skincare review: The Ordinary

erniebufflo reviews skincare from The Ordinary

One common bit of feedback on my last skincare post was that many readers and friends are looking for skincare more on a drugstore budget. I hear that. I tend to stick with “natural” and “organic” products and those are generally expensive, though I have to shout out the Botanics Line (currently I can only find it online at Ulta or Target) for offering cheap, effective, organic skincare. In the spirit of trying to help my friends and readers find affordable, safe, and effective skincare, I decided to order and try some products from The Ordinary. The Ordinary is very hip in the skincare nerd world these days for offering lots of good, active ingredients in good, scientific formulations, at what seem like bonkers prices. The problem is, unless you’ve done a lot of skincare research, it can be hard to figure out what to buy, how to use it, what order to use products in, etc. Seriously, I think Deciem, the company that makes The Ordinary should be paying the skincare nerds at r/skincareaddiction for all the service they’re performing answering thread upon thread about how to use The Ordinary products, which products do what, and in what order.

Note: I ordered these products myself, and this is just my review as someone who bought and tried the products. This is my honest opinion, and this post is not sponsored.

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how my anxiety coping obsession gave me the best skin of my life

I once read a meme that said having an anxious brain is like having a pet border collie: you have to give it a job, or you won’t like the one it finds for itself. I share my life with a bonkers border collie mix (love you Olive!) and I have an anxious brain, so it made a lot of sense to me.

In the wake of the election, I found myself suffering from obsessing over the news. I was wearing myself out with outrage, constantly on edge, losing hours and hours to reading news and opinions online. I’m not someone who can just stop reading the news, but I knew I needed a new obsession, one that wouldn’t worry me so much.

At the same time, having recently moved from the humid, mild South to dry, cold Colorado, combating dry skin had become a regular concern. I started researching skin care, and my new obsession was born.

This is my face a few months into my new routine, wearing only mascara and tinted moisturizer, in natural light, with no filters.

This is my face a few months into my new routine, wearing only mascara and tinted moisturizer, in natural light, with no filters.

Before I go further, a disclaimer: I am not a skincare expert or a doctor or an aesthetician. I am only an expert on my own skin and my own experiences. I am 32 years old, have skin that tends toward dry/sensitive, and am most concerned about preventing wrinkles and sun damage as I watch the first lines starting to appear on my face. I know that I will age. I think smile lines are some of the world’s most beautiful and hard-earned features. However, I also want to keep my skin looking the best it can at every age. I also like to use more natural/organic things on and in my body as possible. And: I firmly believe in getting enough sleep (something now possible since my kids are almost 5), drinking lots of water, and eating a plant-heavy diet.

My gateway drug was Pixi Glow Tonic. I’d seen rave reviews, it’s available at Target, and my dull, dry skin was definitely in need of a boost, so I picked up a bottle. Within a couple of weeks, I could tell my skin was looking better– smoother, brighter, and those clogged-looking pores we all seem to have around our noses were much less noticeable. It was enough of a change that my husband started using the Glow Tonic too. I wanted to know why it was working so well, and what else might work too.

It turns out I had discovered the wide world of acid exfoliation. The main active ingredient in the Glow Tonic is a fairly low percentage of glycolic acid. I know, the idea of putting “acid” on your face sounds kind of creepy and harsh, and may even conjure images of red, inflamed skin caused by a chemical peel gone wrong. However, it turns out that “manual exfoliation,” like using abrasive scrubs or electric face brushes are actually a lot harsher on your face than ingredients like glycolic and lactic acid, both of which are Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHAs. Acid exfoliation works by removing dead skin, promoting cell turnover, encouraging collagen production, and dissolving dirt and sebum trapped in your pores. If you have dull, rough-textured, or sun-damaged skin, AHAs will be your friend.

Once I learned about AHAs and acid exfoliation, I wanted to learn about other active ingredients, and how best to use them for maximum results. Pretty much everyone will tell you that “retinoids” are the gold standard for preventing and reversing signs of aging. Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives. They work by encouraging collagen production, preventing collagen breakdown in the first place, and exfoliating. They prevent wrinkles, encourage a smooth texture, and help get rid of dark spots. The downsides of retinoids are that they can make skin more sensitive to the sun, and can be irritating and drying to the skin. For these reasons, it is best to start using them slowly, like once a week, and work up to using it nightly. Also: using it at night helps mitigate the sun sensitivity issue, though applying SPF every day is probably the #1 most important thing you can do to prevent signs of aging, and you should apply a good SPF product every day, even if you are not using retinoids. Using your retinoid at night also makes it most effective, because the Vitamin A itself breaks down in sunlight, and thus loses its potency.

