How Taking a Compliment Can Change Lives

Jonita Davis
8 min readApr 27, 2022

One of the things I decided when I turned 40 is that I would learn how to take a compliment. I’m serious. My neurodivergence makes this simple act a mountain of a task for a few reasons. All of those reasons have nothing to do with the compliment giver or the compliment given. So if I never gave you the response you expected for a compliment that you gave me in the past…it’s not you, it’s me.

***Trigger Warning****

This one got a LOT darker than I intended. But I think it’s needed. Trigger warning for abuse, scarring, and talks of just dealing with some dark sh*t.

Compliments Can Be Painful…I’m Not Kidding.

Something that you all must understand is that the trouble started long ago. Most neurodivergents grew up in survival mode. We lived in spaces that were not comfortable and that did not give us a feeling of safety. Many of us also lived with people who believed that we should be forced to disavow our tendencies in order to be “normal”. Others, ones we saw as “the lucky ones” were ignored and dismissed. They were also allowed to be themselves but were labeled with the monikers of “crazy,” “weird,” or “you know how THAT one is”. This was all very traumatic and left scars in all of us.

Creating a Hideout for the Soul

So, to prevent further scarring, to endure through such traumatic spaces, we constructed barriers between ourselves and the world. We put newspapers on all the windows of our hearts after nailing them shut. The world outside couldn’t scar us anymore if they couldn’t get in. On the outside, these barriers took the form of rage and hostility, violence for some. Others adopted a cold, uncaring demeanor. My crowd, we became people pleasers. If we formed ourselves into everything YOU needed in a sibling, friend, coworker, spouse, teacher, etc., then you would have no reason to hurt us, right?

We were very wrong, but that’s a post for another day. Anyway, the masque of the perfect [insert role here] was also a barrier. We dove deep behind these and so many other coping mechanisms. We found safety in self-deprecating humor, in hugging the walls, and in blending in with the shadows. Anything to hide the real people that we are inside. Too many of us have stories of abuse, so the attention also meant pain. But, they can’t hurt what they can’t see, or so we believed.

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Jonita Davis

Jonita Davis is a writer, film critic, and professor. She’s a member of NABJ, AAFCA, a Rotten Tomatoes critic, author, DetourXP Columnist.