**NB I wrote this post last week, so apologies if it seems out of sync - it is!
I have a lot of notebooks. The majority of them are pretty pink moleskins, preferably not ruled. (The lines tend to be too close together, plus they are futile - I have mastered the art of writing in a straight line). They each have a function... a food diary, a shopping list, inspirational quotes, money I owe my mother, story/blog ideas, to-do lists... you get the picture.
So, this week, I bought a new notebook. And I have entitled it "compliments".
That's right, a notebook dedicated solely to documenting the compliments I receive. Does this sound a little vain and vapid? That's okay - it was my first reaction, too. I laughed at my own silliness and pushed it out of my mind.
I've had a change of heart, though. It all started a few Mondays ago, when I received an email from my favourite writer/blogger in the whole world. I'm sure you can guess who she is - it's not exactly a secret. She gave me the gift of some kind, encouraging words and told me that she "REALLY liked" this blog (her caps, not mine, by the way). Naturally, I was over the moon. I could not wipe the smile off my face.
Fast-forward to this week. The elation of the email had faded into nothing. I'd woken up at 5 o'clock every morning to go the gym for the last three days and, because I was so tired, was continually falling asleep in my lectures. (I hadn't actually fallen asleep, but you know... drifting off and feeling your eyes closing before you snap back to attention, only to find yourself drifting off again... It's disconcerting.) I was getting ready to go to a dinner and I was feeling fretful and insecure. I wanted to appear vivacious and charming to the people I would be with but all I could think was how boring and unsightly I was. I was not in a good place.
As fate would have it, just as I was reaching the depths of my despair, my iPhone miraculously opened Sarah's email. (My carelessness with it - I tend to throw it around, and never lock the touch screen - probably had more say than fate, but we'll pretend for now). When I read it again, the delight I felt reached the same epic proportions that it had that very first time. I lived out the night in a sweet disposition.
So I got to thinking. It's so lovely when we receive compliments, isn't it? Just one kind word, from a stranger or a friend, can have us waltzing along on Cloud Nine for days... Then, inevitably, life gets in the way of our euphoria. We fail at something. Somebody mutters something nasty about us under their breath. We glimpse an awfully unflattering picture of ourselves on Facebook, which everybody else we have ever met has already seen and, of course, ridiculed. A loved one makes a throwaway remark that has us questioning our value. Suddenly, everything falls apart and all the wonderful things about ourselves, which we know to be true, fade away and we are left with the deep, dark, tatty remnants.
That brings me to the age-old question... why do we do this to ourselves? I'm sure it's not just me. Most people I know, women especially, have that terrible habit of forgetting all the nice things people have said to them while, at the same time, steadfastly holding onto every piece criticism they have ever received and mulling it over in their minds for years to come, continuously undermining their own self-confidence and self-love. It has to stop!
I hope that my notebook idea doesn't seem so silly to you anymore. My rationale is that, if my conscience fails to hark back to my myriad of compliments in times of need, then, dammit, I will just have to do it myself. My compliments notebook will take the pride of place on my bedside table, ready to tackle any self-effacing moment that comes its way. I'd like to think that, one day, I won't need it anymore - that I will have been able to train my mind into preserving its own self-worth. But, for now, the notebook will do.
"Sometimes someone says something really small and it just fits right into this empty place in your heart."
— My So-Called Life