It is expected of us to shy away from compliments - immediately refuse them whether it be about our looks, an achievement, or merely getting through the day without having a break down. It's in bad taste to accept accolades with confidence. We are forced to convince ourselves that we're unworthy because to be a lady is to be demure and deny our talents.
On a personal level, I always feel strange when I receive a compliment. I know my general reaction is to roll my eyes and give a feeble, "thanks" to protect myself from a compliment in case a) its intent was a joke and was made to make feel shitty b) the compliment was real and I don't want to come off arrogant accepting it with ease.
When I was little I was a participant in dance recitals. We're talking tiny little tutus, Tea For Two, tap dancing kind of recitals. After every performance, the school I was with released a video. I remember seeing myself for the first time on the television and when it was over, I expressed a desire to watch it again. Maybe it was a moment of narcissism, but whatever the reason I was told I was vain. I knew that word from Sleeping Beauty, as the evil witch was described as a vain woman and my confidence plummeted. I would never again ask to see myself in a video and I shied away from pictures because I didn't want to be called a vain girl ever again.
I'm sure it was this memory coupled with other instances that impacted my ability to accept myself in the limelight. I also believe it has affected how I react to compliments today.
It's a strange cultural standard for a female to have to refuse compliments. It's awkward to instantly feel ashamed for garnering any kind of positive attention. What's the point of issuing a compliment if it's not supposed to be taken seriously? It's taken me a long time to understand that accepting a compliment is okay. If by accepting a compliment readily and not refusing is is not what is expected of me, then I'm confused. I can't please everyone and I'm destined to lose if I'm responsible for choosing the correctly.
Women have a twisted reality that doesn't make sense. As I watch my niece get older and try to understand what being a girl means, I don't want her confidence to be compromised because expectations of her are paradoxical.
We say we've made progress for women, but in light of recent events I'm not so sure.
From this woman's perspective, the art of compliment is this:
Accept them honourably, do not be ashamed that someone else has acknowledged your excellence. Do not use compliments as a quick fix, pursuing them often, but instead view them as moments of victory to be used towards building your budding talents and inspiring you to do the same for others. Show other women it's okay to be praised but do not, for one second, seek validation in them.
Oscar Wilde once said, "women are never disarmed by compliments. Men always are. That is the difference between the sexes". The way I see it, women are alarmed by compliments because we've been given ambiguous instruction on how to receive them. Men have been taught to react, simply and firmly with a very clear and confident, "thank you". That makes us different.
If embracing the compliments gifted to me makes me a vain girl, so be it. I'd rather be the evil witch than a girl brainwashed into believing she is less than her worth.