Thoughts on: Compliments

| October 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

I abruptly stopped singing my rendition of ‘In My Dreams’ from the Broadway production of Anastasia, realizing I might be bothering the other passengers nearby.

‘Sing louder. Sing to everyone on this train.’

I thought my friend was being sarcastic. It wouldn’t be the first time. I smiled wanly at her and focused on the scenery outside the window. (There was no scenery, it was pitch black outside.)

It wasn’t until later, after a giggling group of girls had loudly sang old school Taylor Swift songs for the past twenty minutes, that I realized what my friend actually meant.

I covered my ears with my hands and whispered to her, ‘I am so sorry I was singing before.’

‘What are you talking about? I liked it when you sang. I wanted you to sing more.’


That’s when I first consciously noticed it.

I can’t take a fucking compliment.


I waited outside the room for the past seven or eight minutes. My fingers were quickly typing out a message to the grad student. Message sent.

‘Hey, wow, you’re here early!’ He said, walking up to me.

My lips twitch into a ghost of a smile. ‘I…I only got here, like, two minutes ago.’

‘I meant it as a compliment.’ He turned the key and we went inside.



I was filling out a form in the testing room when he returned.

‘I talked to the PI. She said your application for funding was really great!’

Liar                  Liar

                        Liar                              Liar


            L          i           A          r


            ‘Really? Thanks, that’s amazing!’ I smiled weakly.

Even when I respond, I can’t really take the fucking compliment.


I’m suspicious. I can’t help but think people don’t really mean what they say if they aren’t being brutally honest about it. Small pleasantries, the ‘Oh I love your shirt!’ comments— those are fine. Quick, to the point, don’t need to think about it too much. It’s just a shirt.

But when we get to the ‘You look so nice today!’ or ‘I loved reading your story’ type of stuff, that’s when it gets personal. Whatever they’re saying, no matter how small, feels too excessive and I can’t help but disbelieve. It’s about me. My looks, my skills, my choices. And at that point, any leftover residues of uncontained cynicism burst out into my mind and I can only smile…wanly.

It’s why I try very hard to tell the truth. If I don’t mean what I say, I try not to say it. If I don’t trust anyone else’s words, then I can only try to trust my own.

It’s a habit I’m trying to get rid of.

Slowly, first, by recognizing my own pessimism. Try to trust that people mean what they say. They aren’t saying it just because. They aren’t thinking the complete opposite. Trust.

That’s the first step to every relationship, whether it be a superficial or strong one. And while I wholeheartedly trust my family, it’s gets a little bit more difficult for everyone else.

I’m still working through it. There are days where it’s better and days where it’s worse. But at least through it all, I’m smiling.

featured photo credit: roujo 53 Saturday – run - via photopin (license)

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Soubhana Asif

About the Author ()

Soubhana Asif is a junior at Boston University majoring in Biology and double minoring in Arabic and Medical Anthropology. "Have I said too much? There's nothing more I can think of to say to you. But all you have to do is look at me to know that every word is true."

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