Saying “Thank You” Was Hard, but I Learned to Do It

Taking compliments is harder than giving them

Saying “Thank You” Was Hard, but I Learned to Do It
Anangsha Alammyan Instagram

Taking compliments is harder than giving them

“You look so beautiful in black,” my friend told me.

I had worn a black gown and red lipstick, but I was conscious of the rolls of fat around my stomach, of how my love handles showed through the fabric of the dress, and how my waist didn’t look slim enough.

I smiled at her, but I couldn’t take the compliment. I didn’t think I deserved it.

And so, I brushed it away.

“Not as pretty as you,” I said.

The Core Reason: Insecurities?

There have been several instances when I have faced something similar — a friend commented on my looks, and my brain came up with excuses and justifications of how and why I didn’t deserve them.

This isn’t anything new. I have been doing this since as long as I remember. But strangely, this only extends to my physical appearance. I don’t fake this level of modesty and deflect a compliment when someone talks about my writing or the work I do in my day job.

This realisation was like an epiphany that got me thinking: why was I doing this to myself? What had I done to believe that I would never deserve to hear sweet words about my looks?

I am not sure where it all comes down to.

Is it because of the “pretty girls” in school who had their own gangs and wouldn’t include me because I was “ugly”?

Or my relatives who took me shopping, but when the clothes I liked weren’t available in my size, lamented loudly, “Why are you so fat”?

When I had my first crush on a beautiful boy in school, my friends told me he would never like me back. “He has a type,” they said. “Long hair, big eyes, slender figure. He won’t like a nerd like you.”

Nerd, they called me, and that is what I let myself become. I closed my world with books and kept reality at bay. The stories I read drove me, and I started seeking solace in them. The acceptance I didn’t find from my family and friends, I searched for it in fiction.

And my books didn’t disappoint.

But this also got me into the habit of always blaming my looks when something didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.

A picture didn’t come out good? Instead of asking the photographer to click using a different angle, I told myself I was not photogenic.

I didn’t get picked for the college fashion show? Why would I? I wasn’t even good-looking. This wasn’t my place.

And on and on and on it went — not slim enough, not fair enough, not thin enough. Never enough.

The people around me started this designing of my self-image when I was young. I did the rest of the damage myself.

Re-Designing the Idea of Beauty

No, I was never “beautiful” by the widely accepted societal norms. But that is okay. I am not supposed to be the prettiest woman in the room. I am smart and kind and I love with all my heart. That is enough, isn’t it?

With this affirmation in heart, I started on the path to consciously re-design my idea of what is considered beautiful. I accepted the fact that every woman is beautiful in her own way. Just because I have imperfections doesn’t mean I am not good enough.

I told myself I would never deflect a compliment. That when someone told me I looked good, I would accept it. I only have to thank them; I don’t necessarily have to compliment them in return.

It was hard at first.

At the next party I went, a woman told me I looked good. That the colours I had picked complimented my complexion.

A different night. A different friend. The same story. The same anxiety that she is lying, that there is no way I could ever look good.

I took a breath and brushed the concerns away.

“Thank you,” I looked her in the eye and smiled. It was a weak smile, but a smile nevertheless. “You look lovely too.”

I still couldn’t believe myself, long after she left and our conversation had fizzled out. It wasn’t just the words I uttered, but how sternly I told my brain to shut up, and how easily it had accepted.

That was the day I learned that positive self-talk has the power to change lives. That even if the friend was lying, even if the world did not believe I was beautiful, I could.

That a few rolls of fat, acne, and imperfect make-up can’t stop me from being beautiful if I truly believe I am. This affirmation is mine, and no one can take it away from me.

Since that day, I have taken myself on a quest to never deflect compliments about my looks. It has been hard and on some days, I still stare at the mirror and cry, hating every inch of what I see.

But on others, I pull myself up and believe that no matter what everyone else thinks, I deserve to be beautiful.

If you enjoyed this story, here are a few others you might appreciate:

I Learned About Shame When I Was Eleven
My journey with menstruation in India: Part One
The Unending River of Hate
Dealing with hateful comments in the age of online trolls

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