How can I learn to accept compliments?

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The easiest way is to say "thank you."  Seems silly, but most of us immediately go for the denial of the compliment (no I'm not, don't be ridiculous, are you kidding? etc). When we deflect a compliment we not only devalue ourselves, we disrespect someone else, and in some ways doubt their sincerity.  Accepting compliments is a critical step to our own growth and validation, because even if we aren't able to own the compliment entirely, by simply saying thank you, smiling, or showing appreciation to the person offering the compliment, we grow and validate ourselves.  Another thing I suggest is that you take a minute and list 10 traits about yourself that you like. That can sort of prime the pump of you appreciating you, which makes it easier when someone else apprecates you.  So many of us are raised to be humble or to believe that "pride goeth before a fall." Integrating a meaningful complaint is not prideful - it's healthy.  Finally, start issuing a few yourself.  Strive a few times a day to notice special things about others - help they give you, a kind word - whatever strikes you about them. By so doing, you start not only entering the world with more gratitude, mindfulness and focus on the positive, but also train yourself to start accepting compliments more graciously.
Katie Rickel, PhD
Psychology
In our society, people (particularly women) are taught that humility is a virtue, and are often trained to deflect the positive feedback that they receive from others. “You look beautiful in that dress!” is met with “Oh, this old thing? It’s probably just the lighting in here.” Blowing off compliments is a self-defeating behavior to which many fall victim. Consider the following and you might just decide to work on breaking this bad habit.

Consider the Source: Think about the last time that you gave a genuine compliment and the recipient laughed in your face or called you crazy. Did you feel embarrassed? Insulted? Dismissed? When you reject positive feedback, you are, in essence, invalidating the other person’s perspective and feelings. Further, the compliment-giver may have spent considerable time and thought deciding how and when to approach you with their feedback. When you dismiss the comment, you dismiss their efforts and their opinions.

Give It Some Practice: Because people are conditioned to shy away from compliments, accepting them may feel unnatural at first. Training yourself out of this behavior takes some serious conscious effort. Purposefully pause for a moment (catching your automatic impulse to deflect), remind yourself to smile, look the person in the eye and say, “Thank you. I really appreciate that.” People’s response to this kind of reaction is almost always positive. People will not think you are being arrogant or conceited by accepting their compliment, which refutes the irrational assumption that accepting a compliment makes us seem vain and narcissistic.

Write ‘em Down: When you deflect compliments, they go in one ear and out the other. However, when you learn to accept compliments, you start to remember them. You could even try keeping a “compliment log” in which you record each compliment you receive and who delivered the positive comment. You may find great benefit in this practice. Most obviously, it can be a tremendous confidence booster on the days when you feel like you can’t get anything right. Additionally, it will allow you to better identify your strengths and to highlight which people in your life are especially good at reflecting positive images of yourself back onto you.

So, the next time you are receiving praise, make sure to pause, smile, and say, “Thank you.” You may be surprised at how rewarding this practice can be.

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Emotional Health

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.