Aside from AHAs and retinoids, the other main ingredient I found effective through my research was Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant that evens skintone, protects skin from environmental pollutants, and even helps protect skin from sun exposure. Vitamin C is a great daytime ingredient because it helps protect your skin from the outside world all day long.

Once I knew which ingredients would have the best impact for protecting my skin and helping it look its best, I started slowly adding them into my routine. I researched products, read forums and blogs, and found new products that I believed would work for me. I focused on serums with my preferred active ingredients rather than toners or face washes, because I want these actives to really sit on and sink into my skin to do their best work.

A word of caution: NEVER GO WHOLE HOG INTO A NEW SKIN ROUTINE ALL AT ONCE. That’s a great way to irritate the crap out of your skin and end up with a bumpy, red, inflamed, itchy, flaky mess. I was already using a retinoid night serum, so that was the first thing I replaced with a more powerful serum. After I knew my skin was tolerating that well, I started alternating every other night with an AHA serum. Since both Vitamin A and Glycolic Acid are exfoliating, I don’t use them both on the same night, because that would be too much for my skin. Once that was well-established, I incorporated a Vitamin C serum for the daytime.

Another thing I did while trying to take better care of my dry skin was I ditched the foaming cleansers. Foaming cleansers can strip your skin of its natural moisture– you never actually want your face to feel “squeaky clean.” Instead, I started using a two-step cleansing process at night, washing first with an oil to remove makeup and dirt, and then with a creamy cleanser to actually clean my skin and maintain its natural moisture barrier. In the mornings, I actually started doing more than just splashing my face with water– if you’re using exfoliants at night, you need to wash that sloughed skin off in the morning, or it remains trapped under last night’s moisturizer. So, in the mornings I use a cream-based cleanser to make sure I’m starting fresh before applying my Vitamin C serum and moisturizer.

Now that you’ve read about all my research and the ingredients I decided to focus on (Vitamin C, Vitamin A/retinoids, and AHAs), here is my daily routine. It sounds like a lot, but I find the ritual soothing for my anxious mind.

Morning Routine

  1. Wash with Botanics Organic Softening Cleanser (this says to wipe it off, but I rinse)
  2. Apply 4 drops Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum (I put this on and then go downstairs to get my kids up, make coffee, make breakfast, and pack lunches. This gives it time to really absorb into my skin.)
  3. Apply Botanics All Bright Hydrating Day Cream SPF 15 (This is not my favorite, and I will be trying other SPF day creams in the future)
  4. Apply Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 plus a couple of drops of Botanics Organic Facial Oil

morning skincare routine

Evening Routine

  1. First Cleanse: Dermalogica Pre-Cleanse (This is expensive, but my one bottle, a gift for my sister, has lasted months. You get a LOT for the amount you pay, and it’s a really nice oil cleanser. In the future, I promise to test some other, cheaper oil cleansers and let you know what I think.)
  2. Second Cleanse: Botanics Organic Softening Cleanser (same as mornings)
  3. Apply either 4 drops Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum (my retinoid) or 2 drops Pixi Overnight Glow Serum (an AHA, but I’m not super crazy about this serum and again will be testing other exfoliating serums and letting you know what I think)
  4. After waiting at least 10 minutes for my serums to absorb, I moisturize with either Farmacy Sleep Tight Night Balm (love this, but it’s a bit expensive, so I may try the Botanics Organic Hydrating Super Balm) or Botanics Organic Face Cream
  5. As needed for dryness, I apply more Botanics Organic Facial Oil

evening skincare routine

Note: I am super happy with the Mad Hippie serums. Green company using high-quality, effective, scientifically proven ingredients, and a great value. I’ve been using my bottles since the end of January and have used maybe 1/3. Your Whole Foods or Earth Fare may carry them, but I usually buy online (at the links). Since I’m not loving the Pixi Glow Serum, I may try their exfoliating serum next.

So, there’s my routine. And here’s my makeup-free face, just after washing, in natural light.

erniebufflo with no makeup

Got any questions?

*Note: none of the products here are sponsored and none of the links are affiliate links.

