Accepting Compliments: You're Worth It!

When you are challenged by low self-esteem, as I was and sometimes still am, you may find it hard to accept compliments or praise. Some of us have been programmed to “not think too much of ourselves” and therefore we deflect or deny compliments.

Do you realize that when someone pays you a compliment and you deny it, defer it, or seem to disagree, you are dishonoring them and their sentiment? Do this often enough, and people will stop paying you compliments! No matter whether the reason you deflect compliments is because you were raised to do so (my mom was big on that), because you’re not used to recieving them (perhaps your recent changes in how you care for yourself are showing!), or because you’ve been negatively influenced by someone who felt that agreeing with or accepting compliments was narcissitic, start NOW to change that mindset.

It is not concieted or narcissitic to accept an honestly offered compliment. Positive recognition is valuable to everyone – it’s been said that men die for it and babies cry for it. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of accepting accolades, and don’t deny those who offer them the pleasure of giving them.

If you’re not used to accepting compliments, realize this – it’s often not easy for the person who is giving them either. It’s taking a risk – you never know when you offer a compliment if the person you offer it to is going to accept! A simple ‘thank you’ is really all that’s required – and if it’s a compliment that comes from someone you admire personally or professionally, take it to heart. Use that compliment to help you do a self-examination and see your perhaps overlooked strengths.

I sometimes forget that I’ve accomplished certain things – I was raised not to ‘toot my own horn’, and when you don’t value your own contributions and successes, it’s easy to push them aside in the drive to be ‘more’. I used to complain and defer compliments too, until a trusted mentor in my community told me up front that she did not appreciate her compliment to me being ‘brushed off’ – she took it as a personal affront. You can imagine my horror that this great lady’s feelings were hurt by my unthinking response.

It certainly was NOT my intention to hurt her feelings, and I immediately said so and apologized. In her typical blunt manner she replied, “Well then, learn how to accept a compliment graciously!” Suitably chastened, I started to think about my replies to compliments in the past, and formed a different way of accepting them in the future. I simply said ‘Thank you’ and left it at that, and then when I felt comfortable with that response, improved on it by adding “…that means a lot to me.”

Don’t deny your friends, colleagues and associates the pleasure of complimenting and recognizing you for hard work and positive results. You’ll know when the compliment is not genuine – or if it’s a positive / negative hybrid, which we’ll cover in a different blog post. Until you can tell otherwise, assume the compliment is genuine and move forward from there. Perhaps it will take a while for you to trust that the compliments are coming for the simple reason that someone wants to recognize your achievements, but if you do this often enough, it will become a new positive habit.


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  1. 1
    Dianne M. Daniels

    Hi Racheal,

    I love the idea of remaining humble when recieving compliments – we’ve all experienced giving someone a compliment and them responding with a ‘Yeah, I know’ kind of attitude…makes you question EVER giving them a compliment again. I believe remaining humble is a MUCH better course of action.

  2. 2

    I’ve actually given someone that same admonishment “just accept the compliment, sheesh – you don’t have to agree with what I’m saying, but at least thank me for my attempt a kind gesture.” It has taken me awhile to accept compliments – like you mentioned, we are taught to be humble, etc. But I am still humble about accepting a compliment. I still don’t want to be seen as “stuck up” but I also don’t want to be seen as ungracious. I don’t hand out compliments like candy, but I do try to give someone a geniune compliment about *something* – whether it’s a great accessory or a great contribution to a discussion – because it’s the easiest and most cost-effective way to “give” a gift!:-)

  3. 3
    Dianne (LYR Admin)

    Hi Karen!
    Yep, that “accepting compliments graciously” thing doesn’t always come easy…I hope that we can continue to make changes in this area in our OWN lives and then pass along the changes to our friends, colleagues and daughters.

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