Someone kindly says, “I love your dress. You look great!” And my reaction is, “Oh, this old thing? I got it at Target on the clearance rack.”
Another person compliments, “This meal is so good! The flavors are delicious.” I respond with, “Oh, it’s nothing. It was super easy.”
If I’ve done it once, I’ve done it a thousand times. Someone gives me a compliment and I downplay it. Someone says something nice and I dismiss it. Someone encourages me and I simply shrug it off.
But if I’m being honest with myself, really honest, that dress does look great—that’s why I bought it! And if I am going to be accurate, that meal did take forever! It was a Pioneer Woman recipe with 900 ingredients that had 17 steps and cooked for over three hours! Thank you for noticing!
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I know I’m not the only one that does this either. I watch my friends, coworkers and family do it all the time. What is it about receiving compliments that makes us so uncomfortable? Why is our response always in opposition to the nice thing that the other person said? Why is it so hard for us to just take a freaking compliment?
For many of us, it comes down to a tangled mix of insecurity and humility.
We are our own worst critics. And our dismissive responses are partially, if not fully, what we really believe about ourselves. That’s unfortunate, because our insecurities are so obviously exposed through our responses.
Of course, we also always want to be gracious and humble, so we often shrug off the praise in an effort to keep our egos in check. The only problem with this is it’s not real humility. C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
And I agree. See, when we downplay compliments, we aren’t just dismissing the truth in the statement; we are dishonoring the person saying it. We are ignoring their efforts to encourage and at the same time doing real damage to our own sense of self. Because whether we realize it or not, the words we speak form our beliefs about ourselves as well as what others believe about us.
The more you say something, the more you believe it. And over time, others will believe it as well.
For years, I said to myself (and out loud to others) that I wasn’t a good writer. When people complimented my blogs, I always responded with, “Oh, thanks, but I’m not really a good writer.” And the more I said those words, the more I believed them. One day when I repeated them again out loud in a coaching session, it sounded kind of ridiculous for some reason. It sounded exactly like what it was: a lie.
I may not be an expert writer, but I’m not a bad writer either. Once I realized this lie I was repeating and believing, I not only started responding differently to affirmations I received, but I also wanted to write more. And as a result, I became a better writer.
Now, I’m not saying you should go around tooting your own horn—not at all. But when someone gives you a compliment—more specifically, when someone speaks a kind truth about you—respond with grace and honesty. The best way to do that is with a simple, “Thank you.”
When you respond with “Thank you,” you’re acknowledging the truth in the person’s words, displaying appreciation for their kindness, and building confidence in yourself in the process.
So the next time someone loves the dinner you slaved over, the outfit you spent hours putting together or the blog you poured your heart into, don’t dismiss it. Say a simple, “Thank you” and then smile at the gift of their kindness and enjoy the satisfaction of genuinely accepting a compliment.