And you better believe compliments from others were handed out about as often as candy was, too. My mother’s mother, the oldest child and daughter, had to drop out of school at eight-years-old to take over the household work when her mother was no longer able. Despite her early exit from schooling, it was no secret she valued education for others. But when she talked about my mother, did she boast about her being the first in their family to get a college degree as well as a master’s degree? (OK, she did spend time with a sister-in-law who often dropped news of “her son, the doctor” as often as possible.) No, whenever she talked about my mom, she would say, “All she ever did was read.” If you looked at her face, you knew she was bragging though she was trying to present the statement as if it were a complaint.
Oh, no, I come from a long line of people who downplay our abilities and accomplishments. That is so not the modern way, not even in casual interactions. Can’t even begin to tell you what my grandmother would have said about all those high school and college kids posting their grades on Facebook at the end of each semester. Even my peers would have stuffed me in a locker pronto if I had done stuff like that in high school.
Maybe it’s good that some things have changed over the years—there really is no need to hide everything you do well even if I still don’t think it’s very good manners to rub your successes in other peoples’ faces. Several decades past responding to people’s compliments with an explanation about why their statements are wrong, I’ve moved from protest to simple thank-yous.
On the other hand, I think my kids—part of the everyone-gets-a-trophy-generation—will say I’m still a little stingy with compliments. Even so, they know I value hard work and effort. Plus, by now they understand that when I give them praise, I mean every word.
But back to my own self-promotional words. I’m always working against my background when I need to write résumés, bios, cover letters, applications, etc. I can tell you what I did or do but have a really hard time telling you why I’m good at it, even when I know very well just why that is—and especially when I know why I’m particularly better at it than other people are.
Yeah I know—not exactly the moment for a normally wordy person to plummet her word count.
Speaking of word counts, I have exactly 300 words ahead of me—300 complimentary words about how well I do what I do, that is. This isn’t writer’s block I’m facing. No, it’s writer’s phobia. And the gospel truth is that I don’t do that sort of writing well—yet. Maybe if I pretend I’m writing a character analysis on the fictional hero of my story, I’ll forget my upbringing long enough to get my story into the kind of words my grandmother never would have said of me—despite secretly agreeing with every single word.