Christmas Eve and the carol service.
"Psst" says a voice beside me – at shoulder level. "Mummy, can you please not sing too loudly?"
This is an ongoing battle with my children. I love to sing. They find it excruciatingly embarrassing when I sing out, as apparently anything above a quiet mumble is socially unacceptable.
"It's Christmas," I said resolutely. "I am going to sing my heart out."
And so I did.
At the end of the carol service, just as I was about to join the queue for mince pies and mulled wine, my husband took me to one side.
"I need to get our little one home," he said. "She's not feeling well and she has a headache."
"... a headache from your singing!" said a grumpy voice pointedly. "And I don't want you coming home with us because I don't want people to know the loud and embarrassing woman singing is my mother!"
Just then I was tapped on the shoulder by the female half of the couple who had been seated next to us during the service.
"May I just say what a beautiful singing voice you have?" she said. "You absolutely made this carol service for us. It was such a pleasure to hear you. Do you sing professionally?"
Well, no, I don't. And my voice is nothing much really. It is my sister who sings with the Cathedral singers in her local Cathedral Town. It is she who has trained, who has sung in semi-professional operas. My voice is as nothing to hers. I mumbled something incoherent and fled in embarrassment.
Very few of us see ourselves as others do.
I have a dear physicist friend who is extremely accomplished academically. He seems to collect degrees in the same way other people collect china elephants or garden gnomes. He speaks four languages (at least) and is in demand across the world. He is equally at home in the fields of science and the arts, and he has achieved all this with a severe disability. Yet he does not rate his strengths as anything special and sees instead, all too clearly, his weaknesses and fallibilities.
Even my uncle, renowned in his own academic field – some would say the best in the world – says that he does not consider himself that intelligent. "I was just lucky," he says. "I was in the right place at the right time."
We see only our own dark side and, especially if we are sensitive and prone to depression, are less able to appreciate our own strengths. It is rare that we will garner appreciation from our near family either. They too are easily mired in our darkness.
So the next time someone praises you or expresses admiration for you, just take a moment to consider before you brush it off and dismiss their compliments. You never know, they might just be right.
A Moodscope member.