Why Can’t We Accept Compliments?

There were two nearly identical situations that came up this week with two separate friends. During regular girl conversation, one of us complimented the other on something “I really like your shirt” or “That was really nice of you to do that”. In each instance, the person receiving the compliment pointed out all the reasons why the nice shirt was really just plain and old – and all the reasons why what she did wasn’t anything special and probably the same as anyone else would have done.

Instead of simply smiling for hearing the compliment and saying “thank you”, for some reason we were compelled to contradict, minimize or offer one back.

I bet that every woman reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Counselling London Ontario Women Compliment

It was funny because both times my friends and I just looked at each other and instantly had the same reaction: “Why is it so hard for us to graciously accept a compliment?!” And then we each had a couple of stories of the exact same thing that occurred with other people in the past week.

So, I said, this is no coincidence. I’m going to look into this and figure out what is going on!

After some thought and reflection I realized that when I receive a compliment it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable and I immediately have a strong urge to deflect the attention away from myself. I wouldn’t want others to think that I am self-absorbed or arrogant. I know I wouldn’t want to be thought of as someone who thinks she is better than someone else.  It feels icky.

But why? What is wrong with appearing confident and self-assured? What’s wrong with being proud? Proud of our shirt, proud of our actions and proud of our accomplishments.

Why does being proud make me feel like I’ll be judged negatively?
Counselling London Ontario Compliment

I’m thinking it goes something like this: If we agree to a compliment it implies that we think it too. Which means that we know our shirt is nice, or that thing we did was awesome. It gives “mean girls” (or people) the opportunity to talk shit about us. Girls tend to criticize other girls that appear confident. At my age I’m really hoping this doesn’t happen (but I’ve worked hard to surround myself with positive, genuine people). But we were all young girls once and it did happen. A lot. So now we protect ourselves from that possible jealousy-fueled gossip.

So this is my take on it. I’m sure I could have also gone with the “low self-worth causes us to seek confirmation of our own view of self – thus accepting negative feedback and rejecting anything positive”. Sure, that makes sense too, as do other explanations. But for today I think I’m gonna go with the girl bullies who have made us fear being judged.

I do know that next time I get a compliment I’ll smile, say “thank you” and believe it. And I’ll leave it at that. I hope you do as well 🙂