Since my teens I’ve found it difficult to accept compliments. It’s hard to describe why.

I felt that in my pre-teens I had a cult-of-personality developed on my behalf. I was on top of the world and capable of anything and was told so. I was by no means a prodigy, but I was surprised by how I was consistently doing better than my peers in a school system that accepted the most able in the community. I was reasonably popular and had become accustomed to winning votes, favour, recognition and privilege (if missing classes to attend school councils can be considered privilege!). These kinds of things go to a child’s head. I had visions of grandeur.

I had a few knocks in my life that ensured that I could not rest assured of comfort and happiness. I was generally a happy child and, although I fared less well than most of my peers, I had a privileged enough existence. Yet I cannot blame these knocks for what changed my outlook on life.

It was a dream. I saw myself in the third person. Brash. Arrogant. Imposing. Still popular, but naive; I couldn’t see for myself the effects of my cockiness on others. In my nightmare, it resulted in someone else dying. My conscience is such that that outcome was worse than it might have been had I been murdered as a result of my deeds. It was truly a personalised nightmare.

I changed after that. Immeasurably so. I found compliments hard to accept. I rejected the praise of my achievements, my abilities and my character because they felt like they would contribute to the development of the bad aspects of my character.

But as I have found it difficult to receive compliments, so I’ve avoided giving compliments. There have been wonderful people that I’ve encountered, but I haven’t praised them as I should. In my mind, I felt, “If I don’t want to receive positive comments, why would I expect other people to want to receive them?” Furthermore, perhaps I’d be saving them from the same nightmare.

I’ve had to get better at receiving compliments. People have told me so! I’m getting better. I’ve also had to get better at giving compliments. But I’m still not perfect. I go for compliment-overkill sometimes. But in my mind, they are deserved and remain difficult to deliver. So if I compliment you, please believe it and cherish it!