as criticisms. Point out your positive. Surround yourself with others who view you positively.
Be with others who see you more positively than you do yourself.
For example, you may have a limiting belief that you are not worthy, but instead of acting that way, you choose to go into a situation acting as if you are worthy, behaving with a sense of self-respect and pride. To do this, imagine what someone who felt good about herself would do in this situation. As a result, you’ll walk into the meeting holding your head high, making acknowledging contact with the other members and speaking up when you have a point to share, even if your knees are shaking. As a result, you’ll notice that others are responding to you, asking you what you think about different points, or asking you to take initiative on the suggestions you made—they see you as worthy. You fake it until you make it.
-Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living
So, the next time you’re walking down the street, add a colorful scarf and a swing in your step. You never know when compliments and positive affirmations will be headed your way! If you don’t receive enough organically, start seeking out positive feedback. When you receive those positive affirmations put them on replay and listen over and over.
Remember, you are a gift to the world! Believe it! Embrace it!
For more on how you can positively impact the world around you, please visit us at The Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming workshop or More Life Training to learn how you can live a life of MORE!
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.