A Compliment, A Cookie, and Dolly Parton

One of my supervisors has this belief that when you think positive thoughts about a person it’s selfish if you don’t share it.  To some extent I was already doing this, but there are definitely times when I hold back because I fear coming off as super creepy or like I’m flirting.

In the mental health field, I am often reminded how fragile we can be (likewise, how strong we can be).  I’ve also noticed that it is so rare to find people that care enough for humanity in general to stop and acknowledge that though you may be killin’ it in life right now, the person in front of you waiting for their latte may be going through hell. And you have so much power to change their day.  You may be thinking, “hmm, I like those shoes. I should google those,” or “I really like that hair cut” and you may think that’s so insignifcant but maybe to that person it isn’t.

SOAPBOX DETOUR: I’ve noticed over the past several months, here in Atlanta, that whenever I’m in the grocery store I see at least one person, if not more, wearing headphones while they shop. And I mean like Beats headphones too… these people are not talking to their sick grandmothers while they pick up her chicken noodle soup, they are definitely listening to music.  I’m a music fanatic and I just can’t understand this. I really feel like they want to be that disengaged from other people (which is any person’s right, respectively), like they’re nervous you may ask them to hand you a box of cereal because they are taller or closer. And it doesn’t matter how tall a person is, if they’re wearing Beats, you’ll probably just stand on the lowest shelf and use your middle finger to inch the box towards the edge until it successfully hits you in the head. END SOAPBOX.

There are so many people out there who struggle with their self-worth or don’t feel loved or appreciated and sometimes just acknowledging that you can actually SEE them could change their attitude at least for the rest of the day, if not longer.


So several weeks ago, I was having one of those super bad days. Ya know like: hadn’t slept > traffic was insane so I was late to work >  work was abnormally crazy >  left an assignment at home that I needed for school > went home to get the assignment, got a speeding ticket > blah blah blah. And coffee being one of my greatest pleasures, I decided, I NEED A COFFEE! So I stop at the Dancing Goats by my house. I’m seriously fighting back tears, and then decide a coffee just won’t cut it because this place sells gluten free cookies (PSA! and you’re welcome) so I add one to my order and eat it immediately.

Then this thing began to happen that often happens with clients in session  all human beings, we call it “catastrophizing.” It looks like this: This day is THE WORST… OMG did you seriously just eat that whole cookie before he handed you your coffee? That definitely won’t help you lose those 6 pounds, which is probably why you are still single, you know better than to eat your feelings, no man will ever love you, too bad you’re too poor to rescue that boxer from petfinder.com because you’ll definitely die alone.

We all do this and it’s so silly.

So as I make my way over to grab a coffee sleeve, I notice this lady leaving. She gets all the way to the door, then turns back around, and walks toward me. She approaches me and says, “Excuse me, hi, I just really wanted to tell you that I think you have the most beautiful hair.” Okay, so maybe I’m vain, but it totally changed what was left of my day. You know why? Because I was having a shitty day, and someone acknowledged my presence. This lady was at the door, had reached the exit, she didn’t have to turn around, she didn’t have to talk a stranger, but she was generous to give one minute of her time to share a kind word, and I was grateful. As someone who often struggles with a complex of being forgettable, just having another person acknowledge “Hey, I see you” really did make me feel less alone. I thanked her and when I got to my car I decided, “Hey you, enough of this Daughter album today. It’s time to put on your jam and turn this day around!” For those who don’t know, THE jam is “Islands in the Stream” by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.

The other great thing about this encounter is that because I decided in that moment to let go of my bad day, I stopped catastrophizing. And what could have easily been a pity party hangover the next day, instead sobbered up in that compliment. And the bigger picture is that there are people out there with much bigger problems than an upset boss and a speeding ticket. And you have the power- not to change their situation- but to shed a little light and love into their terrible time.  I encourage you to use that power. If a postiive thought about another person pops into your head, don’t be selfish, share it. And share it even if you have to motion for them to remove their Beats headphones just to tell them you like their shoes.

In the spirit of sharing, may this brighten your day, as it most certainly will mine:

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