I have been complimenting strangers for years: street passer-bys, drive through cashiers, fellow subway riders, the dude who services my car. Few have escaped my complimenting gaze, even those that pissed me off. In fact, I make a point of complimenting people who piss me off. Not all the time, but often. It’s amazing how the energy changes when a compliment enters the room.
It’s an interesting word ‘strangers’. Pre-compliment, a lot of people feel estranged from me, separate, sometimes even alien. But when a compliment enters the field, something happens. It’s like an invisible bridge forms between our hearts and we walk toward one another, meeting in our shared humanness. Seeing the ‘other’, attuning to the ‘other’, appreciating ‘the other’ makes the other less other. In Sanskrit ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ means ‘I am that, too’. I am that, too.
Compliments saved me as a child. I grew up in a difficult, diminishing environment. My parents were expert shamers, carrying forward the shame that they had internalized from their early lives. I took that shame to heart, imagining myself insignificant, worthless, unwelcome on mother earth. At the same time, I had wonderful, elevating grandparents, who reminded me of my value whenever they could. Those words landed within me, bolstering my sagging spirits, giving me a reason to believe in my value until I could escape my family prison. If not for them, I may not have made it out.
After I got out, my life was a mess, ruled by unresolved emotional issues. At the heart of it was a deep, dark well of self-hatred. Emptying that well took many years and many steps, but one of the things that helped me the most was the kindness of strangers. Their validating comments “you have beautiful eyes”, “you are an attractive person”, “you are so soulful”, “your energy is so infectious”, “your mind is so sharp” were like healing balms for my spirit. Every time they said something affirming, they reached into my wound space and dabbed my pain body with hope. I so needed it. I so needed to believe in my own value, and I didn’t yet have the tools to find that belief on my own. I had been wounded by humanity, and I needed humanity’s help to heal.
So many of us wander the planet overwhelmed with shame and self-doubt, beating ourselves up for our seeming imperfections, never recognizing our inherent magnificence and beauty. Our shame shackles weigh us down, and prevent us from owning and honoring our gifts and our callings. It is a tragic loss of life force and possibility. This self-diminishment is perpetuated by the ungrounded spirituality movement, which desacralizes the ego in its entirety in their own efforts to bypass their unresolved self-hood. But they are deeply misguided. In the words of Ram Dass, “you have to become something before you become nothing”. That is, you need to fully possess your own value and worth, before you can move onto the next stage of consciousness. It is essential to remember that there is a meaningful distinction between the healthy and the unhealthy ego. The healthy ego is essential to healthy functioning. The unhealthy ego undermines it. Our work is to find the sacred balance between unity consciousness and our own individual place in it; that is, to find our individual droplet of meaning in the vast ocean of essence. Finding our place demands that we value our voice, our contribution, our worth. Shame is not to be confused with Humility.
Last week, I wrote the following on my Facebook fan page:
“One day, I want to hire a team of compliment-ers, whose daily work is to wander the world complimenting others and reminding them of their worth. Given how much shame many of us carry, a daily reminder of our value can only be a good thing. I think I will call them the ‘Elevators’- souls heaven bent on elevating the spirits of humanity. I might just do this in Toronto this fall- a bunch of us can gather together on a weekend and wander the streets telling others that we see their light and inherent beauty. And we can film it and start a worldwide compliment movement. Sounds like a Go(o)d idea, don’t you think? How about we all do it in the same weekend, in different parts of the world. Shall we?”
Much to my surprise, I was overwhelmed with responses from around the world: https://www.facebook.com/SOULSHAPING/posts/10152743879100982 Emails have been pouring in since. People who want to create a day every year (and ultimately as part of every day!) where we gather and compliment others. In our homes, in our work environments, in coffee houses, at street corners, everywhere! And so we shall.
I have selected Sunday, November 16, 2014 for our first COMPLIMENT DAY. I will be gathering with other Complimenteers in Toronto at noon (location to be posted on my Fan page at www.facebook.com/soulshaping) to spend the afternoon validating and connecting with humanity. And I invite you do to the same- on a small or large scale, in your town or city, in your apartment complex, anywhere that serves you. If we can gather in groups, it will make an even bolder statement to the collective shame body. I also encourage you to film it, if you desire, and I will put the videos up on my Soulshaping channel on You tube (www.youtube.com/soulshaping) and, ultimately, on a Complimenteers website we will develop thereafter!
The compliments can come in any form, so long as they are sincere and connective: “You exude such great warmth”, “You have fantastic energy”, “You make me feel hopeful”, “You feel like someone who has a lot to offer” etc. And they can have a physical element to them, so long as they are not said in an objectifying manner: “You have beautiful hair”, “You have such soulful eyes”. Because many of us feel great disdain for our body temples and need to be reminded of their intrinsic beauty. And sometimes the compliment can simply be our presence, sitting down to connect with a fellow human, listening to their story, validating them by acknowledging the courage it took to get this far on their life journey. Anything that reminds others of their inherent value and worth is a compliment worth giving.
To be sure, we will be met with doubt and cynicism. And we may also have to confront our own triggers around expressing positivity, particularly if we did not receive many compliments growing up. But that’s all part of the healing. We can’t let that stop us.
While writing this blog, a man next to me let me know that he is saving the table between us for a friend. I said “no worries, and by the way, you have a fantastic smile”. He lit up like a Christmas tree, and then I told him that I am starting a compliments movement. He said “that’s a fantastic idea, because we don’t trust the compliment. We don’t know what to do with it because we have so much self-doubt”. And so it is- we are these magnificent God-seeds walking around riddled with self-hatred. What a tragedy! We need to make efforts, on every level, to combat and to heal the shame we all carry. We carry it alone, we carry it as a collective, and we need each other’s help to transform it into healthy self-regard.
So many live their lives feeling unloved, unseen, unrecognized, unappreciated. So very many. You may not know who they are because we are all conditioned to hide our truth below a bushel of shame. But they are everywhere. When you make an effort to share your love, you don’t always know where it will land. But be sure that it does. Sometimes it lights a torch for others to follow. Sometimes it gives them reason to believe that there is a better life waiting for them after a lifetime of disappointment. Sometimes it builds spirits and sometimes it actually saves lives. We just have to keep giving the love wherever and whenever we can. You never know how far it will travel.
Please join us on November 16! And check out and share the Facebook event link if you feel inspired to… https://www.facebook.com/events/275307632667734/