Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Accepting Compliments with Borderline Personality Disorder

A bit of a light topic today because I’m still really ill.

Why can’t people with Borderline Personality Disorder accept compliments?

In short? To truly accept a compliment you have to believe it yourself. Often people with BPD don’t have a high enough self-esteem to believe what they’re being told.

Sometimes I’m incapable of believing what people are saying to me, because I’ve been told the opposite for so damn long. When you’ve been told something over and over, for years, maybe most of your life, and you finally hear something different, it just doesn’t register as making sense because it’s so foreign. How do you internalize something that is the opposite of what has been beaten into your head? If you’ve been told your left hand is your right hand your entire life, and someone finally points out that your right hand is in fact, the right hand, somewhere in the back of your mind you’ll still have an initial thought of it being your left. Even if you can recover and tell yourself that it’s not after that initial thought, the knowledge of that pre-programming is still there. Have you ever tried to correct a bad habit? It’s not easy.

Especially if you’ve been told these things by someone you love and care about.

Growing up I was constantly told that what I could do could be better, so now it’s incredibly difficult for me to believe anything I do is good enough. No matter how hard I pushed myself it could always be better. To an extent I think this is something that is actually true. It is technically possible to always improve. But hearing that as a child all the time, it’s hard.

Other times I was told, “sure things are good now until they get bored with you.” Who tells their kid that?  It’s impossible for me to just sit and relax because I’m afraid if I’m not always entertaining or being the perfect hostess then there won’t be a need for me. I love, love, love just cuddling up on the couch and watching a movie, but in my mind I’m still stressed out that who I’m with is going to bored or that I’m not doing enough to make them happy.

How do you believe someone when all you’ve ever heard is the opposite?

Often there’s a lot of mistrust in people with Borderline Personality Disorder as well. Living with Evil-Ex (and many other exes), he would talk up an amazing story of why I should let myself open up and disclose something that I normally wouldn’t talk about. I would break down, open up. He would hug me, kiss me, tell me that my revelation made me seem more human and that it meant a lot to him… and then when it was to his advantage he’d use it against me to humiliate me. When you’ve been manipulated and lied to so much, for so long, it’s really difficult to quiet that nagging voice in the back of your head that is perpetually on guard against further deception. Is this person telling me that my outfit is pretty because they actually think it’s pretty, or are they trying to lull me into believing it so that I’ll wear it out and they can make fun of it once I’m out and it’s too late to do anything about it?

Or are they just telling you what you want to hear so they can use you for their own purposes? The One would tell me he loved me. No matter how many times he cheated on me, the reason he kept coming back was because I was the one he couldn’t get out of his mind…. To sleep with. He knew I loved him, and he would tell me anything he felt he needed to in order to get me back into his bed. It wasn’t until our relationship had persisted for years like this that I had the truth confirmed for me. Evil-Ex used me for my money. Anytime I would suggest going in a direction that affected our/his financial state, he would turn the charm up to high and convince me otherwise.

When you’ve learned that other people are out for themselves, and don’t have your best interest in mind; when you’ve learned that others will actually hurt you to get what they want, it’s hard to believe that someone could simply appreciate you for you.

Being Borderline, being more sensitive than is normal, being hypersensitive even, these things create an intense internalization of mistrust.

It’s not that I don’t want to believe the things people tell me. It’s not that I don’t want to take genuine compliments. Those genuine sentiments are just competing against a lot of hard experience and abuse.
That doesn’t mean I can’t take a compliment at all though. I believe pretty much anything xRoommate tells me. I believe her genuine compliments because she’s a genuine person. She doesn’t compliment unnecessarily. If something isn’t flattering she doesn’t bullshit, while still being tactful and sensitive with the truth. In short, our relationship developed slowly, over time, and her word is consistent with who she is and what she means. She’s consistent and she means what she says. That’s something you find out over time. I think the key is to take that time and develop trust in a genuine relationship. I also know she doesn’t want anything from me other than friendship. She’s never tried to take advantage of me or our relationship for her own gain. We’ve often helped each other, but she’s never used me. I’m very sensitive to things like that.

If someone has ever given me real reason not to trust them, it will color what they say in the future. It’s as simple as that.

Give it time. If your relationship is new, give them time to understand that you mean what you say. And be consistent. If you’re not, they’ll pick up on that very easily, and it’s likely that what you say will always be called into question. So be honest, be genuine, and be patient, and the Borderline in your life will hopefully see that the compliments you deliver are what they are. 

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