Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Difficulty I have Accepting Compliments

I receive so much positive feedback for my blog posts. I am referred to as inspirational, or courageous, or any number of similar accolades.

Of course this buoys my mood, and it motivates me to keep writing. We humans are programmed to welcome, even crave compliments. So please allow me to say a big THANK YOU to all my readers for your support! It means a great deal to me.

But I feel a little bit guilty. I inherited my resilience from my mother. It was an advantage of birth similar to when people inherit intelligence, athleticism, or good looks. In addition to my genetic advantages, I am fortunate in so many other ways. Here are just a few:
I’m a white male in America (three advantages in one)
I have an incredibly supportive wife, family, and friends (apparently advantages come in threes)
I have a certain amount of financial security (at least until the next market crash)
I don’t suffer from depression (am I crazy not to?)
I suppose I have been a good steward of these gifts, and that’s something. I’ve made the effort to share my experiences. I could have kept this all to myself, but I didn’t. I hereby accept any and all praise for being forthright.

But there are so many people who wake up every day and battle against incredible odds, and they don’t get the recognition that I get. I don’t believe I’m any more worthy of this praise than people who are having a rougher time than me, people who don’t enjoy the advantages I do, or people who can’t describe their lives in a positive and inspirational way because they are miserable.

I’d like to giftwrap the complement “you are such an inspiration” that I received in an email last week and deliver it to the person with MS who gives her best every day even though her husband just left her because he “can’t take it anymore.” I’d like to regift the “you’re a remarkable person” comment that I received at my blog and send it off to the cancer patient who is trying to make the critical decision about whether or not to continue treatment.

Since these exchanges are not possible, here’s the deal I propose. I’ll continue to welcome your compliments with appreciation and humility, and I’ll maintain my positive message. In return, we must all recognize those disadvantaged people who are not able to live a contented life – those people who are scratching and clawing just to survive. To me, those are the real, silent heroes.

Now, here is the question of the day for all of you armchair psychiatrists. Did I write this post for purely altruistic reasons, or am I subconsciously craving even more positive feedback along the lines of “No, Mitch, you really do deserve to be admired. Don’t sell yourself short.”

I wish I knew the answer.


  1. Mitch,
    Yes, your attitude is extraordinary. You are able to express contentment regardless of the constant losses from MS. It is a gift you have, and your support system is intact and strong.
    So, you do deserve your accolades and you do inspire many who have no other positive support.
    But, you speak truth when you tell of the many who are ignored, exiled, rejected, betrayed and alone. Too many who no one will ever reach out to or know that they even exist. I saw it happen.

  2. this post in particular. for recognising and giving a shout out to those of us who struggle to see the light in every day.

  3. "I suppose I have been a good steward of these gifts."

    This is where you stopped me today. I believe that I have many of those same gifts and if I have worked to keep them, if I have given them a way to thrive, indeed, if I "deserve" them, then so do we all. For gifts they are. I know so many without the ability to bounce back up, who struggle daily with self-doubt, feelings of negativity and a a general all-around inability to enjoy life. I can think of one in particular whose battles with depression always made me wonder if I could have waged that war over and over and over. There is a nobility in someone who is determined to have a good life despite such encumbrances. Certainly that is "deserving" of our praise too.

    In the end, we are all learning our own lessons and it is those individual journeys and being able to love that are the two things that really count.

    You and I, my friend, are lucky, lucky, lucky.

  4. I think your positive attitude toward this crummy disease gives others the courage to continue the journey. It's not like the messages from those magazines -- "Look at Suzie Q climbing the mountain!" or "Jack Sprat just completed his fifth triathlon!" Those articles are frustrating. However, when we see someone like you who is wheelchair bound, but still showing a great spirit, it encourages us. So, yes, you do deserve the kudos, and no, you're not just fishing for more!

  5. Mitch, I'm not so sure that resilience is an inherited trait. I think it's a learned behavior, a muscle that you have to keep exercising. Certainly you learned it from your mother. And MS gives that muscle a real workout! I know what you mean about wanting to regift compliments. I just keep trying to pay it forward.

  6. You are good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it...People like you! Jen johnson

  7. Hilda, you so eloquently describe the people I'm trying to recognize: "ignored, exiled, rejected, betrayed and alone." They get very little love from us because they don't meet our ideal of how people should cope.

    Stephen, your recognition is long overdue.

    Daphne, well said! We are indeed lucky, lucky, lucky.

    Muffie, I hope that you're right. I hope that my attitude encourages others, even though I'm not climbing mountains (shhh, here's a secret. I never did.)

    Lisa, it's the classic nature versus nurture argument. Was I born resilient, or did I become resilient? I think it's a little of both, at least in my case. In the blog post I did present it mostly as nature, but you make a good point. Just because you have a gift at birth doesn't mean you don't need to foster it.

    Jen, that's more like it! As the great Sally Field once said, "You like me. Right now, you like me!" And it does feel good.

  8. Mitch,
    I must admit -- your posts do encourage me to "keep on, keepin' on"
    You really know how to put it out there and make a connection with us that the 'normal' world can't even begin to comprehend. Thanks for that.
    You're like "a safe place to go".
    Now -- enough of the warm and fuzzies -- Back to STALKING!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Dee, I'm glad that you find this a safe place to go. I've never thought of it that way, but I like it!

  10. I don't sense any altruistic agenda here.....I think you are a person who likes "balance" in every part of life, and you work toward it.