Learn how to take the compliments

There’s a form of self-centeredness that is only embraced by those who have low self-worth, dignity, and esteem. I see the person I was before recovery in every person who does this. I see another shame based soul who was made to believe things about themselves that simply are not true.

The most common of these is that we are not enough, not good enough, not worthy of love and acceptance. For as simple and untrue as these lessons are, their effects are pervasive and insidious.

They manifest in the belief that if something is wrong, then surely, we’re to blame. It’s what causes us to project our self-image and decide that others see us just as negatively as we do. It’s the invalid comparisons we make between how we feel and how everyone else appears to feel. (Everyone else is doing great and we alone are a mess).

It’s never our intention to deny others the right to their own opinion, nor to make decisions for them, yet that’s what we do when we decide we’re not worthy of their time, support or friendship.

I’d dearly love a dollar for all the times I’ve heard about the cliques and the cool kids and all the ways in which folks feel apart from when they yearn to be a part of.

I offer such folks a dissenting opinion. I share the things about them that I appreciate and admire. This is usually met with unbridled skepticism. We’re very good at deflecting and perpetuating our shame by saying alienating things like, “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me.”

I’m usually rebuffed with a simple, “You’re my counselor. You have to say nice things to me.” I laugh at this one. I remind folks that I get to claim my own truth, maintain my own integrity, and that they don’t pay me enough to lie. Moreover, I ask them to consider how terrifying it would be to discover that I’m right?

Because if I’m right, then there’s a lot of change and a lot of work ahead. Maintaining status quo feels easier, and in the short term, it is. The cost of maintaining it in the long term is that we don’t get to grow and heal and become.

That’s what recovery is – an ongoing process of becoming.

We know that abuse, neglect and traumatic experiences ingrained untruths and diminished our self-worth; yet we remain resistant (fearful) of change. That’s why we often fail to accept praise, recognition, validation, and affirmation. We subconsciously and impatiently reject anything that doesn’t match up to our vision of ourselves and we do this even though we know that our self-perception is distorted.

William Blake said, ““If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

I have never met someone who cleansed or expanded their perception without help from others.

Leonard Cohen improved on Blake’s sentiment by saying, “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Allowing others to share their experience, strength, and hope is the light that we most need. Allowing them to share their perception and belief in us, affords us opportunity to value and develop faith in ourselves.

Allowing healthy folks to be of service to us is life changing. Nobody ever really experiences success by wandering off to “find myself.” We need only be open to the idea that there are others who are very much like us, have been through many of the same experiences, and were taught many of the same false beliefs…

And they got better…which means we can too.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.