Lots of women were raised to believe that deflecting compliments is polite, that accepting them is some sort of unmerited ego trip. Further complicating this attitude is that most people I know — especially other writers — subscribe to the “this may be good but I can do better” school of thought when it comes to our work.
As a result, given the right combination of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) our minds can quickly flip over to “this will never be good enough.” That inner critic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy.
Online Friends for Support
This is part of the reason that the online writers’ communities flourish: there’s always someone able to step up and offer help and support in the form of goofiness or encouragement for a floundering counterpart.
If we can open our minds and stop arguing, there’s a lot a benefit that can come from hearing about our strengths. We thrive when others point out our good qualities and the things we do well; the combination Helps create a strong foundation to build on. Compliments are some of the best gifts we can receive — especially until we learn how to provide this wonderful experience for ourselves.
Building Emotional Muscle
I spent many years teaching women how to appreciate their own talents and strengths. While there are many ways to do this, one of the exercises I routinely used was called Building Emotional Muscle. Here’s an abbreviated version.
The list below is made up of forty-five positive traits:
- active, determined, kind, adventurous, energetic
- lively, artistic, enthusiastic, loving, aware
- expressive, observant, beautiful, forgiving, open
- bold, friendly, patient, brave, generous
- powerful, bright, gentle, ready-to-learn, capable
- handsome, respectful, caring, happy, responsible
- changing, hard-working, sensitive, confident, honest
- strong, cooperative, imaginative, thoughtful, creative
- inventive, unique, dependable, joyful, wise
There are several ways to use the list but I recommend going through it twice.
First, read through very quickly, marking every one of the qualities you possess— even in small amounts. I encourage you to be as generous with yourself as you are able; there’s nothing wrong with choosing them all.
Now go through the list again, this time a bit more slowly. Circle your favorite five words, or ten if you want. There’s no wrong way to use this list. Finally, list a concrete example of how each of these qualities manifests in your life.
You can also use this list with some of your online (or in-person) crew. Tweet, text, or email them about one of the strengths you admire in them. As when you did this exercise with your own personality traits, a specific example strengthens your statement. Choose a day during the week or month to share this sort of support within that group. If you all participate and continue for a few months, each of you will have a great collection of compliments. In fact, while you’re at it, why not have each group member add five or ten words to the master list?
One of the problems with using this sort of technique to counteract your inner critic is that many of us have a hard time accepting compliments.
In that case, here are two more recommendations. First, don’t compliment the person directly — let her “overhear” you. (Some people call this The Reverse Gossip game.) Address your compliment for Ann to Barbara, like this: “Have you noticed the way Barbara’s writing has improved? I especially enjoyed the short story she posted last week. I didn’t see that ending coming, did you? Her creativity is really shining through.” Depending on the relationships between people involved, Barbara can either not respond or can say (or post) a simple “thank you.”
Finally, writing can be a lonely business. Comments on blog posts let writers know that someone is reading – and that alone is a great form of feedback. If you’re not sure what to say, refer back to this list. It makes a wonderful starting point for sharing compliments — online or in real life!
It’s easy to tweet about this.That inner critic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. Click To Tweet
Andrea Patten is the author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head.