Do you struggle with accepting a compliment? You either deflect immediately or respond with why it’s not true or with something self-deprecating? Or maybe you smile uncomfortably and in your mind, you start trying to figure out what that person’s angle is? You start wondering why they’re buttering you up, what they’re trying to get out of you, or if they’re actually making fun of you?
I used to be this way and let me tell you, it’s fucking toxic.
You know what you should do when someone compliments you? (And by this, I mean a genuine compliment, not when someone yells something at you while you’re walking down the street or other skeevy situations.)
Say thank you and own it.
Someone tells you that the cake you made was great? Don’t respond with ‘it was a little dry,’ or ‘the icing ratio was off’ or ‘you probably could’ve done it better’. Don’t wonder about whether they’re lying to make you feel better. Instead, smile and say something like “Thanks! I’m glad you liked it!” or “I’m really happy with how it came out!” Be proud of yourself and what you made!
Someone says you look really great tonight? Don’t start thinking about how your dress would fit better if you lost five pounds or about the pimple coming in on your chin or how your curls didn’t quite set the way you wanted them too. Think to yourself, I do look great!
Maybe someone says you did a really great job on the presentation you just gave. Don’t worry that not everyone agrees with what you said. Don’t think about the fact that your hands were shaking or how many times you said um. Instead focus on the fact that you did the work, you showed up, and you gave a presentation that not everyone else could have done the way that you did it.
These are just very basic examples, but the point is the same.
Accept the compliment.
It’s not selfish or vein to do so. You are not full of yourself if you believe good things or if you don’t put yourself down as a response or way to fit in. For some reason, it became the norm for people- especially women- to bond over pointing out our flaws. We talk about our least favorite parts of ourselves and compare ourselves to others instead of celebrating who we are, what we look like or what we’ve accomplished. A lot of times we do this because we’re afraid to look conceited. We’re afraid that people might think we’re cocky or obsessed with ourselves. Sometimes, we’re even flat out afraid to believe that there are good things to be proud of.
Why? How is that normal? And why is it acceptable? Why do we overthink everything and turn a simple compliment into some scheme that might somehow be our undoing?
What we need to be able to do is love ourselves enough to not only receive compliments, but to believe them.
Own how amazing we are. Yes, that dinner I made was delicious. And yes, my ass looks great in these jeans. Yes, I killed it with that project at work and man, I really am a great mom, aren’t I?
Now, we don’t have to go over the top. We don’t have to throw a party or make announcements or make sure that everyone else heard the compliment and agrees with it. And we shouldn’t rely on getting those compliments in order to feel valuable. We don’t have to fish for them. But we need to get to a place where we’re not deflecting or rejecting or overthinking it when they happen.
When we do that, we’re belittling ourselves. We’re tearing ourselves down as if we aren’t worthy of praise. Not only that, but we’re sort of belittling the person that complimented us. We’re telling them that they’re wrong or that they’re lying. They’re trying to do something nice, but because we don’t have a high enough opinion of ourselves, we’re throwing away their positive intentions.
I used to be really bad at accepting a compliment.
There were even times in the beginning of our relationship when my husband would tell me I looked pretty and my mind would go, oh god, what did he do? Why is he being so nice to me? What does he want? Now, I realize that is legitimately insane, but my internal programing had me convinced for years that I wasn’t worthy of being told nice things. It wasn’t conceivable to me that he actually thought I was pretty and just wanted me to know, without any sort of manipulation. I had spent so much time around people who used manipulation for everything that I thought it was normal. I had spent years being told over and over again that I was fat or ugly and that no one would ever love me, and so the concept that someone might disagree was completely foreign. My self esteem was so completely in the toilet, that I couldn’t believe in any praise I received. My fear of never being enough was holding me back in so many ways. And each time I deflected or disagreed with praise, I was tearing myself down even further.
Of course, aside from the fear of being manipulated or pranked, there was also the fear of seeming conceited. If I agreed with the praise or didn’t deny it, then people would think I was arrogant. I was terrified that it would be off-putting and I really just wanted to fit in. There was a desperate need for people to like me, coupled with disbelief when they actually did. But here’s the thing that I didn’t know:
it’s okay to be obsessed with yourself.
If you really love who you are (AND YOU SHOULD!) then own it! Compliment yourself! Praise yourself! It’s not only okay, it’s encouraged. You have worked hard to get to where you are. Why shouldn’t you be proud of that? It’s bad enough when we let other people diminish us and our accomplishments, but to then do it to ourselves as well? That’s definitely not okay! Humility has it’s time and place but there’s a difference between being humble and self-degrading.
Being able to accept a compliment is a step on the ladder on the way to accepting yourself.
When I started loving myself, I was able to accept compliments.
I won’t lie- there are still occasions where I might start overthinking or my instinct is to disagree, but when that happens now, I pause. I take a moment and then put it out of my head. Because now I know my worth. I know that I’m enough and that I’ve worked hard to get here. Now my usual response is something like “Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it!’ or “I’m glad my hard work paid off” or even just a “Thank you.” There might still be an awkward smile or uncomfortable laugh because it’s still sort of a new feeling for me, but I’m honestly loving the transformation.
It feels good to be on my own side for once.
Please go try it, you beautiful badass you!