Dear person who called me strong, brave or inspirational

Dear person who called me strong, brave or inspirational,

I know you mean well and really have no better words to describe what I’ve been through (it’s ok, neither do I sometimes). Please know, though, that I never know what to say when someone tells me how strong I am. I’m sorry if I got a neutral (or even dopey) look on my face and waited for you to say something else or change the subject. 

As a survivor, I don’t see myself in these categories. To me, they’re abstract words which have no practical application to my life. Sometimes they remind me of all the times I’ve cried myself to sleep or not been able to leave the house. Or worse, they’re reminders of people who said nice things to me to make me do things I didn’t want to do.

Becoming what you admire also warped my social skills, so I am always second guessing myself and how I react in social situations. A part of me knows that you are giving me one of the biggest compliments you can give, but I can’t take it the way you mean it. I’m sorry, but you’re really putting me on the spot when you compliment me and just leave those words hanging in the air. I feel like I owe you something and I have no idea what it is.

So please, don’t compliment me and tell me how much you admire me without giving me further direction. Don’t leave me struggling for the right facial expression or reply. I’m relying on you to know what my reaction should be.

What would help is if you asked me a question or give me a way to reply that puts me at ease and is beneficial to us both. Here’s an example:

“I think you’re so brave to write your story. How far are you with your book?” 


Or ask me a question which might be useful in your life:

“You inspired me to stand up to someone who was hurting me. Looking back, would you have done anything differently with the negative relationships in your life?”


Or if you want something simple:

“You’re so strong to come through what you have and I know you’re now a mother, too. How old are your children?

More than anything, thank you for saying what you did. I’m sorry that I don’t have the right words to express that appreciation. I do appreciate the thought behind it, and if I was having a bad day, sometimes it’s all I need to make the rest of my day brighter.


The person who’s had too many bad things
happen to know how to react to good things.



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