I remember watching that touching scene from The Help when Aibileen begins Mae Mobley’s day with “You is Smart. You is Kind. You is Important.”, and just feeling my throat tighten with unshed tears. In a typical Asian household, sometimes mothers refrain from praising their daughters too much from a belief that it’ll get to our heads. It doesn’t mean that they’re not proud of us or appreciate our accomplishments any less. They praise other people’s children just fine, but when it comes to their own offspring, they hold on to their compliments like a squirrel holds on to its nuts. But as communication channels widen and the newer generations become more and more outspoken, we get better and better at complimenting each other and ultimately, ourselves.
It’s important to be generous with our praises and to acknowledge other people’s accomplishments.
Watching that scene struck a chord with me and I kept it close to my heart. As soon as my chubby baby sister grew old enough to understand, I repeated that mantra back to her over and over again, hoping to embed it into her own subconscious. Also hoping that she’ll bring it with her wherever she goes in the future; that it will still mean something to her in a society that might try and tear her down.
Sometimes I forget and in my bouts of adoration amidst a flurry of hugs and kisses, I realize that my default compliments always revert back to how “cute” and how “pretty” she looks. As clichéd as it sounds, being cute and boasting good looks are fleeting in more ways than one (Hello kids, have you met puberty?), but it’s essential to let them know that what matters the most is what is left behind when all of that is stripped away. And this is a concept to which a lot of people well into adulthood are still oblivious.
People may not remember what you did or how you look like or even what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Sometimes it can be hard to part ways with praises. Even when the potential receiver really deserves it, it can feel like you’re spitting out a bad taste in your mouth rather than using your voice for something positive. It can be especially hard on days when you’re in need of it so much yourself. It’s almost like an internal battle where you think, “Can I really spare some praises for this person? I could really use it myself and I don’t want to waste it on someone who might not use it well.” But just know that this monologue is a lonely one and reflects more on what is going on inside than whether or not the other person really deserves your cheer.
It’s important to be generous with our praises and to acknowledge other people’s accomplishments; not because of what it means for us or because it gives us a moral high ground, but because it uplifts the spirit in ways you can’t even see. While some may dismiss this millennial drivel as being super kumbaya while encouraging superficiality and promoting more entitlement within our society, remember that not all people are the same and that everyone needs a little boost at one point. People may not remember what you did or how you look like or even what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.