 

team pixie and back again: how cutting off all my hair changed my life, and why I grew it out anyway

One of the big things I didn’t know about childbirth was that it would make all my hair fall out. Already fine-of-locks, I didn’t have a lot to lose in the first place, but after giving birth to my twins, it was falling out in handfuls. I felt like I had four strands of hair left, and looked stringy and sad. Meanwhile, new hairs were sprouting, and tiny “baby hair” was poking out all along my hairline. Already inhabiting a completely new body, my hair’s shenanigans felt like adding insult to literal injury. Not to mention, it turns out babies really like yanking hair, and it’s annoying and painful.

Being a tired new mom is bad enough, but my hair falling out, too?!

Being a tired new mom is bad enough, but my hair falling out, too?!

I had always admired short hair on other women, but lacked the courage to take the plunge myself. However, after very nearly dying, I kind of gained some valuable perspective which was basically “get the heck over it, it’s just hair, you weirdo,” and I decided that the worst that could happen would be that I would hate it and would have to learn a valuable lesson about getting over myself while it grew out. Plus, this way, if I did grow it out, all the baby hairs could grow in along with it, and everything would look normal again. In terms of scariness, cutting all my hair off is really nothing compared to waking up in the ICU, so I felt brave enough to go for it.

I took a bunch of pictures of pretty pixies to my local hipster salon that does $20 haircuts. I told them all my hair was falling out and I was sick of babies pulling my hair and needed a change. They wisely didn’t let me go straight pixie all at once. I got the shortest bob I’d ever had, and headed out the door. This gave me a couple months to get used to seeing way more of my face and neck, so that when I still wanted to go shorter, the change was less of a shock. I went full pixie on my next visit.

The initial bob chop. I felt like Daisy Buchanan.

The initial bob chop. I felt like Daisy Buchanan.

The first pixie. I loved it.

The first pixie. I loved it.

It turns out all my worst fears were pointless as I LOVED my pixie. I had always been a little insecure about my chin and neck and worried I’d hate my face with no hair to hide behind, but I found instead that I focused on how much I like my eyes and less about how much I hate my jawline. I felt kind of badass. I felt liberated. I felt sexy. My husband thought I looked great.

Seriously can't overstate how much I loved that pixie.

Seriously can’t overstate how much I loved that pixie.

Women especially loved my pixie hair cut. Everywhere I went, some woman told me how much she loved my hair and how she wished she was brave enough to try it, or that her husband didn’t hate short hair, or that she didn’t have such thick/curly/whatever hair. Gay men loved it too.

Among straight men, I discovered, there is a sharp dividing line between those who prefer long hair and those who can appreciate a woman in a pixie cut. They either love it or they hate it. But there are PLENTY of men who are extremely enthusiastic about a woman rocking short hair.

Still, a year after I first went pixie, I decided to grow my hair back out. No matter how much I loved the look of my pixie, it was more high-maintenance than I’d like. I had to have monthly trims, or I hated the way it looked. It never looked good air-dried. I had to at least wet and blow-dry my pixie every morning, because my bed-head was INSANE. My next-day hair never looked quite right, despite it. When my hair is bob-length or longer, I can air dry on shower days and embrace my hair’s natural texture. I can shower every other day and use dry shampoo and a little wave reviving spray to have cute second-day hair. And I don’t need haircuts nearly as often. I wanted my “easy” hair back.

4 months of growth. It was just starting to come over my ears. At this point, I hated it.

4 months of growth. It was just starting to come over my ears. At this point, I hated it.

It took 9 months of awkward growing for me to feel like I had an actual “hairstyle” again. By that point, I felt like I had something you could actually call a bob, and I decided to get bangs, which I have loved. Perhaps emboldened by my original pixie plunge, I even trim my own bangs now. It’s now been a year since I decided to grow out my pixie, and now the only reason I’m still growing my hair is I’m too lazy to go in for a cut.

At 7 months, it no longer looked awkward.

At 7 months, it no longer looked awkward.

And I could use bobby pins and pretend I had a bob!

And I could use bobby pins and pretend I had a bob!

At 10 months I decided I looked like a 90s newscaster.

At 10 months I decided I looked like a 90s newscaster.

Even though I only kept my pixie cut for a year, I’m really glad I took the chance and went for it. My proud pixie self is still in there, and I still feel badass, liberated, and sexy, even if my hair is getting longer. I wouldn’t be surprised if I  go pixie again sometime in the future, but for now, I just add pins to my pixie love Pinterest board and tell myself we’ll meet again, someday.

