Praise is the Hardest Thing to Accept

Well Done I read a lot of self-help books.

It's not a recent development as I approach year 30 of existing or as I grow more in touch with my depression and anxiety. Self-help books were the types of books that took up my bookshelves when I was a child. Well, that is, outside the large collection of Bibles in our house. If you stuck your hands between the couch cushions, you would not find coins, but either a miniature New Testament or The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are.

What I enjoy about self-help and personal development books is that they provide exercises that are meant to provide more insight to your character. I'm a quiet person; I don't enjoy talking about myself. But I LOVE writing about myself, hence me being a blogger. Hello, I am the man behind the curtain. Well, woman behind the curtain...shut up.

My current read is Wishcraft by Barbara Sher, which is a goal-setting book, and one of the exercises is broken up into two versions. One is for introverts, in which you pick four-to-five people or fictional characters that would be a part of your ideal family and write from their perspective any and all praise that they would have for you. [Insert role-play joke of your own here. I'm a classy lady, I'm not doing it.] The second version is more extroverted, in which you ask someone you trust to praise you for three minutes and you dictate everything that they say. They cannot be vague or introduce constructive criticism, and you can't say a single word or react. They praise; you listen.

I really didn't want to do the extroverted version. And there are tons of exercises and tricks in these books that require you to talk to another person. I would always skip those, focusing on the journaling aspects and listing my interests. My reason was that I didn't want to bother anybody. At least, that's the reason I gave. Truthfully, I was just frightened of what I would hear.

But last night, I broke out my phone and asked my husband if he would mind praising me for three whole minutes. He said, "Sure." Kevin was the perfect guy for this exercise, whether or not I was married to him. He is a positive guy, but he is also honest and will not bullshit you. I hit the record button and he started talking. I tried my best to just listen to what he has to say.

Here's the thing: I am aware of all the negative things about me. I'm awkward, anxious, and depressive my hair is falling out. I'd rather jump out a window than participate in small talk. I don't understand the craze around Orange is the New Black. I still don't know what "on fleek" means, and so much more for only $99.99. So listening to nothing but praise about myself was... it was an odd experience. There's a similar exercise in improv—the compliment circle—where you turn to the person next to you and compliment him or her. But you only give them one compliment, not a full three minutes of it. And I'm not a fan of showing sentiment in public because I can be super emotional. Even in the privacy of my own home, while my husband was saying nice things, I had to only half listen because I knew I would be a bawling mess.

Hearing someone else tell you how wonderful you are is something that is hard to believe. Sometimes, in the midst of depression, it feels like a lie. But it's moments like these when I look back at what friends, teachers, and several family members have said... and it's hard to imagine that they are all lying about the same thing.

Ugh, sentimental things! Here's a picture of a velociraptor! (The feathery velociraptor, not Jurassic Park velociraptor.)


KC Ryan is currently a Level 5 student at DCH. An office worker by day, she spends her nights writing, improvising, recording podcasts, and having existential crises. She’s a co-host of Parsec Award-nominated podcast Anomaly Supplemental about general sci-fi and fantasy topics. Her greatest achievement so far is convincing her husband to watch Project Runway.

(Bottom image: Dorling Kindersley Limited)