I used to be one of those women that don’t take compliments well. I’d try making my achievements look smaller or non-existent, find excuses or even quickly change the topic and compliment the other person in return. Until I realised I wasn’t doing myself a service and I certainly wasn’t making the other person feel good about complimenting me. Learning to accept compliments was a conscious choice for me and it can be your choice, too.
Why is it so hard to accept a compliment?
- For me it had a lot to do with upbringing. I was raised to believe that it was not modest or even acceptable to boast about your accomplishments and accepting a compliment seemed very much like boasting.
- Often we’d get compliments about things that come so naturally to us that we don’t even see them as compliment-worthy. In fact, these are our strengths. These same accomplishments that we think nothing of don’t necessarily come easily to other people.
- Not being able to accept a compliment can also be a sign of low self-esteem. We don’t feel that we can possibly deserve the compliment and the person giving it to us is either just trying to be nice or delusional.
Accepting a compliments is a good thing
- It’s polite. I always feel uneasy when someone is deflecting or arguing with a compliment I’ve given and I now realise that all the people I’ve done it to must have felt the same way. The person complimenting you is doing it because they’ve seen something in you that they value. The most polite thing you can do is to appreciate them for it.
- We learn about ourselves. By listening to compliments instead of dismissing them we are learning what it is that people find valuable in us and what we have to contribute.
- It’s good for our self-esteem. Every time you acknowledge that yes, you are what people say you are and yes, you have achieved something worthy, you’re affirming your positive qualities.
How to get started
Here’s a very simple practice. When someone compliments you, just say, “Thank you”. This is probably what you’d normally start your response with anyway, so this should be easy. Then stifle your urge to continue the sentence with “but…”. You can leave it at “thank you” or you can pause and think of something positive to say like “I put a lot of thought into it” or “I’m so thrilled that it went well”. You can also put the honours back to the person giving the compliment, but without changing the subject immediately, for example, “It means a lot coming from you” or “I really appreciate it”.
Think of all the times that you’ve given compliments. How do people’s responses make you feel? Model the ones that make you feel good and exclude the rest from your repertoire.
As anything else, accepting compliments gets easier with practice. Before long you’ll start feeling great about it and never feel awkward again.
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