That sounds ridiculous to say aloud, but it’s really hard for a lot of people. It’s hard for me.
There are a few reasons for that. One is that I’m from New York City, home of the “friendly fuck you” which is when a taxi almost hits you, and you curse the guy out, and he curses you out, but no one really sounds mean or scared, and you then sort of smile at each other, because you’ve engaged in one of the prime direct communication rituals of living in this city. The way people in and from other places communicate often freaks me out. How do I know it’s sincere?
Also, my childhood, like everyone else’s, was filled with bullies. I had a lot of conversations that went
“Where’d you get it, KMart?”
“No. No, I… my parents bought it for me.”
“You’re an idiot, why would you think we thought anything you would wear is nice?”
So between these two things, when people are nice to me, I tend to be very What is really going on here?
And it’s not just me. I hear from lots of other people who also have a hard time believing compliments, who are sure they’ve just fooled people into thinking they are competent and/or that every kindness they receive is part of some nefarious plan.
And, you know what? Let’s be fair. It could be. The girls who asked me where I got my sweater didn’t all grow up to become people who would never, ever do that. You may also know some people who praise your stuff even when it’s half-baked, not just to you, but to everyone else. I know those people too.
But really who cares?
Energy spent trying to detect people with nefarious plans and bad taste is energy — and time — spent not doing the thing.
It’s also a bit rude. How would people who are kind to you would feel good to know you think they are up to something or super gullible? Generally speaking, they probably wouldn’t be that into it.
And this is where trust comes in. When people are nice to you, trust them. And trust yourself to be able to navigate those occasional weird moments when you’re actually dealing with sweater-insulters and sycophants.
But don’t go looking for them. They probably don’t exist. And if they do, they aren’t worth your time, not because they’re terrible people (they’re not, they’re just struggling with their shit, just like you are struggling with yours), but because you’ve got to keep your head down and do your Thing, whether that’s for 15 minutes a day or 15 hours a day.
Trust yourself to go looking for people who want to support you and who you want to support. Trust yourself to go looking for people who understand that support doesn’t require unadulterated praise, and that constructive criticism provided in appropriate contexts isn’t betrayal. And trust yourself to think about yourself as a person who deserves a life filled with awesome people who inspire you to get crap done.
Also trust yourself not to be a criminal mastermind who is fooling everyone. Because seriously, that outlook is just weird.
Got trust issues? Want to confess your status as a secret criminal mastermind so that we can all tell you you’re not an imposter and you can go back to doing the awesome stuff you’ve already been doing?
We’re here for you. And if we mention it, we are really, truly, sincerely into your sweater. No matter where you bought it.