How to Take a Compliment

Don't trash the moment. Bask in it.
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I'm in the makeup room at CNN, getting mascaraed and blow dried by two hip young makeup artists. And I do mean artists: women who can paint on perfect Cleopatra eyeliner faster than you can say Wolf Blitzer; who can morph my frizzy hair into ready-for-my-closeup sleekness while simultaneously de-shining Piers Morgan.

Each of these women is her own amazing art project. One has an entrancingly shiny, swingy copper-hued bob; the other, a tiny, twinkling nose ring and elegantly pencilled brows. Style? they've got it in spades. I gawk.

We talk about the news stories I'm there to cover today, and I tell them I appreciate the attention they're lavishing on me, so that I will look presentable on Dr. Drew. I throw out that I'd be delighted if they made me look half as beautiful as them.

One looks at her sweet little face in the mirror, frowns and says, "ugh, I look like crap today." Another rolls her eyes, then looks down. "I have twenty-five pounds to lose before I can even look at myself."

Stop the airbrushing! Stop the flat ironing! Alert! Alert! We have just entered the can't-take-a-compliment zone. Please, ladies, can we evolve to a higher consciousness on this issue?

I can't stand it when women can't receive kudos properly. And in my humble opinion, that's about 95 percent of us. Most of us elect to find fault with ourselves when someone is sincerely pointing out something positive. Girlfriends, can we learn once and for all to absorb the loveliness of a compliment? Don't trash the moment. Bask in it.

This may take practice. Because knowing how to receive kind words is a skill you'll need throughout your life, and this weird habit of insulting ourselves when someone is praising us has got to stop. Now. (Especially if you're doing this in front of your daughter.)

Let's role play. I say: "You look beautiful today!"

Beginner Level: Acceptable response: Swallow the no-I-don'ts, the flaws list you're ready to rattle off, and say this and only this. "Thank you." Practice this in the mirror. You can do it. I know you can. "Great sweater!" "Thank you." "You been hitting the gym?" "Thank you." "Nice hair cut!" "Thank you."

That's it. No more. After "thank you," button it. I can't stop you from mentally putting yourself down, but please, don't verbalize it.

Because where does all this self-hatred come from? The multibillion dollar beauty-industrial complex, which programs you to feel ugly and deficient, constantly, so that you spend money you don't have for bogus "problems" they've created to profit off your insecurity. Like, say, for those new pills that will supposedly give you thicker eyelashes. Swallowing chemicals designed to grow thicker hair around my eyeballs? Can't imagine THAT having any weird side effects, right? No thanks, Big Pharma. Or Ped Eggs. Really? I will not be cheese-grating my feet today, tomorrow, or any day, sorry. I earned those callouses climbing mountains. They stay. (Can you imagine anyone trying to sell Ped Eggs to men? Hah! Men complain about shaving, for heaven's sakes.)

You don't need this garbage. (And when I'm not on TV, I go easy on the cosmetics, because life is short, makeup and hair and nails are time-consuming, and I would rather be reading a book or Tweeting. Apart from the expense, this stuff consumes our valuable time, time better spent thinking, dreaming, imagining, connecting with our world, as I advocate in my book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World.)

You don't need the self-deprecating attitude about your face, hair and body our culture drums into you. It doesn't serve you. Release it. You just need a girlfriend's genuine go-girl words praising one of your strong suits. When you're lucky enough to get a compliment, drink it up, because there are enough bad moments in life without your creating one when something kind is going down.

So let's move up to the intermediate compliment-receiving level. I notice a tattoo peeking out of your tank top. "New ink? Wow! Love it!" Give me a nice smile, taking in the compliment. "Hey! Thanks!" Gin up some authentic enthusiasm for this bit of girl-love that's been tossed your way.

Expert level: I say: "Oh my God, look at you! You are just glowing today!" Stop. Look in the mirror. See yourself through my eyes. See the beauty that I am seeing. Ignore the rest and focus on your best feature: radiant skin, bright eyes, that vintage scarf you wrap just so. I'm right! You are rocking it. Pimples or extra pounds or too small this or too big that -- whatever. Who cares? Be present in this moment. Let it feed your spirit. (Yes, I am a yogi.) Repeat to yourself the words of India.Arie: "What God gave me is just fine." Feel beautiful. Because you are, girl. In twenty years you'll look back at pictures of yourself today and see this. Why not choose to see it now?

And for extra credit: how about we compliment our girlfriends on something besides their appearance today? "I love how you handled your toddler. Whew! I wish I had your patience!" "Your report was so thorough. I learned a lot from reading it." "Great creative problem-solving. I really enjoy how you think outside the box." "You worked the graveyard shift AND you're still smiling? Damn girl, I don't know how you do it!"

This holiday season, let's give praise for our sisters' brains, efforts, compassion, sass, grace and verve.

Now that's beautiful.

For more tips on how to reclaim your brain from our appearance-obsessed culture, check out my new book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World,

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