No, I Can’t Take A Compliment

I don’t know what it is about compliments, but I find them downright uncomfortable. Being an INTJ; someone who is strong-willed, capable and confident (you heard me…confident), it is a strange juxtaposition that a personal compliment makes me want to disappear into a wall. I sincerely don’t know if this is a universal INTJ thing, but I do know that it is my thing, among a couple others.

Neil Peart, the drummer of my favorite band, Rush, has been heavily rumored to be an INTJ, and getting to know him from a distance, my educated opinion states that that assumption is correct. He is an INTJ in a position of fame, and he said two things in particular in a recent Rush documentary  that hit home with me;

I love being appreciated, being respected is awfully good, but anything beyond that just creeps me out,” he continued. “Any sense of adulation is just so wrong.”

And on the topic of why he doesn’t interact with his fans at the meet and greets as his bandmates do, he said, “When people have a fantasy, I don’t want to trample on it, but I also don’t want to live it,” Peart said. “People can think that I’m antisocial or a sourpuss, but (I’m) really not. It doesn’t make me mad, it embarrasses me.

That is a common INTJ misconception in a nutshell. For some strange reason, being idolized or complimented is freaking embarrassing. Peart’s fans respect him enough to understand his introversion, despite his extreme talents, however there are still negative comments relating to his lack of public interaction. Maynard James Keenan, another prominent rumored INTJ and the famed frontman of Tool (and other fantastic musical ventures) also gets the same regard. Maynard is often ridiculed and questioned about his desire to stay out of the limelight, even on stage. I can certainly understand it, as I feel the same.

But for me, and others that are not riddled with fame, I find this is true in everyday interactions. If someone points out that I am “beautiful”, I do sincerely appreciate it, but what the hell am I supposed to do with that? Think it all you want, but the need to say it out loud makes me uncomfortable, which I find brutally idiotic (on my part). I believe part of it is the expectation of a reply. Am I supposed to return a compliment? Will I get the look when I only reply with a simple “thank you”? It is so complicated, and it always happens so suddenly that my aloofness must stand out as if I am suddenly naked. Makes sense, as that is the way I instantly feel.

Now my work is a different story; compliment my work all day, criticize my work all day. In fact, say anything you want about my work, but the second anything complimentary gets turned to me for doing the work, I suddenly turn into a mouse desperately seeking its entrance into the safety of the wall. I feel like this is one of the myriad of reasons I just don’t fit in 99% of the time; So many personality types feed off compliments, and even more seem to need the damn things as a requirement for their being. I don’t need them, I certainly never seek them and I honestly don’t even want them. Not because I don’t appreciate them, but because they are embarrassing.

This alone provides another answer to the classic INTJ misunderstanding related to our general disinterest in dishing out compliments. Why would we ever venture to do something to someone else which terrifies ourselves? When I am close to someone and understand that they have the need, I can certainly oblige, but to an acquaintance or someone I barely know? It is unlikely I am going to pass out a compliment, unless I genuinely feel the need to give one, which is rare. I think of compliments all the time. I may see someone and think they have fantastic shoes, but I won’t say it. If I do force myself to dish it out, I feel brutally awkward doing so.

What I just wrote feels like a description of some classic psychological problem of which I don’t know the name. Maybe it is. As always, I am comfortable with that.


Also published on Medium.

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