So here's the thing, I REALLY struggle with compliments. I can't remember how long I've been like it but it seems like forever. It doesn't matter how insignificant the subject is, my uncomfortableness is the same. Even something as simple as, "Your t-shirt's nice," will normally be met with "Oh, this old thing, I've had it for ages." Over the course of my life I've had counselling for various reasons and believe me I've explored it a lot. I also qualified and worked as a counsellor but I still can't tell you with any certainty why I'm like it.
In my head, growing up my mum always praised and encouraged me. She also helped instil a good sense of self worth and belief in me that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. There have been plenty of things to back that up from asking Samantha Fox out on a date aged 17 (she politely declined), to knowing I deserved to be happy and never settled for anything when it came to jobs, relationships etc. I've also had the confidence and self belief to take on challenges such as climbing Kilimanjaro, becoming and growing Mr Banana Head and taking on and becoming successful in jobs I had no prior experience in.
Conversely, I know that a common reason for not being able to accept compliments is a childhood where you didn't receive praise or encouragement. It's a massive contradiction and it's always confused me. I've never been one to blow my own trumpet and was often chastised in jobs for being quiet about my work achievements. There were always people who were basically crap but told everyone how great they were and shouted everything they did from the rooftops. Guess what, most of them ended up getting promoted to senior positions. I've never felt comfortable doing this and still don't, even now.
Maybe deep down I feel I don't I deserve it but if that's the case then why? In the past I always used my parents divorce and my dad emigrating to Canada when I was ten as the cause of my issues. It always seemed convenient and gave me an answer where I couldn't find one elsewhere. I'm sure that had something to do with it but it definitely wasn't the whole story. It's not easy as I don't have many memories of my childhood and the ones I have are cloudy and could be contaminated.
When I get complimented on achieving something I always play it down and even belittle it. It's like I don't want anyone making a fuss of it or me. Again, conversely I love being the centre of attention most of the time so another contradiction. Throwing in a third curve ball I'm actually quite shy and can be very awkward, particularly around people I don't know well. If we can talk about football or movies I'm fine but without that safely net I just want to hide or stand by the buffet table (if there's one) and stuff my face.
A really good example of what I'm like is the Raring2Go awards that took place last week. I was nominated as Best Party Entertainer and received enough votes to get to the final four and the awards dinner / presentation. Rachel and the girls were in absolute no doubt whatsoever that I was going to win. "Of course you'll win daddy, you're amazing." That was it, unequivocal belief. I found myself trying to reason with them, preparing for the possibility of losing. "But it's down to votes, if they have thousands of people to ask then that will be it, I won't win." On the night I found their total confidence overwhelming. They had already worked out where they were standing to take the pictures of me with the trophy. Again, I found myself trying to talk them round to the possibility of me not winning.
This wasn't about being negative as that's not me. I'm a really positive person and had visualised me winning and collecting the award and imagined how I would feel. On reflection it feels a mix of not feeling worthy / deserving and a fear of being visible. This isn't the same as being the centre of attention although it does sound like it. I also don't think it's a fear of judgement as I'm ok with that. I feel comfortable that some people will like me and what I do and some won't. I love writing these posts but never try and promote them apart from posting links on my personal and Mr Banana Head FB pages. I get told all the time how people love them along with the way I write so honestly but I find it really hard to just accept the comments graciously and absorb them.
Sorry, back to the awards ceremony. By the time Best Party Entertainer was about to be announced I felt sick. All four of us were holding hands and the announcement came, "And the winner is......Mr Banana Head." Rachel burst out crying (happy tears obviously, I don't think she was gutted someone else didn't win), the girls were cheering like crazy and I felt completely detached from the whole thing. I went up to collect the award, had photos taken and came back to the table to be hugged by Rach and the girls. They all looked so completely full of joy and happiness. I'm not sure what I felt really, mainly as I've struggled for years to engage with my feelings (that's another post).
All the winners had a joint photo taken together and one of them said, "Well done Mr Banana Head, the adults always find you funnier than the children do." Just to clarify, this isn't due to the fact that children sit here watching me po faced and bored to tears! Rather than reply with , "Thank you very much" or "That's very kind of you," I gave my stock response, "I don't know why, I just poke myself in the eye." Again, the need to play it down and belittle myself.
This brings me to the obvious question, What's probably the worst job for someone that finds compliments hard to accept? That's right, children's entertainer!! It's bizarre, it really is. Having the children say I'm really funny, silly etc isn't too bad but even then I deflect a little by saying, "Thank you Grandma." It's the adults I struggle with more. When I first started and parents complimented me I just froze and acted like a deer caught in the headlights. As time went on I managed to nod, smile or even both together sometimes. Often the feedback can be really overwhelming and in those scenarios I usually just play it down.
People often talk about my special connection with the children and the thing is, I do know and accept I have got that. It's not difficult though when I'm like a four year old myself. OMG I can't believe it, I just did it again. Without any thought I played it down, even to myself! Apart from one line about a top from Matalan, (which I explain to the children anyway), I don't say anything aimed at the adults during my show. I talk to the children like they're adults as I've done my whole life and whatever's going on in my head comes out my mouth. Sometimes this results in tumbleweed moments and sometimes big laughter. All I know is that I can only be honest, genuine and myself.
This has been good to get everything down and then read back. I think I've got some new awareness and something to strive for. I'm going to focus on putting myself out there a little bit more and not play down any nice comments I receive, whether about Mr Banana Head or my t-shirt. Finally, I'm going to post a few lines here from recent testimonials with the understanding that I'm effectively saying, "Look how good people think I am." * It's completely alien and not comfortable. I think in almost ten years of being Mr Banana Head I've probably only shared about half a dozen testimonials if that. I'll sit and work on feeling less uncomfortable about it. See you next time.
"This is the second time we have used him and he is absolutely brilliant. He is without doubt the best entertainer I have used and seen at parties."
"It was lovely to see how he spent time with our daughter before the show which definitely helped her to relax. This really showed the caring side of a very funny and professional children's entertainer."
“Mr Banana Head is fantastic!!!!! We booked him for my son's 4th birthday party and I've never seen my little boy laugh as much."
"You are incredible at your job. You clearly work hard and are a really nice person."
* Please be aware this is a genuine attempt to help conquer my resistance to trumpet blowing. They are not there to simply give it the large and show off. Thank you.
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