A Guide to Accepting Compliments (& Why It’s Not Easy)

Learning to accept compliments or at least being open to the has certainly been a journey. My younger self would cringe at any positive remarks. Often making a joke; usually a self-deprecating one. Or refuting the comment outright. I don’t know when this behaviour started. But it struck me as a shame that I couldn’t accept it when someone made a nice comment. Especially if the compliment acknowledged the effort I had made or a job well done.

The reason for my reticence, or even discomfort, in the face of compliments is not something I’ve dwelt on. But it has come to my notice more as I’ve matured. The passing of time can be a powerful force. And time plus self development and acknowledgement and working through some difficult past experiences has led me down a better path. Whilst I’m not wholly comfortable with compliments still. I am in a better and, I think, more positive place with them. I can accept them and thank people for them. I’m no longer driven to deny them.

For How to Say No to Protect Your Mental Health read here.

So, What Changed?

How did I come to this more open headspace? As mentioned above, I think time has helped me grow into myself and accept myself more. I’ve adopted a philosophy of change what you can. And try to accept what you can’t. I also think that for many of us, we become less bothered by other people’s opinions of us. Yes, as adults, there are still areas where we feel inadequate or compare ourselves. And yes, sadly peer pressure persists. But I think we come to a different place with it. We’re aware of it but it’s less likely to be the reason we make decisions or to take things as personally.

Likewise, whether my self-esteem and confidence were particularly low as opposed to my peers. Or not. I did not like who I was as a teenager. This applied not only to my physical looks. But went a whole lot deeper. And therefore, I was also overly concerned by how I was perceived as others. It’s extremely hard to accept compliments or even that someone may like you or love you. When you don’t feel like that yourself. I felt so grateful to anyone who did and would bend over backwards for them. Always worried that they only liked me because of what I did for them. Rather than who I was. Over the years, therapeutic interventions have helped me come to a better place with these fears. And to understand them and what behaviours they perpetuated. Including the inability to and the discomfort with compliments.

For How to Take Back Autonomy & Stop Living for Others read here.

How to Accept Compliments?

I’d love to be able to say that accepting compliments is easy breezy now. But I still have my moments when I lack belief in myself. When I have to rely on the support of others. Whether professionally where I sometimes find it hard to own my skills and strengths. Or personally, where I worry about being a good mother, partner, daughter, sister and friend. Wondering if I do enough for them. If I give at least as much as I take. Running through social occasions and interactions. Asking myself if I appeared strange or said something weird. But, I reckon, a certain amount of this is normal.

But, if like me, struggling to accept compliments is something you’ve noticed and would like to change. Here are some things to work on:

  • Don’t worry that accepting a compliment is narcissistic or self-centred. It’s not if the compliment is deserving. If you’ve worked hard or really progressed a project etc. Instead, try and remind yourself that everyone deserves compliments. And this moment is your turn.
  • Learning to value yourself is important too. So often, and certainly in my case, my discomfort with compliments was linked to my lack of self-value. Engaging in self-care activities and prioritizing your needs can remind you of your importance. When you’re in a good space with this, you could kick it up a gear and move from acts of self-care which are your right and a necessity. To something a bit extra, treating yourself when you deserve it.
  • Try to get used to hearing positive things about yourself. You could practise saying one nice thing about yourself in the mirror every morning or evening. Or think back on your day and say aloud one thing you did well. You could practise this with a partner or roommate, sharing one thing in your day you did well with each other. Or something you’re proud of. It may sound silly but can help shift your comfort zone.
  • Remember that everyone wins when a compliment is shared. It’s good for you to hear when you have done a good job. It’s great for your confidence and to encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing. But it’s also good for the person sharing the compliment. When we refute or dismiss it, we deprive the person of sharing their gratitude with us or giving us helpful feedback.

Not all of these ideas may work for you. Perhaps you’ve already got an idea of one or two you might like to try. Others may not sit right with you when you read them. That’s fine too. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them. But don’t force yourself to do something you’re not ready to do.

What are your experiences with accepting compliments? How has this changed over time? And what has helped you feel more comfortable? As always, let me know below

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2 thoughts on “A Guide to Accepting Compliments (& Why It’s Not Easy)

  1. Great post, and something I think a lot of people struggle with. For some reason, it always seems easier to believe negative criticism than positive feedback. I think better acceptance of compliments comes with age maybe, but I have definitely not dealt well with them in the past!

  2. Accepting compliments is so difficult for most people I know. I particularly like your point about how accepting compliments is a win-win, where both sides benefit from the positivity. The opposite is also true, that rejecting compliments rejects the giver. That helps me to accept comments with gratitude when I receive a compliment,.

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