Taking Compliments with OCD

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…I mean I welcome them! Don’t get me wrong. Yeah, send them my way. Ok. All of my poor attempts at humor to the wayside, however, with my OCD I approach compliments with a wildly out of order methodology than your average person. It is not easy when even being liked is difficult.

I don’t find that I live that extraordinary of a life outside of a few things I do which I can quite honestly separate from that which is “me.” Thus, I communicate with people. Some of them like me, some don’t, and most people really don’t care one way or the other. Such is the human condition now that we’re up to 7.4 billion of us.

I take a lot of heat at my work, and I get a very good slice of the pie which is humility and general problems. I’d say that while most people know my work has extreme value, I spend a lot of time dealing with things people do not like about me. So that exists and we’ll put that to the side for now.

Getting to the point: I get compliments from time to time. I am human. I have good qualities, and every now and then those are communicated to me. For most people they go one of two ways with compliments: they embrace them as nice enough, may return the favor, and go on with life. Others revel in compliments, never having enough.

They scare the hell out of me.

I take them, but inside I do not like when they happen. I wish I did, but I do not. At all. This is beyond modesty (something I actually am not.) No, this is a mental anguish I keep to myself when complimented. I cannot process them, because to me they come with so much weight.

We’re not necessarily talking about someone thinking my hair looks good (it doesn’t1.) or surface-level niceties. Those I can get beyond by just ignoring them. No, rather I am talking about compliments that go deep into who I am. Let’s say someone likes my art, or my music, or this here that I am writing. You could literally be liking what you’re reading right now2.

If these things are expressed I am flooded with an assembly of very difficult-to-deal-with thoughts.

I first feel completely unworthy. I know what goes into making the sausage, I know the limits of my talent. I feel most of the creative work I’ve done has been through faking it—as I am not trained at all in any of it. This may come from a deep-seeded attitude that one must be trained properly in something to excel at it. And when I paint, I just friggin’ paint. I certainly understand how to convey thoughts in an abstract positioning of, well, paint. But I don’t know a lick of art history. I feel like a fraud. One of my brains tells me there is nothing wrong with this lack of knowledge, and art is all in the eye of the beholder. But the other half can’t take it. I am gathering in a compliment I should not be.

I secondly feel guilt. I feel guilty a lot. I’ve heard that I’m a good person on a few levels. I’ve heard the opposite too, but again—not the subject here. How is the hell someone who is as self-absorbed as me a good person? How is someone whose mental disorders are overtaking a good percentage of his being a good person? How is this ok, and then someone has taken the time to like me? That makes no sense. I only half like me, and I am me. I don’t hate me, I just… well, let’s just say I’m not my own first pick3.

So a lot of this boils down to the knowledge that if I receive a compliment, I am receiving one based on who I am to this person. No matter how close the person is to me, they can never be in my head. I’m pretty damn open and honest, but let’s face it… I have a mental disorder that requires me to practice in façade. So, what are they complimenting? Are they complimenting the façade? If that is the case—I have rather messed up. I have caused a person to like a lie.

Or so I fear. I know this is not rational, I am not a liar in the true sense of the word. I am just so hyperaware of faces that I have to put on as someone with a mental disorder, that a compliment has to be measured through the colors that glass lets through and does not let through. Again, my simplistic brain just thinks “lie.” And to be complimented for a lie is the worst feeling for a non-sociopath. (I am, by the way, not a sociopath4.)

So now a compliment to me becomes an issue of morality. Is it moral for me to take a compliment when I cannot be fully honest with every single person I meet? I mean, I am not. I do not tell everyone of my past lives, my faults. Most people do not know the naked me, as most people do not know the naked you. But to me, I am so aware of this that compliments make me instantly shy. I messed up. I am living a lie and got someone to buy into it. Crap. Lying is not good—the whole “having to make up twenty more lies” and the like.

I am not a liar, I just wear figurative clothing as we all do. But I have not come to terms with the concept of clothing oneself. I don’t quite understand why I need to act differently around different people, but I know I do. You do too, it is human. But I cannot process this like I cannot process most social structures.

Thus a compliment brings me to my knees.

Yet here I am wondering what people will think of this very article. And you know what I would like people to think. Thus… this is all messed up. This is all messy. This completely triggers my OCD. I’d feel most comfortable if I look at my inbox and see no real big response to this article.

Luckily in the virtual world, I have a folder in my email client where I can just stow away compliments.


1 It does, actually. And I’m going with a new look too. Moving on.  [BACK]

2 I sort of assume if you’ve gotten this far, you do and don’t mind the verbosity.  [BACK]

3 Who is? Probably George Harrison.  [BACK]

4 Yes, I am aware that a sociopath literally cannot say that honestly. You’ll have to trust me. I’ve dealt with sociopaths.  [BACK]