How Do You Feel When Others Honor You?

The comments to How Do You Reply to a Thank You? made me think. (Thank you!!)

I realized that being in a position of honor might trigger emotions you (and I) might not feel ready for.

The first time someone told me how I had helped his career with one of my talks, I had these reactions:

  • OMG!!
  • I did that?
  • I wonder if I’m really that good. (Part of me thinks I am. Part of me does not. Go ahead, laugh. I do.)
  • I wonder if he is telling me this because he wants something from me.

I am sure I had more reactions. I’m trying to remember what I felt in the moment.

Part of what I felt was Imposter Syndrome, the feeling he would discover I was a fraud. How could I have done that? Who was I to do that?

These days, I try to have a more honest reaction when people honor me. When they give me all the credit for something they did, I often say something like this. “Thank you. I appreciate you for telling me how I helped you. I also suspect you implemented my advice/writing/whatever, so you deserve credit, too.”

This is all true. I do appreciate people for telling me. I also want them to appreciate themselves.

For a long time, I did not appreciate myself for all the great things I did. I appreciated other people: people who taught me, people who wrote books I read, people who provided me review on my writing, and more. Why could I appreciate them and not myself?

I suspect I had rules about how to express my gratitude about the other person’s appreciation. See Do Your Rules Prevent You From Solving Problems? for an example of perfection rules.

I can only speak for me. I had a fear of not being “perfect” in the future when someone gives me a compliment. Here’s how the rule used to work for me:

If I am this perfect now for this person, I must always be this perfect in the future.

Now, you and I both know this rule is impossible to live up to. Even if I am perfect in one context—as if any person could be perfect!—I cannot be perfect in all contexts.

Once I realized this, I modified the rule to this:

I can appear to be perfect sometimes in some contexts for some people.

Because these people are thanking me, I can acknowledge them on the outside, while accepting I am not perfect in many situations. I can assume I have been helpful and that is good enough.

This second addition to the rule helps me fulfill my rule, “Always acknowledge a thank you,” without being in a double bind. (The double bind is that the other person thinks I am perfect and I do not. Regardless of how I feel, I can acknowledge their feelings/feedback to me.)

Sometimes, I often feel as if someone thanks me/honors me for something they actually did. That is, I may have prompted them to think or act differently and they acted. Without their action, my prompt is not useful. My second sentence allows me to thank them with respect, and feel good about myself.

Every so often, I still feel uncomfortable with honor from other people. Less so, now. As I often say here, I am a work in progress. That’s because I’m growing and adapting all the time. I wish the same for you.

That, dear adaptable readers, is the question this week: How do you feel when others honor you?

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