I was making my way through the airport with my friend Meg Johnson a few months ago, returning home from an event we both performed at in New Mexico, when she stopped a stylish older woman wearing a scarf and carrying matching bags, and said, "You look so darling!" The woman looked at my beautiful friend who was glowing with authenticity, and put her hand over heart.
"Why, thank you!" she said, and turned away, a smile still on her face. Meg continued to do this the entire length of the hallway, as I stumbled along beside her, in awe of her complete genuine and unabashed way of making others feel instantly happy.
"Meg," I said, as we slowed to stop by our gate. "You are so good at that. So many times I think those same things as I pass others, but I rarely feel brave enough to say them out loud."
"You should try it," she said, grinning. "It would really mean so much to others."
Since then, I have made a conscious effort to speak words of encouragement, praise, and positivity when they come to mind. Sometimes people are taken aback and perhaps feel a little self-conscious by me stopping them in the carpool lines at school or in the hallway at church, but I have found that the act of giving someone a compliment is always worth any awkward feelings on my part. I even rolled down my window to yell at a woman wheeling her grocery cart up the parking lot to tell her how stunning she looked that day. Her hair, sundress and sunglasses looked so put together, and I thought "Wow, she looks like she could be going to a magazine shoot!" — so I told her that.
Receiving a compliment changes my day and makes me feel like my Heavenly Father is aware of me, through sweet messages from other people. God is love, and when we spread that around, we can't help but feel closer to Him.
Professor Norihiro Sadato, professor at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan and who has studied the impact of compliments,said thisabout receiving praise:
"To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money. We've been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise. Complimenting someone could become an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during rehabilitation."
Several celebrities were interviewed for People magazineabout the most beautiful compliment they had ever received, and as I went down the list, I was surprised to discover most of them did not mention receiving praise for their looks, capabilities, talents, or personalities. The compliments they were most proud of had to do with either their children, or the efforts they were making as mothers. These were some of my favorite ones:
"If someone tells me there is something special about my kids, that is the nicest thing they can say to me." — Jennifer Garner
"I'm always really touched when my mother tells me that I'm a good mother. She knows that I really value her opinion and that a big part of my self-worth comes from how I feel as a parent on any given day. She did such a great job raising my brother and me with a lot of love and a great sense of humor. Her compliment holds a lot of value in my life." — Reese Witherspoon
"I think the most beautiful thing anybody has ever said to me was my littlest daughter Beatrix. It was right before bed and she just grabbed my face and said 'You're my most specialist friend in the whole world.'" — Jodie Sweetin
One of the sweetest compliments I have received was from my grandma. It was after a long day of mental battling, wondering how I could possibly live up to all the imagined expectations of perfected motherhood and establishing a successful career at the same time.
I was emotional and exhausted, and she simply said, "You have done enough." That meant the world to me. Someone I loved, who loved me and knew me, gave me permission to stop trying to prove myself, and to just be proud of what I had accomplished, and who I was.
Being praised for our accomplishments is nice, being recognized for our efforts is better, but being told we're enough from someone we love is the most beautiful compliment I can think of.
Thank you Meg, Grandma and everyone else who makes it their mission to bring light and kindness to others. You are making a beautiful difference.