It was a priceless, transformational moment.

I was sitting on one of the player benches, just trying to catch my breath. The family and I were at the local ice rink, enjoying a couple of hours of ice skating just after Christmas. As a kid, ice skating was a regular weekend activity during the fall and winter months. My skating skills were never that great, but I managed to do OK. Now, some 40 years later, my daughters’ interest in skating has gotten me to lace up the skates once again.

Time has not improved my skating skills.

Apparently, Kyle thought I was pretty good at skating.

He said I was an expert.

I have no idea who Kyle is. He looked to be about 10 years old, enjoying some skating with his family. As I was sitting on the bench, exhausted, Kyle stopped and asked if he could tell me something. Surprised, I said “sure”. He said “you’re an expert at skating. I’ve been watching you skate and you’re really good…like an expert.”

Kind of stunned by what I heard, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

I’m glad I didn’t respond as instinctively as I often do.

My initial thought was to somehow try and convince Kyle he was wrong. In my mind I’m really not that good at skating. But instead of doing what I’ve often habitually done, I did something different.

I simply smiled and said “thank you”.

How often, when someone expresses an unexpected compliment toward us, do we find a way to try and minimize it? As if we couldn’t possibly be what the other thinks we are?

For me, I’ve noticed that had, in fact, become an instinctual response.

As we go through our life journey we develop a story about who we are. We listen to others, often those we look up to, and their comments, either intentionally or not, greatly shape the vision of who we think we are. We also learn about the power of comparison and how that can further shape our limiting beliefs, further eroding our worthiness and solidifying our vision as someone who shouldn’t be on the receiving end of complimentary words.

And it works both ways. Think about how often we offer someone a compliment or strong positive feedback only to be met with a response somehow trivializing our opinion. If you take the time to notice, you’ll see it’s quite prevalent.

I’m certain that my skating skills are not close to being at the expert level. But in his mind, I was pretty damn good at it, so much so that he actually approached me to tell me what he thought of my skating. With his honesty and sincerity, I felt Kyle deserved a “thank you” and not an explanation as to why he was wrong.

I was touched by Kyle’s actions and words. I hope he continues to express his positive opinions to others when he sees fit. I didn’t want to ruin this experience for him. I didn’t want to show him through my own words what minimizing yourself looks like.

Thank you, Kyle, for helping me be better at being me.

Sometimes allowing yourself to receive a gift is more important than the actual gift itself.

photo credit: Ben White via Unsplash

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