And this is how I look now! Wavy bob with self-cut bangs!

And this is how I look now! Wavy bob with self-cut bangs!

Have you ever taken a big hair risk? Hair seems like such a small thing, but it has big power to shape how we feel about ourselves and how others perceive us.

life lately: the long and short of it

Greetings from the den of our new house! We’ve been here going on 3 weeks, and I am proud to say we are mostly unpacked. The lingering boxes are almost entirely books and things that go in the linen and hall closets, and we have grand plans to get some nice built in shelving up to hold all of that stuff. There’s still nothing hanging on the walls, either, but I’m pretty happy with our progress. Being surrounded by boxes really stresses me out, so I kind of go crazy to unpack as quickly as possible. I was lucky to have a weekend without the babies, so I got a lot done in that time.

Of course, the babies weren’t here because our AC broke when we moved in, despite having passed an inspection only a few weeks before. Three different people told us we needed a new unit, and worse still, we were told it would be weeks until they could install it. Going AC-free in the humid Arkansas summer, with two tiny tots, is not a good time. So the girls were sent off to Nonni and Poppi’s, which was nice and cool. The good news is, we finally had an AC guy come and look at it, who assured me that while most people want to sell new units, “most folks just need a $5 part.” He had it working in under an hour for $90, and gentle readers, I very nearly kissed him on the mouth. He was a humble fellow, though, so I refrained, because I didn’t want to give him a heart attack. He said it may run for years to come. (If you’re local and in need of an HVAC repair guy, let me know– I’d be happy to pass on the info of such an honest guy!)

Another update is that Baby Claire has still not had her shunt surgery. It got rescheduled thanks to a bronchial infection that made having surgery soon after too risky, and we are expecting to get it on the books soon. I will let you know!

I also realized that something big happened to me lately, and you may have noticed on Instagram, but I never wrote about it….

After over 3 years of dreaming, I CUT OFF ALL OF MY HAIR.

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The initial chop in December. The front was still long enough to tuck behind my ears.

Now, this actually happened back in December. After a few months with a bob, I decided to go all the way to pixie town. And ever since then, each appointment, I’ve gone a little shorter. Six months later, the verdict is: I love it. It feels very “me,” as if my hair somehow matches my sensibilities. Which, considering I have been described as “impish” by others, a hairdo most suited to some sort of sprite just seems to make sense.

Since there may be some of you out there waffling on a drastic external change, can I please be the one to say: GO FOR IT.

My thinking on taking a step I had been waffling on for years was partially influenced by my recent brush with death. I mean, once you’ve faced down mortality, something as insignificant as hair just seems like a blip, not even worth agonizing over. The worst that could happen wasn’t anything scary, it was just the possibility I might not like my hair for a while until it grew out.

At the girls' first birthday.

At the girls’ first birthday.

Of course, instead of hating it, I loved it. I strangely feel more feminine with short hair, perhaps because my face can stand out that much more without hair detracting from it. Now I’m very proudly #teampixie, and I have gathered a whole pin board of continued inspiration.

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If you’re thinking of going short, I think now is a great time. I called it when I first saw the trailer, but I think Carey Mulligan’s Gatsby bob is going to have lots of girls wanting to go short. A picture of her is already my most-repinned pin. And then you can declare the Lumineers’ “Flapper Girl” to be your summertime jam as you enjoy the feeling of cool breezes on your neck in the sweltering summertime heat:

Cut off all of your hair
Did you flinch, did you care
Did he look, did he stop and stare
At your brand new hair

real beauty is a revolution, not an ad, man

Last night I posted this to Facebook:

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 7.26.47 AMIt was in response to the latest Dove video, which you can see here:

And look, here I am writing about it anyway! (Just as I have before about earlier Dove ads.)

As far as the video goes, I absolutely agree with the seeming diagnosis that many women have a kind of body dysmorphia. They focus on the qualities they hate rather than the qualities they like, and this causes them to perceive themselves as vastly less attractive than they are perceived by others. However, I think this video suggests the wrong treatment for their diagnosis. They suggest that beauty, physical beauty, “couldn’t be more critical to happiness.” And they suggest focusing on the things you do like about yourself, and, presumably, buying Dove products to help you mitigate and feel better about the stuff you don’t like, like your armpits, for example.

deodorant

I literally can’t get my mind around “beautiful underarms” as a concept. Underarms are just underarms. If someone is scrutinizing yours, the problem is THEM.

