Why I Couldn’t Accept Compliments

Why I Couldn’t Accept Compliments

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.

[Tweet “Confidence should not be considered a stigma. Why I Couldn’t Accept Compliments #SelfEsteem #SelfHelp via @BeetsPerMinute”]


So, the next time you receive a compliment just smile and say “thank you” and pay it forward.

Do you have trouble accepting compliments?

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  1. January 21, 2016 / 12:17 pm

    It is harder for me to accept compliments from certain people. I definitely don’t know how to handle compliments about my looks. And for me, it isn’t so much about having confidence as just not having heard it much growing up, so I just don’t know what to do with it. But if someone compliments my humor or my brain or whatever, I am much more easily able to accept the compliment. But not looks.

    • Erin
      January 21, 2016 / 12:46 pm

      I agree, Susie. I’ve struggled with all compliments. I think I’m the opposite of you, I find it easier to accept a compliment about my looks than who I am as a person or my intelligence. I just know I’m working hard to make it stop and to be kinder to myself and others. While I was writing this post, I really started to get upset with how I had been over the years to others. I also think you have a great point about what we grow up with. I definitely didn’t hear many compliments earlier on in life so maybe it does start there. It’s all about the journey and progress! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

  2. January 21, 2016 / 12:33 pm

    In’t it messed up how much more “normal” it is for us to tear ourselves down than it is to be confident in our abilities?! Like if we’re constantly putting ourselves down, that’s okay… But if we’re confident, then we’re just being arrogant and cocky. Nuh uh. I hate that. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of our accomplishments [as long as we’re not constantly rubbing it in other peoples’ faces], and I think you’re totally right about properly receiving compliments being the first step to genuinely giving them.

    • Erin
      January 21, 2016 / 12:50 pm

      I really believe that confidence shouldn’t be a stigma. I used to be so insecure that I thought confidence was a dirty word. The bottom line is if we can’t be our own cheerleader, who can? You’re very right there is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of ourselves, and yes, I think that is the key to being kinder and more encouraging of others. Thanks for sharing, Amanda!

  3. January 21, 2016 / 1:23 pm

    I completely agree with this, for the most part. I think that being confident and able to accept compliments is such an important and amazing quality to have, BUT there are people who I think use it as a shield in a negative way that I find VERY off putting. I personally have a really hard time accepting compliments for what I assume are the same reasons you outlined. It’s something I definitely should work one! My husband, on the other hand, is almost annoyingly confident. I’ll say something along the lines of, you’re a great husband/daddy/whatever and he just goes, “Yeah, I know.”… men.

    • Erin
      January 21, 2016 / 2:08 pm

      Haha, Morgan — my husband is the same. Men indeed. I agree that some people do use confidence negatively as a shield, and when it’s obvious that the individual is arrogant, that’s not okay either. I think it’s not always as obvious, but I used to assume anybody with confidence were conceited, and that’s not always the case. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  4. January 21, 2016 / 3:06 pm

    It used to make me extremely uncomfortable to accept compliments. I think there was an actual grimace on my face bc I didn’t know how to respond. It’s gotten much better w practice, but sometimes there’s still that quick twinge of disbelief or I want to reply w some reason w the compliment isn’t valid. But that’s just silly. Compliments for all!

    • Erin
      January 21, 2016 / 3:55 pm

      It is silly when we reply with those negative statements. I agree, compliments for all! We’re all worthy of hearing good things about ourselves.

  5. January 21, 2016 / 4:15 pm

    I LOVE COMPLIMENTS. They’re my love language. Have you ever read that book, the 5 Love Languages? I’m sure you have but if not, GO READ IT! But anyway, yes it’s hard sometimes but I’ve been getting better at it as I get older. When I give someone a compliment and they argue with me, I’ll call them out on it straight away. I’ll be like, no. You don’t get to argue with me because if you do, you’re calling me a liar and that offends me because I take great pride in being authentic and truthful. So I tell them to smile and say thank you. Then they smile and say thank you. Ha!

    • Erin
      January 21, 2016 / 4:24 pm

      I haven’t read that book, so thanks, I will get it! I think you should start a compliment boot camp! People will take it and they will like it! Haha! I believe you’re very genuine with people. I think it’s great that you don’t let people get into the self-deprecation cycle. You’re awesome like that!

  6. January 21, 2016 / 4:17 pm

    I agree–I hate that whole refusing to accept a compliment thing. It’s not only really unhealthy, but it’s kind of confusing for the person who gave the compliment.
    When I get a compliment, I often respond with, “Thank you. That’s really kind of you to say.” I say this because I like to acknowledge that the other person has gone out of their way to notice something about someone else, which I think is a really special and rare thing.

    • Erin
      January 21, 2016 / 4:27 pm

      I think it’s wonderful that you appreciate the kind things people say to you and yes, you’re right it’s super offensive to argue with somebody who has given you encouragement. It is special. Here’s hoping it becomes less rare! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Joyce! 🙂

  7. January 21, 2016 / 5:27 pm

    I have struggled with this. I don’t want to accept it out of pride, but I’ve learned that learning to take it and giving the glory to God has been the best way for me to receive, not deflect people’s compliments. <3

    • Erin
      January 21, 2016 / 6:16 pm

      That’s great, Emily! 🙂

  8. January 21, 2016 / 11:42 pm

    Wow. This post really resonates with me. I often struggle with simply accepting compliments. I always come back with some sort of qualifier or excuse for why the person could be giving me a compliment. I need to become better at that for sure.

    • Erin
      January 22, 2016 / 10:18 am

      Yes, we all need to stop with those qualifiers. It takes practice; I am still working on this every day. I am glad this gave you some motivation to be more accepting of praise, Mecca! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  9. January 22, 2016 / 12:09 am

    I used to suffer from the same. I think it comes with age and maturity that you can just say, “Thank you.”

    • Erin
      January 22, 2016 / 10:31 am

      I think accepting praise indeed improves with age and maturity, or at least, we stop arguing with people and just accept it out loud. I think back to when I was a child. If somebody told me I was pretty or had a lovely dress, my mother and father would always say, “what do you say?” We need to replace those prompts by just saying thank you more often.

  10. January 22, 2016 / 10:50 pm

    I have ZERO problem accepting compliments. That being said, I will never consider myself a hot/pretty girl, but I am 100% content with me as a person in general, and I think this confidence helps me easily accept compliments! 🙂

    • Erin
      January 23, 2016 / 9:26 am

      I think that’s all a person needs to be able to accept a compliment (genuinely) is to be content with themselves. It’s not as easy for some people, but it helps to recognize that we should be able to accept compliments and think highly of ourselves. We have to be in our corners to have a fighting chance!

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