After gaining three new followers on Twitter yesterday (it was four, but one buggered off soon after I’d referred to Sunday as being a bit of a prick tease – damn my potty mouth), and a small handful (think Jeremy Beadle’s tiny one) of compliments, I’m back already. That’s real dedication and commitment for you. It turns out I was spurred on by a few kind words. Which, at the same time, also made me feel a bit queasy.
Don’t get me wrong, of course I think it’s lovely when people say or write nice things about me, but I’ve always struggled to accept a compliment. They make me feel a bit stressed. I find myself cringing when somebody says something pleasant. It unsettles me. I’ll always quickly dismiss what’s being said – I’ll claim that I couldn’t possibly look lovely in this dress, because it has egg yolk down the front and you can see the line of my support knickers, which are trying, but failing, to squash my fat backside into some kind of discernible arse shape. And then I’ll feel ok again. Because I’ve turned the compliment around and afforded myself an opportunity to be negative about myself. So it’s all better. I can breathe easy again.
To be honest, I much prefer to be verbally abused and to verbally abuse right back. Not by random people in the street, but by people I like and admire. I understand that this admission says a lot about my psyche. Yes, it could be deduced that I have crushingly low levels of self esteem, that I feel unworthy of praise, that I’m only really a fan of friendships where cruelty and incessant piss-taking are high on the agenda. It probably appears that I want to perpetuate and strengthen my self loathing through the mutual support of others. And that would be a bit mental, wouldn’t it? Maybe so.
I did wonder earlier whether I should include references to actual scientific research to back up some of the theories about myself, and others, that may spring from my musings in this blog. You know, really examine what’s at the root of the issues presented. Perhaps include quotes from academics, or real journalists and writers, to support whatever happens to be spewing from my mouth at any given moment. I considered providing links to other articles or websites. I thought it might give my blog a bit of gravitas – it could appear really well thought out, considered, measured. Intelligent, even. I promptly decided that I couldn’t be arsed to do that. It’d be too much effort. I did mention how inherently lazy I was yesterday.
Instead, I’ve decided that to illustrate my points, I’ll just use examples from my glittering past that explain why I am who I am. Who needs professional help? Well, clearly I do, but we’ll gloss over that for now…
So, other than the reasons I’ve hinted at as possibilities above, why is it that I can’t accept a compliment? I recall two incidents from my youth, which made me believe that receiving compliments wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Let me take you back to 1986. At a time when I wanted to receive praise. When I wanted to be told how great I was. When I was ready for compliments. I was young, I was full of spunk (the Australian kind from Home And Away/Neighbours – I wasn’t a slut) and I was prepared to be judged.
Now this, to all intents and purposes, should have been a happy event. I, a girl from Cleethorpes, had managed to scoop Haven Holidays’ Miss Sunshine competition. That’s right – Miss Sunshine. But rather than enjoy my victory, I chose, both at the time and ever since, to only concentrate on the negative aspects of that experience. Don’t get me wrong, I had a surge of pleasure and pride when I was called on stage to collect my bouquet of flowers, cheap digital watch and free caravan holiday for the whole family.
But what I remember most is how the compere kept reiterating that the contest wasn’t about being pretty – it was about personality. He must have mentioned it at least nine times – seven of which were said during my on-stage interview, where, to be fair, I did wow the crowd with a quip about my mum’s meat pie. Not a euphemism.
And, while I know it’s nice for your character to be lauded, the phrase “She’s got a lovely personality” may as well be preceded by “She’s not much to look at, but…”
I remember wanting to say at the time – “Alright, mate, you’ve made your point” but was too busy thinking up what bullshit I was going to pretend I did in my spare time in response to his next question, that I didn’t bother voicing my concerns.
The other reason I can’t be proud of the achievement is the fact there were only three other entrants – one of whom was a boy. It was low season, my dad had gambled away the money we’d had set aside for a July/August break, so things were pretty quiet up in Scarborough that April. So, that minor success has been consigned to my history as the time I won something only due to the fact that there was no real competition and because I’m a bit of a dog, but a lovable one all the same, of course. Those weren’t the compliments I was looking for.
My second example is from 1983. At Elliston Junior School, a weekly award was given out to high achievers, grandly titled the ‘Trophy Of Excellence’. It was one of those shitty, plastic gold-coated numbers, on a faux marble pillar. I think it might actually have had a picture of a bloke leaning over a snooker table on it too, which wasn’t particularly fitting as the curriculum at that time did not include any form of table billiards. One Monday morning, there I was, sat cross-legged in assembly, and my name was called. Me. Yes, me. I’d done it. There was no higher compliment or praise you could receive as an eight year old. Off I marched to collect my award, feeling extremely pleased with myself. However, as I reached out to shake hands with Mr Barraclough, the headmaster, it transpired that my wrist was caked in shit. Yes, shit. All over my wrist and up the arm of my shirt. I can only assume that I had transferred dog faeces from my shoe to my arm (I was, and remain, reasonably adept at wiping my own arse), but I was so mortified by this experience, that I clearly started to equate praise with horror.
A friend once told me that I should accept compliments graciously, because it’s an insult to the person giving the compliment if it’s rejected. I could sort of see what she was saying. But then I recalled how, when a colleague had said “Thank you” after I’d told her how wonderful her new hairstyle was, I had thought to myself: “Oooh, get you. Bit fucking full of yourself, aren’t you?”
In conclusion, I realise that as well as not enjoying receiving compliments, I don’t much like people who accept them either. And her hair wasn’t that bloody marvellous. Disillusioned bint.