Happy Thursday, everybody. Wow, it’s January 21st already, and we’re three weeks into 2016. Crazy! How are you doing with any resolutions or changes you are looking to make for yourself this year?
One of the changes I want to make this year is to stop suffering from the “compliment complex.” I’m linking up with Amanda at Running with Spoons for Thinking Out Loud today to talk about something I think most of us are suffering from (especially women) — how to start accepting compliments.
I cringe whenever I even think about how difficult it is for most of us to accept praise. We say things like, “oh this old thing” or “shut up, I haven’t lost weight” or “you’re crazy, I’m not amazing” to the slightest amount of praise. There are only two words we ever really need to say when somebody gives us a compliment, and yet, we rarely ever say them: Thank you.
I am still in shock whenever someone says something like that they love my hair, or they think I have lovely cheekbones. I am always looking to see if the person saying it to me is talking to me or someone standing behind me. Once I (hopefully) discern that they are in fact addressing me, my first reaction is to say, “my hair is terrible, it’s thin, and a disaster” or “my face is broad.” Instead of just accepting that person’s praise I not only refute it but argue that they are ‘seeing things’ that aren’t so. Or, I take it as far as putting something else on myself down so that I can justify accepting praise.
“Just take the compliment” — is what my inner voice wants to hear when I bounce praise off myself, but even still, I can’t seem just to shut up and) take the compliment.
Why is it so difficult to accept complimentary statements others make about us? Why does it make us feel so uncomfortable?
Years ago, while I was living in New York, I used to have this one particular friend. She was well-educated, attractive, and friendly. In fact, we ultimately became friends because she once complimented my shoes at a bar. This friend was so different from most of the women I had been surrounded by in my twenties. For starters because of how accomplished she was, but mostly because she would always say, “thank you” when complimented. I remember thinking to myself, “this might be the first friend I’ve ever had who wouldn’t sandwich compliments with self-deprecation rebuttals. ”
I have to admit — despite the fact I liked her, I had a hard time understanding how easy it was for her to accept such praise without tearing something else about herself down.
Photo credit: Buzzfeed
I know that sounds ridiculous, but I mean, I had gotten used to hearing everyone else doing everything they could to talk other people out of any positive decisions they made about them, and this girl was just like, “I know.”
How dare she just accept it when somebody tells her she’s beautiful or smart?
But what made me the most uncomfortable about her was how she used to compliment others (including yours truly). For a while, I had convinced myself that she was only doing it so I would give her compliments back. Instead of finding my friend confident and kind, I was suspicious of her motives and decided she was arrogant.
Why I Couldn’t Accept Compliments
Looking back now, I can honestly say that the reason my friend’s confidence made me feel uncomfortable was that I was envious of her.
What took me years to understand was that I wasn’t envious of her in the sense that I wish I looked like her or had her job or anything like that. I was envious of her because she could find a place inside of herself that said, “I’m going to be gracious and accept kind words about myself from others.” Let’s face it; we are living in a society where many people tear one another down as a means to feel better about themselves. How dare any of us believe in ourselves or say kind things about others. The truth was, I spent most of my life tearing myself down because I didn’t feel like there was anything praise-worthy about me.
All my life, I’ve heard the phrase, “self-praise is no praise.” But if you ask me now, self-praise is the only way we can accept any praise at all. It’s not arrogant to think highly of yourself or your capabilities; it seems quite foolish not to. Speaking from my experience, I know I have struggled with accepting compliments due to my low self-esteem. However, for others, it has less to do with their self-esteem and more to do with them having been conditioned to be humble when it comes to accepting praise. After all, confident people can be labeled as arrogant, and that is too bad in many cases.
The reality is this: When we receive complimentary statements, it is because someone is trying to connect or identify with us. When somebody we know or even a complete stranger says something kind about us whether it’s our nail polish color or an idea we’ve had, we have a responsibility to ourselves and greater humanity to take a moment to allow our inner voices to change the conversation between our ears. I believe, if more of us can step up and own the praise we receive, the more of us there will be to give it genuinely in exchange. Confidence should not be considered a stigma.
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So, the next time you receive a compliment just smile and say “thank you” and pay it forward.
Do you have trouble accepting compliments?