Like I said, I absolutely agree that there is an epidemic of low self esteem in our culture. I would say, however, that the underlying cause is not that we don’t value our physical beauty enough, but that we put too much stock in it altogether– that we make it “absolutely critical” to our happiness.

If the strangers in that video thought the women they met were more beautiful than the women saw themselves, how much more beautiful are those women to the people who know and love them? Think about the people whom you love most in the world. They’re gorgeous to you, right? There are moments with them that simply take your breath away. And it’s because the truest beauty we see and love in others, the kind we need to see in ourselves, comes from love. When you look at people through the eyes of love, they become beautiful to you, a beauty that is pervasive and total and has nothing to do with the shape of their jaw and everything to do with the shape of their heart.

IMG_2577

I just loved this vow from mooshinindy, seen on Instagram. It’s part of what kicked off my thinking about seeing my babies and myself through the eyes of love.

One of the most mind-exploding aspects of becoming a mother has been the way it has utterly changed how I feel about beauty. Into my life have come these two absolutely gorgeous, utterly and totally beloved little creatures. They take my breath away. Daily, their beauty brings tears to my eyes and a pang to my chest. There is not a bit of them, not even their underarms, that needs to be made more beautiful.

And here’s the truly mind-bending part: I came into this world the same way. I took my parents’ breath away. To them, I am heart-stoppingly beautiful. And I am that way to others who love me as well. And even crazier, bigger, more mind bending? I am beginning to see that I am that beautiful to the One who created me as well. And if that isn’t enough to revolutionize our thinking, what is?

The Beatles say, “You’re talkin bout a revolution, well, you know, you oughta free your mind instead.” The Bible says, “Do not be conformed to the ways of this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Freeing and renewing our minds can’t be done when we accept consumerist culture’s premise that beauty is external. It can’t be accomplished by cheerleading brands for ever-so-slightly widening the cultural beauty standard. It can only be done by trying to get our heads around just how deeply we are loved, and seeing ourselves and others through the eyes of Love.

Now, I know this is a much more difficult premise than simply obsessing over parts of ourselves that we like, or buying a cream. Learning to love yourself is tough stuff. But it doesn’t happen if we’re simply focusing on another aspect of our physical appearance. It can only come from the amazing, crazy, transformative power of an encounter with Love. For me, that’s the Love of God. For you, it may be simply meditating on the way you deeply love someone in your life, and trying to see yourself through those same eyes. But this is the revolution folks. You gotta free your mind.

wearing ugliness

ugly doll. Image via Flickr user walknboston under a Creative Commons license.

I have to confess: until The Bluest Eye was assigned for one of my classes this term, I had never read any Toni Morrison. And WOW. She’s amazing. Her prose is amazing. I can’t get over it. I’m so glad Beloved is also on my comps reading list.

I just finished The Bluest Eye and one of the things that stuck out to me is the theme of beauty vs. ugliness. Now, of course, I have to preface this by saying that race and socioeconomic status play huge roles in this theme throughout the book. I am a person of racial and socioeconomic privilege, and I do understand that I cannot fully relate to the characters in the book, but, who really can fully relate to the experience of another, ever?

Anyway, one passage just so aptly described what I KNOW to be true that I have to share it. It’s describing a family that everyone perceives as ugly:

You looked closely at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each of them a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question. The master had said, “You are ugly people.” They had looked about themselves and saw nothing to contradict the statement; saw, in fact, support for it leaning at them from every billboard, every movie, every glance. “Yes,” they had said. “You are right.” And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle over them, and went about the world with it.

I feel like society hands women ugliness every day. It’s the message leering at us from the billboards and movies and magazines full of women who literally do not exist. They have been created in Photoshop and through lighting and makeup and editing and styling to become fictional representations of all that we are not. And these mirages reach out to us and hand us ugliness. They tell us we can be them, if we use the right skin cream, have the proper surgical procedures, wear the right clothes, follow the right diet, but they can’t even be them. They don’t even exist.

Another passage describes a character who comes to believe she is ugly in comparison to the women she sees in movies, women like Jean Harlow. Worse than judging herself, she judges her own daughter by that standard of beauty. She hands her own daughter ugliness:

She was never able, after her education in the movies, to look at a face and not assign it some category in the scale of absolute beauty, and the scale was one she absorbed from the silver screen.

