I have always had issues with my high cheek bones. It is the first thing I see when I smile, the only thing I see when taking selfies. As my weight increases, they seem to be soaking in most of the fat, and the more prominent they become. My friend Emily (RIP) told me many times how she loved my cheek bones from the first time we met in high school up to until her demise. Then a month ago I met a very beautiful woman in her 60s and she said, “you have gorgeous cheek bones”. Lord knows l felt a sense of awesomeness I will never forget. In as much as we proudly proclaim “I don’t need no validation from anyone”, we all know that women give others grief when they are not commended on various matters. They thrive better when told the dress they are wearing accentuates their lovely figure, the food they have served is scrumptious, the hairdo heightens their beauty and all other manner of flattery. There is nothing wrong with wanting ‘a littu’ validation every now and then. So unapologetically, sit down and enjoy being adorned with sweet words of approval. It does not diminish the “Beijing” in you when people tell you how lovely you look. Be modest and humble and say “thanks, I appreciate your kind words” and walk with a bounce.
I think it is annoying when people (I included) react to compliments with hostility followed by a meaningless lectures on something that was not told…”Wee!! excuse me. I don’t need you to tell me am beautiful or my dress looks good on me as if I don’t know. I was not wearing it for you…”. Or people who explain stuff… “Ghaaii, and the way this dress is cheap and old” or “my make up is not professional;y done haki”, or “the lipstick is that cheap one”.. Gademit!? Shut up and appreciate the compliment, blush and walk away with a smile woman!!!! Women learn to take a compliment!!! I am not innocent either… I have done the same many times I tell you. I do not even know where I learnt this bad behavior of not taking good words comfortably. But I do not mean the approaches of those ‘tu dudes” of facebook. The ones who, once you accept their friend request, they literary pounce on the double into your DM with declarations of love. The niggas don’t even know you but its like your accepting them as an FB friend means “umewanoki” (you find them attractive). Not this caliber. I mean the gentlemen, the cute ones (no PUN intended). Purposely accepting the sweet nothings given by someone that makes your heart throb when you see them. The man who got that face that makes your tongue suddenly go limp on you. The face that makes your eyes squint. By the way, we also react the same way to compliments from our fellow ladies. It is time we received these courtesy with grace and humility and respond with a simple “thank you”. I think the issue here is that complimenting has grossly been misused as a tool of manipulation. We associate it with wanting a favor or as we say it in Kenya, “kueka mtu box” (boxing someone).
In 2018, a Psychologist called Katherine Haweley Ph.D wrote an article about why people cannot accept a compliment. She starts by posing this question to the reader: “Do you find it hard to accept a compliment? Is your first reaction to think, “Wow, I didn’t realize they had such low standards!” “She’s only saying that to be nice,” or “He can’t be paying proper attention”? She calls this “The Impostor Syndrome”. She further states that: “Someone who suffers from impostor syndrome distrusts the evaluations, exams, and professional feedback which label her a success. She explains all this away, seeing those who praise her as either gullible fools or well-meaning liars, who can’t or won’t acknowledge her “real’ inadequacies. This painful frame of mind and the guilt of “getting away with it’ involves an inability to trust in the judgments of others, paradoxically combined with an over-confidence in her own low self-opinion.”
This actually sounds very familiar to me. As a person who has struggled with self esteem issues, I do recall very clearly doubting my exams feedback, especially from the year 2000. It was at the time when I was still struggling with the effects of being in a marriage with an abusive partner. I was scoring very well in the exams (I was pursuing a Diploma in Social Work at the time) and because of constantly being told how foolish and incapable I was for many years, I had began to believe I was a “good for nothing” person. When people told me I was pretty or beautiful, I would get angry and quickly deflect their compliments with some rude words because I never felt beautiful. When I joined the University of Nairobi for my undergraduate, I was still doubting my scores, telling myself that the lecturers were favoring me because I was the most talkative person in class. This went on into my post graduate examination scores even though I not a visible person in the class. We were too many in that class unlike in the Psychology class where we were about 30 in the class.
So when you find yourself reacting “kaundu funny” (somewhat strange) to complements, ask yourself if you have some issues with the following:- 1). Low self esteem, 2). A self image that does not line up with how you see yourself, 3). You are uncomfortable with big expectations , and or, 4). You want to be humble. Once you have dealt with your self esteem issues, you just might be able to accept compliments. I will do the same.
I leave you with an extract from The Songs of Solomon…. He complimented the woman in the most romantic and adoring way like no other man ever will…..
Solomon to His Bride
8 If you do not know,
O most beautiful among women,
follow in the tracks of the flock,
and pasture your young goats
beside the shepherds’ tents.
9 I compare you, my love,
to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.
10 Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
your neck with strings of jewels.