I keep a compliment box. Since last year, I have written down every single nice thing anyone has said to me. I have a few rules.
– I can’t keep more than 3 from any one person.
– They have to be based on an inner quality or achievement. No surface placations like “nice hair”.
– Name, date, and situation are written down too.
– Read them all again, at least once a month.
I will claim that I have, on occasion, used this practice to emotionally “rescue myself” from a terrible day. Some of them are just sweet sentiments. Some of them are so powerful and evocative that I am reminded of the tremendous ways I have helped people out and am sometimes brought to tears.
It’s in our nature to dwell on the negative. Perhaps I’ve said this before, but our genetic lineage is full of people who survived through worrying. Being in a state of agitation and alertness when danger surrounds you is beneficial. However, like how a chainsaw is a useful tool, but not something that you want to take to bed with you, our brains commonly mistake “a dangerous situation” with “that time someone said something mean/judgmental to me.” The genetic tripwire is misfired, and we are left with a mind that is magnetized to negativity.
I used to think keeping a compliment box was self serving, or delusional. Like somehow I was only seeing what I wanted to see. I soon realized, that I am always seeing what I want to see. The difference being when I fell asleep into my wandering mind, what I (apparently) wanted to see was always negative and ruminative.
As another added benefit, I am now more conscious of just how powerful and encouraging a well-placed compliment is. I try to really identify and communicate what someone has done, and how it helped myself and others. At work and with my friends, I have become compliment-centric, in a way that leads to growth and understanding, not just mutual back-patting.
I suggest the next time you find yourself complimented, write it down. Turn it into something physical, and let them pile up. Pretty soon, you’ll be looking at your own little treasure chest of joy.