In 1989, I went skiing in California with my boyfriend (now husband), Paul. We got to the ski lift and the operator looked at me and commented on how much she liked my jacket and we chatted for a moment. I didn't give the conversation a second thought.
Paul and I got on the chairlift and halfway up he turned and said to me, "how rude was that girl? She obviously doesn't like your jacket."
I was so genuinely surprised that it took me a moment to realise that we were experiencing a cultural difference.
There are obvious cultural differences between Australia and America and then there are those that are more subtle.
When I moved to Australia in 1993 I learned that people were more likely to think you were "taking the Mickey out of them" rather then giving them a genuine compliment. It took some getting used to. At first I was completely perplexed by this. In California, where I grew up, compliments are given and accepted rather easily.
The Australian and American senses of humour are two completely different things. Australians are incredibly funny with a quick wit and I find that they have the best humour. Sarcasm is everpresent, whereas Americans tend to be a little more serious. I think this undercurrent of sarcasm makes it difficult for Australians to accept a compliment - though it's changing with time.
Over the years I have noticed that our two cultures have become more integrated. When friends visit from the States or Paul and his friends travel to the U.S. there is a genuine warmth as the cultures blend. Humour is an amazing and incredibly liberating gift.
I have been teaching meditation in Australia for 12 years and I've noticed that people struggle to give themselves a pat on the back. All kinds of people from CEOs to hairdressers attend my classes -- and most of them can't acknowledge to themselves when they've done something well.
So how can we learn to accept compliments and give ourselves a pat on the back?
Start by being more gentle with yourself in words, deeds, thoughts and actions. Everyone of us has berated and criticised ourselves. If you find it difficult to receive and accept a compliment I hope that this simple understanding below will help you:
- We are all trying our best;
- There are wonderful gifts inside each and everyone of us and it is up to us to accept them;
- It is OK to acknowledge when we have done something wel. It doesn't mean we're being egotistical;
- Take pleasure in the quiet acceptance in your own heart and mind that you have accomplished something well.