Hovering over my stationary bike, beads of sweat running down my face and gasping for breath, I began to question why I decided to put myself through the sixty minutes of gruelling physical activity that is “power spin class.” I glanced around the room at my fellow spinners, relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one on the brink of cardiac arrest. Eyes were closed, teeth were clenched, and knuckles turned white as we gripped our handlebars for dear life. Just when I thought my pulse had skyrocketed into oblivion and I was ready to call it quits; the perky spin instructor in front of the room said something that really stuck with me.
“I want you all to encourage each other right now. Scream if you have to. Feed off each other’s energy! You can do this!”
It didn’t pump me up enough to run a marathon, but it actually worked. Walking to my car feeling a tad light-headed and wobbly legged, I thought about how different that class would have been without the direction from the instructor and the excitement from others around me. I’m a fan of finding metaphors in everyday life. This one is simple: spin class is hard, life is hard, don’t do either of them alone.
Encouragement comes in all shapes and forms – kind words, helpful actions… sticky notes on mirrors. A sincere compliment shouldn’t beg for reciprocity; it should just be. In many of my insecure moments, I found myself overcompensating. My words became watered down and my compliments lost their authenticity. If you don’t truly mean it, then don’t say it.
The same way we are open to giving encouragement; we should also be open to receiving it. I’ve noticed many people, myself included, tend to dismiss, deflect or minimize compliments.
“You’re incredibly smart.”
I just study a lot.
“I love your hair.”
Thanks, it’s so frizzy, though.
“You are beautiful.”
You should see me without makeup.
Don’t those responses make you cringe? I think about when I was a little girl, how unabashed and proud I was when I learned to tie my shoes. I was thrilled about this newfound skill and wanted to share it with the world. Somewhere along the way, we’ve blurred the lines between confidence and vanity. Don’t believe the myth that you can’t have one without the other. Self-confidence is a sense of certainty and assurance. Vanity is a disguise embedded in fear to mask our insecurities from the world.
When you receive a compliment, accept it gracefully with a simple “Thank You” and then, here’s the secret, thank your Creator. Recognize your strengths as God given gifts. Help others recognize their strength as well.
We were created to love fiercely and be loved. There’s something beautiful about a woman when she gracefully and humbly accepts encouragement, and gives it out just as much.
– image credit: Martin Miranda