Wednesday, February 22, 2012

True Compliments

Each week this year, I'm attempting a new challenge to increase my mindfulness and attention to the present. I was unsure how successful I could be when introduced this week's challenge... to pay attention to true compliments. Each day, I tried to give someone close to me a genuine compliment that they deserve. Also, I paid attention to the compliments I received during the week.

This was a deeply personal exercise for me. I find that I impart a value statement each time I give another a compliment. If I say, "That was very thoughtful of you", I'm implying that I approve of the behavior. I had a really hard time disconnecting myself from each compliment that I gave. Also, I found it difficult to compliment those who are closest to me. The book where I'm getting these challenges, How to Train a Wild Elephant, mentions that when people become the 'furniture of our lives' we no longer compliment them on things. I was shocked at how much kindness and special attention I take for granted. We have to make an effort to communicate gratitude, praise and appreciation, especially to our closest peeps.

The types of compliments I tried to give this week were also difficult for me. I wanted to compliment people on behaviors or attributes that I knew were directly within their control. It's not up to my sister-in-law to have beautiful hair (which she does), but it is in her control to be generous with her time, and I was touched that she offered so much of it to help with Bart in the hospital this past week. Those kinds of compliments took a little finesse, I'm such an overachiever I wanted to give everyone the most perfect, observant, unique compliment I could come up with. Why this always goes back to me, I have no idea. Narcissistic, I guess.

Receiving compliments is something I'm historically bad at as well, and this week is no exception. Since it's been mostly written words around my house without a lot of conversation, I can only call on a few instances where I received a compliment this week... but in those cases I deflected, ignored, glossed over, and changed the subject. Is it so hard to believe that someone would have something nice to say about me? And is humility so valued that I'm doing myself a favor by not accepting someone's compliment? I have a lot wrong with me, but I also have a lot right... I need to work on accepting the latter. Words of praise are important, and I find it's easier to keep them on the tip of my tongue when children are around. It seems natural to me to keep encouraging kids in a positive manner, instead of just punishing their negative behaviors... why doesn't that also apply to adults? We should reinforce positive behavior whether it comes from our kids, our pets, our spouses, our parents... something to aspire to.

This week... a different type of challenge. Mindfulness of posture. I'm excited about this one, because it is something that I need to improve, and it brings my focus back to the parts of my body I neglect. When I worked at the yoga studio and was constantly in touch with my body, this was something I did several times a day... full body systems-checks throughout the day, while sitting in your office chair, on an airplane, while laying in bed, standing in the shower, take stock and assess your posture. Are you relaxed? Is one shoulder higher than the other? Are you putting more weight on one side of your behind as you sit? Balance comes from deep in your physical being. See how close to even and upright you can be. Enlist the help of family and friends to remind you when you're slumpy... My Mom is great at this... she's even told me on the phone before - where she couldn't even see me - to sit up straight, and of course she was right (she usually is), I was slouching at the time! Good luck!

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