I love to give compliments. I really believe that if you see something positive in someone, then you should tell them.
- They may not see it themselves
- It might brighten their day (or week!)
- They may need the encouragement
- It tells them that I appreciate something about them, and
- It’s just really nice to give a gift (that they can enjoy over and over).
Plus, it takes no time or effort at all. It’s a no brainer!
However, I’ve noticed that mums often struggle to accept compliments without justifying, downplaying or deflecting in some way.
It sounds something like this:
“You look great today”
“I look exhausted. Look at the dark circles under my eyes! I did actually wash my hair though.”
“You handled that meltdown really well”
“I guess it makes up for me yelling at her this morning.”
“This is an amazing meal you’ve made for us. Thank you!”
“No, it’s nothing. It’s so basic.”
“I love your dress”
“But look at your dress! It’s amazing. Where did you get it?”
How do you respond to compliments?
Do you get awkward, laugh it off, make it a joke, put yourself down, deflect or distract, ignore, justify and explain, reject or get angry?
Why it’s hard to accept compliments
Surely, when someone says something complimentary about us, we should feel good about ourselves.
Unfortunately this isn’t always the case.
1. The compliment conflicts with how you view yourself.
We subconsciously look for evidence to support what we believe about ourselves. When someone says something that doesn’t support these beliefs, it can feel confusing, uncomfortable, inauthentic or even mocking.
You may feel like you’re not worthy of the praise. If you have low self-esteem and a generally negative view of yourself, then compliments just don’t seem to ring true.
In some cases, compliments can make you feel insecure or threatened, as you’re sure you can’t live up to that person’s perception of you.
If you’re prone to overthinking, a compliment can throw you into a cycle of analysing and questioning why the person would say that and what they really mean.
In a romantic relationship, compliments from your partner can even be interpreted as lies and actually damage the trust in the relationship.
2. You don’t want to brag or promote yourself.
Many of us were taught from a young age that humility is important. Accepting compliments may not feel like a humble response to you. In fact, it may feel akin to flipping your hair and saying “oh yes, I really am incredibly fabulous”.
The problem is that rejecting a compliment isn’t being humble, it’s devaluing yourself.
3. You’ve learned to respond this way, from the women around you.
We subconsciously mimic or mirror the people around us, especially those we like and are similar to. When the women around us respond to compliments negatively, then we learn to do so also. And so many do.
In each of these cases, your inner critic is quick to jump on board to reinforce your current perception of yourself and make sure you don’t do anything that could be “unsafe”. This includes bragging, being different to others, taking social risks or exploring any potential errors in your perception of yourself.
Why accepting compliments is actually worthwhile
It’s helpful to shift the focus from you (the receiver) to the giver.
Compliments are a lovely gift. They’re given with good intentions, in an attempt to connect and encourage.
The giver is honouring you by sharing their perspective. They’re not usually asking for your agreement. They’re simply telling you that you’ve made a positive impression on them in some way and that they appreciate it.
Compliments bring positive energy to your life and can boost your confidence, self-image and mood. They can help to rewrite your story and redesign how you see yourself. They also enhance your relationships.
When you don’t accept a compliment, you:
- Block the positive energy and effects of the compliment
- Devalue yourself
- Deny the giver the opportunity to give you their heartfelt gift
- Let your inner critic keep you from progressing.
You see, you actually deserve the compliment, even if you don’t agree with it. It’s just someone’s perspective.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, and that’s ok. Sometimes what is a weakness to you might be seen as a strength to someone else. For example, you might think that being able to run 5 kms is nowhere near where you want your fitness to be, but to someone who can’t yet run 1 km, it seems amazing.
Lastly, don’t forget those unrealistic standards we mums like to hold ourselves to. Maybe a compliment is a reminder that you’re expecting too much from yourself and that you’re already doing something well.
How to accept compliments with grace
Lovely mum, I’m going to keep this really simple.
I understand that you may not feel you’re worthy of praise. You can still accept compliments with grace, while you work on the deeper cause of your discomfort.
Firstly, assume that all compliments are genuine and heartfelt, because the vast majority are.
Then, just say “thank you”.
Don’t worry about whether you agree with the compliment, just accept it as their perspective.
It’ll probably feel uncomfortable at first, but over time, it will become easier. Thank you is powerful on it’s own and is really all you need to say.
If you want, you could also add some other expression of gratitude, for example:
- “I really appreciate that”
- “That’s kind of you”
- “Thank you for noticing”.
There may be instances when you want to acknowledge other people that have contributed. Of course, this is the right thing to do. Just don’t give the compliment away completely.
For example, if someone compliments a party you’ve helped to organise, instead of saying “I hardly did anything. Jen and Michael did all the work”, say “thank you. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. Jen and Michael also did a lot of work to make it happen”.
There’s also no need to feel obligated to offer an even bigger compliment in return. This can downplay the compliment offered to you.
“Thank you” is almost always enough.
So, lovely, your action plan for this week is to accept compliments by just saying “thank you”. Note how you feel and whether this changes the more you practice.
I’d love to know how you feel about compliments. Leave me a comment below.