That is a quote from one of my favourite books of all time. When I read those words, it blew my mind. The protagonist is offered a genuine compliment and a milkshake, both of which she refuses. I’ve been on either side of this situation. Given ‘milkshakes’ that are rejected and rejected my fair share of ‘milkshakes.’ We all have. Have you ever taken the compliment and resisted highlighting your flaws? “Drink the milkshake.” Seems pretty simple. But if you’re my generation or older and a woman, it’s likely that these rules are a challenge.
My upbringing, culture, gender, friends, in tandem with inborn personality traits, resulted in the habit of self-deprecation. Bragging is bad. Compliments need to be dismissed as quickly as possible. Always bring attention to your flaws before anyone mentions them. It may be a style of humour, but the long-term effects, are deeply damaging, and the reason is simple. When you put yourself down, you believe it.
It’s tough to make healthy choices when you call yourself unworthy all day long, even when ‘joking.’ Just imagine speaking to your child that way and expecting them to thrive.
When I contemplated the concept of ‘drinking the milkshake’ many years ago, I decided to make a conscious effort to take compliments, never call my body names (at least out loud), and celebrate the positives. It still feels uncomfortable. But I remind myself that someone is giving me a gift, and I’m allowed to take it in. In fact, it would be rude not to; it’s a gift. I’m allowed to feel worthy. I am worthy, and so are you.
I see the pattern all the time in my friends and patients. I’ve met the most brilliant, funny, supportive, and thoughtful women. I just love being in their presence. I never think, “I wish they were a little thinner.” But the conversation is always peppered with the self-deprecating talk “I’m so fat,” “Did you see this zit,” “My accomplishments are no big deal,” “I’m a terrible mom.” I understand it is a safe space to voice insecurities, but it breaks my heart that they talk about themselves this way. Any compliment is shot down as swiftly as possible, and no acknowledgment of their shiny brilliance.
I recently read a study from 2003 by Dunning & Ehilinger, which focused on women’s preconceived notions of their abilities. It showed women repeatedly marking their performance down when asked how well they thought they had done on a test. Women all underestimated themselves and assessed their achievements lower than they actually performed.
Ugh. That’s not okay. I don’t need to highlight how this trickles down in society. But we can do better.
While we can express our frustrations, consistently putting ourselves down through self-deprecating humour is not healthy to cope with negativity. Instead, we all must think critically about why we say such negative things about ourselves. Only then can we move on from past failures and unhealthy coping mechanisms to create healthier behaviours.
How do we do this?
1) Speak to yourself as though you were a friend. Listen if there is something that is concerning you and give yourself compassion and kindness.
2) Stop comparing yourself to others.
3) Stop comparing yourself to you 10 years ago.
4) Be proud of your mistakes because you took a risk, and you learned something.
5) Forgive yourself when you are self-deprecating or reject compliments. New habits are hard and uncomfortable.
I’m probably never going to be someone who toots my own horn. I still shoot down compliments. When good things happen to me, my first thought is ‘I don’t deserve it’. Putting myself out there on social media is often a nightmare, and the urge to take things offline or apologize for a mistake or the way I look is so intense sometimes. It is a work in progress. But I know how these put-downs affect my health, and I’m committed to treating myself kindly.
Wanna join me?
I have always wanted to be a naturopathic doctor even before I knew this career existed. As a kid, I loved learning about the power of healing. I talked at length with family and friends about vitamins and minerals and, because I grew up with social worker parents, I was also passionate about mental health.
Like so many others, I ignored my heart and followed another career path. But I was miserable and lost. I worked as a flight attendant for a few years and, while traveling the world, decided to be a doctor.
Unfortunately, my personal life took an unexpected turn: I got sick, divorced, and depressed. All three, while connected, were also a painful eye-opening gift. I needed to prioritize my health and decided that I had no choice but to go back to school and become a naturopathic doctor.
It was not easy. I worked full time while in medical school and had a baby in my third year just to keep things interesting. But it was who I was meant to be and I never looked back. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping others become who they are meant to be. As E.E. Cummings stated, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”.
Dr. Jen is a licensed naturopathic doctor. The content of her videos are intended for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to substituted for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Please consult your physician or qualified naturopathic doctor for medical advice.