I found a new Zumba class Saturday morning only 10 minutes away from my house. I’d been itching to find one ever since I ditched my expensive (but inclusive) gym membership in favor of the gloriously cheap Planet Fitness (which offers 0 classes). Luckily this new class is high-energy, fun, and even affordable. Woohoo!
At the end of the class, the instructor came over and kindly complimented my ability to follow along. (Look Mom, 12 years of dance lessons paid off!) You’d think “thank you” would be the polite reply, but instead I started spewing out all the excuses (“I’ve taken Zumba before” “You gave great cues” etc.), as if the compliment were an accusation.
It stuck with me on the drive home. A simple “thank you” would have been perfectly acceptable. And in retrospect, so much suaver. But in the moment it felt brash to accept the compliment. As if acknowledging prowess would be arrogant and alienating. Even Lindsay Lohan knows that’s dumb.
Okay, so Lindsay and I know that’s a crazy reaction to have, and hopefully not a common one. But maybe owning a compliment really can get you scorned.
Check out this BuzzFeed article about woman who started agreeing with the guys who complimented her via social media. They’d say “your pretty” (I assume they use the wrong “you’re”), she’d say “yes” or “I know, thank you”. Kind of a socially atypical response, true. But the responses from some of the guys were ridiculous. Many of them retracted their compliments while others resorted to really nasty name calling. Acknowledging your strengths (even the physical ones) does not make you a rude person, a bitch, or a “feminist cunt”. The originator of this experiment asserts that “for many men, beauty, coolness, [and] desirability are gifts they alone can bestow upon women. They get baffled, even aggressive when you show you’ve known you possess those things all along.”
The”humble-act” does seem to be a gender issue. My guess is that woman are more likely to deflect praise and that it’s due to experiencing an adverse reaction to confidence. It’s actually a pretty dumb cycle. Person A lacks the confidence to demonstrate confidence because she knows Person B lacks the confidence to accept Person A’s confidence. Follow?
Anyway, the good news is that this seems to be more of a perceived barrier than an actual one, especially for those of us new to adulthood. I for one hope to shake the compliment-dodge that once seemed like the right way to handle praise. If you want to give me props, why should I argue?
And by the way, I did rock that Zumba class.