I know so many beautiful women who are utterly convinced that they are ugly. That they are less-than. That they are not worthy. But the truth is, their ugliness doesn’t really exist, not on their faces. It’s just a garment they’ve been handed and they choose to wear it. Eventually it maybe even becomes a part of them, but they weren’t born that way.

Are you wearing ugliness where you should be acknowledging beauty? You don’t have to take it from them when it’s offered, you know.

just smile and say thanks

*tap tap* Is this thing on?

Long time, no blog! My friends would say I caught the blog flu, but the truth is, I caught the regular flu too.  Somewhere between getting busy with the end of a semester of grad school, catching the flu, and my husband having a brief cardiac episode that landed him in the hospital overnight, I haven’t done much blogging lately.  The truth is, I was kind of burned out on blogging.  I’ve been doing a lot more tweeting and Facebooking of things about which I’d normally churn out a nice blog rant.  But, I’m finally feeling healthy and starting to feel the urge to blog again, so I’m back.  Luckily, I’m not like, Dooce or anything, so I haven’t deluded myself into thinking that anyone missed me.

But, here’s what’s gotten me fired up enough to take pen to paper fingers to keys and get back to blogging: awkward interactions with old high school classmates.

Now, Little Rock is a big small town. It’s small enough and close enough to where I grew up that I still feel wary about going to Kroger unshowered and un-makeup-ed, because I know I’ll run into someone I know.  Now that everyone is coming home for the holidays, the odds of me running into old friends in public is amplified by a factor of ten.

Just yesterday, my husband and I were out doing holiday shopping when I ran into a high school classmate.  We hugged and caught up and exchanged the basic details of where we live now and what we’re up to.  She told me I looked just the same as in high school.  I told her, “Thanks, you too!” And then she said, “No, I don’t, I’m fat!” What was I supposed to say to that?  On the one hand, she has gained some weight since high school.  And, I read enough Fat Acceptance blogs to believe that the word “fat” should no more be an insult than “tall” or “short.”  On the other hand, I know that to most people, calling oneself fat is self-deprecation at best, and an insult at worst.  Was I supposed to argue with her? Say, “No, you look great”?  Was I supposed to just agree and say, “You’re right, you have put on some pounds”?  I felt really awkward.

Instead, I felt like I should insult myself too. Other women can correct me if I’m wrong here, but it felt like we’d entered some sort of ritual, where we’d both self-deprecate in order to be “nice.” I muttered something about having to buy new pants lately because my ass has gotten bigger (this is true, but not something I’m super concerned about), and then saw my husband approaching and changed the subject by introducing him to my friend.

Still, even as we’d left the store, I was thinking about the awkward exchange.  As I munched french fries with my husband, I asked him, “Why couldn’t she just smile and say thanks? Why do women so often do that? Why can’t we just take a compliment, be it about our looks or our abilities?”

The truth is, this happens a lot.  You compliment someone on their outfit, or their hair, or their figure, or the great job they did at something, and then they start trying to convince you that you’re wrong, they don’t really look great, or they really don’t deserve all the credit for that awesome thing they did. And then you, the complimenter, feel like a jerkface. Like, why did I even bother trying to say something complimentary?

It’s enough to make me want to become a motivational speaker (plus or minus a van down by the river), to have seminars where I make women practice receiving compliments with a broad smile and a sincere “Thank you!”  Where I holler at a crowd about OWNING YOUR OWN AWESOME, and the way that this makes people who give you compliments feel good, and more likely to give you compliments, and also about the way that owning your own awesome gives others permission to own their own awesome too.  Because I guarantee you, there is something awesome about you.  And I also guarantee you that the person telling you about that awesome thing really does think it’s awesome.  My friend may have gained some weight since high school, but she’s still a gorgeous woman, and it seems she has a fulfilling job and a husband that she loves, and by most metrics is having a great life.  She should own that awesome.

So, my motivational speech to anyone reading this is: if you bump into an old friend this holiday season, and if they give you a compliment, JUST SMILE AND SAY THANK YOU.  Trust that the other person means it.  Know that when you deflect their praise, you make them feel awkward and kill the conversation, which is the opposite of gracious behavior.  OWN YOUR AWESOME.