After attending my first few Poly meet-ups, I noticed I was getting a lot of attention. It seemed like everyone was interested in getting to know me better and I was really excited about all the new friends I was making. But, despite this, there was one thing that kept bothering me about these new interactions.
The seemingly unending string of compliments.
Seriously. Get ready for them. They’re coming.
It’s not that I mind being told nice things about myself (I mean, who does?). It’s just that it seemed like everyone in the group had something nice to say about me. Whether it was about my outfit, my sense of humor, my geeky interests, or my unusually high cheekbones, the compliments never seemed to end.
At first, I loved the attention. I had just moved to the area and it was great to be around people who liked me. But, as more and more members took a shine to me, I started to wonder if all the attention was simply about making the new person feel welcome. Or, worse than that, I wondered if they were only pretending to like me BECAUSE I was new. In short, I was starting to feel like a fresh piece of meat on display in front of a group of hungry lions (which is not exactly a great way to feel).
But, when I explained to Lenin and Greg how I felt, they actually gave me an alternative perspective on the situation. Basically, if they could like me for who I was, why couldn’t others? Why was I being so hard on myself? Why was it so difficult for me to believe people saw me as something more positive than negative?
I know it sounds so simple, but it really was an epiphany at the time. And I started to wonder why I couldn’t let myself be complimented without downplaying what the other person said. Now that I’ve been actively Poly for a few years, I think I’ve finally figured it out.
In our society we view compliments as very rare things. Like finding a pearl in an oyster, they appear at random, are often found by accident, and are something to treasure when you actually get one. After all, if pearls were readily available and given out to everyone, then they wouldn’t be as valuable. But that’s not the way the Poly community works. In polyamory, open communication and honesty are prized above all things, and tend to not be reserved for intimate relationships. Just as with their partners, most Polys feel a deep urge to share exactly how they feel with everyone and, more often than not, the way they feel is actually quite positive.
So, here’s my advice. It’s OK to believe that people like you. In fact, there’s probably a lot more to like about you than you think. The problem is that we have trained ourselves to give out compliments sparingly, and to be suspicious of anyone willing to give out more than one at a time. But the truth is that we are all worthy of being told something positive about ourselves everyday. Yes. Everyday. It’s just that we’ve let ourselves believe the complete opposite. That we’re not worthy. That we’re not special. That if a person says something nice to you, it’s because they expect something in return.
That’s not true.
So, the next time you think something nice about a person, tell them! The more you get into the habit of complimenting, the more positively you will respond to being complimented. If you still find it hard to not downplay yourself after someone says something nice to you at group, try responding with, “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” It will let them know you appreciate what they said, while giving you time to digest the words themselves. Or, just be honest and say you have a hard time being complimented. Chances are the other person will understand completely.
Above anything, just know that you are worthy of being told you’re awesome. You might not always believe it, but you are. So, when someone at the meet-up tells you they like you, take it at face value. Believe that compliments don’t have to be rare. Understand that just because something appears in abundance, doesn’t mean it’s any less special.
You deserve all the pearls given to you.