Under the rock

Emerson said:

Our strength grows out of our weaknesses. The indignation that arms itself with secret forces does not awaken until we are pricked and stung and sorely assailed. A great man is always willing to be little….When he is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he has been put on his wits, his manhood; he has gained facts; learns his ignorance; is cured of the insanity of his conceit; has got moderation and real skill. The wise man throws himself on the side of his assailants. It is more his interest than it is theirs to find his weaknesses…..Blame is safer than praise.

While privately I appreciate praise, publicly I abhor it. Written praise is preferable. Verbal praise makes me squirm, even panic. It is not a deafness, I hear the praise. It’s just that it makes me uncomfortable, embarrassed even. I, like Emerson, find blame safer than praise. The conundrum mystifies most people. And for every word spoken in praise, my internal critic counterbalances it with critical retort. A continuous balance must be maintained as it the planetary alignment requires the constant reconciliation. I am intolerant of praise. In medicine, we call it an idiosyncratic reaction. Give most people Bendryl and they get drowsy. For a rare few, the unpredictable occurs; they become wired and hyper, exhibiting the opposite of what is expected. Such is the case with me and praise. Praise makes me feel conspicuous and apologetic. I worry people think I fish for praise. I need and want praise but it’s best if delivered obliquely, obtusely and indirectly. Don’t put me on the spot. I need homeopathic doses of praise, minuscule doses most find too small to be significant. Give me a standard dose of praise and with genuine chagrin, I’ll ask you to stop. I’ll try to divert the encounter. Heap praise upon me and I want to crawl under a rock. Seriously. I want to crawl out of my skin. I detest the spotlight. I loathe being singled out. I am not fearful of crowds. I could speak in front of a packed football arena….just don’t ask me to speak about myself. And unless you want to witness a full blown panic attack, NEVER, ever, ever make me sit still in front of a crowd while you speak words of praise. I cannot abide it. Can’t. It’s not mocked or feigned embarrassment. I am truly mortified.

Compliments and words of affirmation, for me, are best written. If they must be spoken, do it with the lights off.

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