Walking out of the Target on Sunday, my head was filled with negative thoughts, discouraged by my latest attempt at finding properly fitting maternity clothes. I had the “woe-is-me” attitude and was seriously devising a plan to convince my boss that sweatpants were in fact dressy casual, when an older woman stopped me in the parking lot.
“You just make the cutest pregnant lady,” she said.
It was if suddenly a record scratched and halted all my negative thoughts at once.
“Huh, wha?” I thought. “Me cute?” Whether it was her absolute sincerity or the fact that she was a complete stranger that led me to actual embrace her praise, I’m still not sure.
“Thank you,” I told her. “You know, honestly, I was just thinking about how I couldn’t find anything that actually fit, so I really appreciate that.”
She walked in to Target, and I drove home, but the compliment stayed. When I see the reflection of my growing belly covered in its still-ill-fitting clothing, I can’t help but smile and think of the woman’s kind words. Every time I cherish her well-timed flattery, I take the advice of Elvira Aletta, Ph.D. She writes that it’s important to savor praise like you would a fine wine or chocolate.
“Let the compliment nurture your self-esteem,” she writes, “just as a tall cool glass of water slakes your thirst.”
But even though my thirst had now been quenched, so to speak, I couldn’t help but wonder about others caught in a compliment drought. Would a simple spontaneous sentiment affect them the way it had affected me? And if so, why wasn’t I dishing out the good stuff at every opportunity?
The truth of the matter is, I realized that I’d become stingy with compliments. In my quest for absolute sincerity, my flattery of others was limited to those things that were truly extraordinary. A simple cute dress or nice smile wouldn’t cut it. After Einstein created the theory of relativity, I might have said, “Gee, you’re really smart.”
And that lack of sentiment needs to change.
Even though I firmly stand by my sincerity clause, maybe I should look harder to find the extraordinary in ordinary life and go out of my way to vocalize it to others.
So here it goes. Compliment-Take One: Your reading material selection demonstrates your absolute brilliance.
Now, that wasn’t so hard.