When you don’t feel so great about yourself, one of the things you’ll notice is that you have trouble accepting compliments from other people. It can be hard to believe anything nice that someone says about you when you believe that you are not worthy, not a good person, or just plain messing up. So instead, you brush off the compliment (Noooo, not me!), you deflect to another person (Oh Jordan really is the person who deserves the credit!), you point out any flaws (I messed up the ending and should have done better!), or you just disagree with the person (What? This old rag?!?). But I believe that learning how to accept compliments can actually help you to feel better about yourself and improve your self-esteem.
Why do I Have Trouble Accepting Compliments?
For people with social anxiety, accepting a compliment can be a trigger for their anxiety and embarrassment. This can make it very difficult to accept or even to hear a compliment. But by not accepting compliments gracefully, you are degrading yourself and your work which over time can lead to decreased self-esteem and self-confidence.
Many people have been raised this way. It might be an attempt to remain humble and not become conceited. Maybe you’ve seen your parents or grandparents respond this way to being complimented and so have learned that this is the “correct way”. Maybe it was a religious or cultural belief. Or maybe, even the old-fashioned belief that “Ladies should be modest at all times”. In any case, it can be really difficult to change the old family norms that no longer work for you.
If you have low self-esteem, then the beliefs you have about yourself will be in conflict with the compliment leaving you with an internal conflict to resolve. If you accept the compliment, then what you believe about yourself must not be true, and you, therefore, have to change it. Change can be a very difficult thing to do, so instead, most people will just take the easier option and disbelieve the compliment, which allows their beliefs about themself to remain unchanged.
Another reason that people have trouble accepting compliments is when the compliments are coming from someone that they have a conflictual relationship with. In this instance, it may be hard to believe that the person really believes what they’re saying and you might instead think that there must be some sort of ulterior motive to the person complimenting you.
How to Improve Your Ability to Accept Compliments
There are several different things that you can try to improve your ability to accept compliments.
1. Accept that the person genuinely meant what they said. Sit for a few minutes with any feelings that come up rather than immediately shutting them down.
2. Try to think of a way, no matter how small, that the compliment might be true. For example, if the person compliments your appearance, maybe you can realize that you spent a lot of time fixing your hair and that you are having a good hair day. This can help you to see yourself in a more realistic light, neither all good nor all bad.
3. Make it a practice to notice when you do something good and acknowledge it to yourself. Make it a practice to praise yourself on a regular basis. Again, sit with any feelings that are brought up and really feel them. Maybe even wonder to yourself where these feelings are coming from? Do they sound like someone in your past?
4. Start a gratitude practice. A good one to start is a gratitude journal. This is where you set aside 20-30 min a day and reflect on things that you are grateful for while writing down 3-5 things in a journal. The act of writing them down forces you to spend time thinking thoughts of gratitude, which can have positive effects on your mood and self-esteem.
5. If you find that it is old resentments that are getting in the way of you accepting compliments, then the obvious answer to helping is to resolve these conflicts. This usually involves talking it through and making some compromises.
6. Understand that you are judging yourself much harsher than others would. I often will ask clients what they would say to a friend or their mother, and then wonder why they are thinking and talking so meanly of themself. If you wouldn’t say it to your mom or your best friend, then you should NOT be saying it to yourself.
7. Practice saying “Thank you”. The more you do it, the easier it will become. There are lots of different ways to say it too. Try some of these…
Thank-you! That makes my day to hear you say that!
That’s very nice of you to say! Thanks
Thank-you! I think it turned out well too
I really put a lot of work into it- I’m glad you appreciate it!
Thanks! I really worked hard and it’s nice to hear you enjoyed it
That’s very sweet!
I appreciate hearing that
Your opinion really matters to me so I’m so glad you said that
For More Information
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