Where I work, every month, there’s a potluck to celebrate the staff birthdays in that month. Today is the December birthday potluck. I brought the oatmeal-white chocolate-cranberry-pecan cookies I bake every Christmas season.
I didn’t tell anyone it was my birthday this week, but they found out anyway, to my great surprise. I’ve been greeted all day with friendly well-wishing… I haven’t been called “the birthday girl” with such effusiveness in a long time. I feel as shy as a little girl hauled up to the front of the class to be given a prize. Why does unexpected kindness cause us such embarrassment? Everyone is so nice, I don’t know what to say. I hope they don’t think I’m standoffish.
This birthday has been the best one in a long time, and the actual birthday-day isn’t even here yet. Maybe it’ll be a week of celebration, truly. How nice it is, and how lucky I am.
[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com. Three years later I wrote again about being embarrassed/discomfited by kindness.]
maybe you feel embarrassed because you don’t feel you deserve all the good tidings and flattery and such, but you do!
I think you’re right. It’s the same feeling I get when I do something small for someone and they heap thanks upon me. I always start downplaying what I did.
And thank you! 🙂
I hate to stereotype but I another theory for why that is. In Asian culture you are supposed to downplay or reject compliments. For example, “You’re awesome” gets met with “Not at all!” It’s humility in Asian culture but it translates to deference and even low self esteem in American culture, where it’s bad if you can’t take a compliment. I mean, in Chinese, when someone tells you “thank you,” the reply isn’t “you’re welcome” it’s “don’t thank me” or “no thanks needed!”
I’ve thought about that too, and many other characteristics I have that may or may not be attributable to my Asianness. Like smiling when I’m unsure of myself, or always thinking I’m at fault when some social interaction doesn’t go as expected. I guess in that second one I wonder about being raised by immigrants more than I wonder about Asianness. When your parents have spent their lives trying desperately to navigate a foreign culture, don’t you naturally pick up some of that feeling of outsiderness?
This is yet another example of the kind of thought I wish I could manage to put into a story. 😐