In times gone by, of all the things you could say to me, what do you think I would struggle with the most? Naturally people are thinking of something negative right? Well let me tell you, what I would struggle with most was probably a complement! Yep, I mean if you insulted me it might hurt, but I would know what to do with it. A complement however…. and I would get a little uneasy, or not believe you altogether.

Look I’m not an expert, all I have is my experience, but I’m guessing self-esteem plays a part in this?! Once upon a time, after a compliment, that voice in my head would be screaming ‘if only they knew‘… I guess it comes back to that constant feeling that people are gunna find out! Find out what?! I have no idea, but I lived with that fear. So when someone’s hitting me with a compliment I’d be thinking ‘god what if they found out the truth?!‘. See when you’ve been creating characters all your life to get by as the child of an alcoholic, being whoever you think they want you to be, it comes with a feeling of being a fraud. So maybe when you complimented me it felt like you were complementing the mask. So it was a lie to accept it. I just truly didn’t believe that I was worthy of anything, so accepting a compliment always felt like I was wrongly accepting an award for someone else!

And then there’s the response I’m supposed to give?!  Chuck me an insult, or something negative and I’m tough if I take it on the chin right?!

Well growing up there genuinely wasn’t a single negative thing that you could say that was anywhere near as bad as what I told myself, so insults did bounce off my chin in some ways, or maybe simply added fuel to a fire that was already raging. You couldn’t beat me any harder than I beat myself to put it more simply.But a compliment… well what was I supposed to do with that? And what did you want for it? 

Most of the time I would be arrogant with it, often over arrogant and big-headed, which normally lead to a negative feeling towards me which of course slipped me back into my comfort zone!

Thankfully today it’s changing. Having worked on my self-knowledge I’m able to accept this stuff and work on change. For a time it was tough. Compliments would still be followed by that feeling of awkwardness and uneasiness that would rifle through me, and I didn’t want to call on my old friend arrogance so I was just left with awkwardness and uneasiness and would often opt for the easy option of returning the same compliment…. which doesn’t always work! But now I’m much better. I’m learning that when you do nice things people say things. Not because they want something in return or because they are coming from a higher place but because they appreciate you and what you do. And as I write that, maybe that’s a lot of in a nutshell… as a COA I struggle with being appreciated. Fortunately I have a wife who is pretty amazing at making me feel appreciated, and that coupled with an openness and desire to grow and change means I’m learning to accept compliments with the same love of which they are offered!

Remember Nacoa is here for you if you feel like you have been affected by your parents drinking! And if you have something to say as the child of an alcoholic then get in touch.