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How My Anxiety Responds When I Receive a Compliment

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Hey, you again…

Yes, you…. and I, the high-functioning anxious perfectionist.

When others say, “Thank you for always putting 110 percent into everything you do,” Do you know what my boogeyman says?

“I better keep putting 110 percent into everything I do, even when I’m tired. Even when I don’t want to. Even when I can’t. You see 110 percent because that’s exactly what I want you to see. I better work even harder so you don’t see me fail at the impossible — 110 percent doesn’t even exist.”

They say, “You are like the Energizer Bunny — you keep going and going! You never seem to stop working.”

Responds the boogeyman:

“Don’t ever stop. They’ll notice. No time for weakness. While you’re at it, do it with a smile. Make it seem effortless.”

The boogeyman “one-ups” every single compliment others have and makes it sound scary, intimidating and something more to accomplish.

And that’s nothing compared to the wrath of the boogeyman when someone compliments our character.

A simple compliment can send my boogeyman and I reeling on a trip to Hell and back.

Them: Casual compliment.

Me: *Squirming* Maybe I’ll just be honest? Tell them how I really feel. I’m going to out you, boogeyman.

Boogeyman: They’ll see. Do you want that? They’ll know. You’ll blow our cover. They’ll keep complimenting you. Or worse… they’ll call you out on your deflection.

Me: OK. *Long pause* Let’s say “thank you.” That’s the expected polite response.

Boogeyman: You’ll look arrogant. A perfect person is perfectly humble. There’s nothing worse than arrogance. P.S. You perhaps really are arrogant.

Me: No win. *Stays silent and turns red. Squeaks out a “thank you” at the last minute.*

Them: That was awkward.

Funny thing? I still need to hear them. I need to hear that I’m doing a good job, I’m working hard, I’m a good person; that I’m not a complete mess. Just not to my face, where I can watch them watch me squirm.

I’m too aware for that interactive social perspective Hell. But, if they write to me and I read their sincerity… I’ll read it over and over and over.

I’ll use it as a weapon against the boogeyman.

I’ll fight back, but on my own time, in my own space… from the closet, with the door creaked open.

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Thinkstock photo via Camrocker

Originally published: August 20, 2017
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