Monday, February 08, 2016

Love Lounge: Why Is It So Hard To Accept Compliments?

Compliments are a funny thing, aren't they? They're paradoxical, even. I mean, think about it: They're supposed to be these big, positive statements that are meant to make you feel better about yourself. But more often than not, any time someone gives you a compliment, even if it's just a simple "Great job today at that meeting," a huge gulp forms in your throat as you struggle to smile and say "thank you." You feel a bit uncomfortable, to say the least.

Uncomfortable. Maybe that's the right word to best describe how compliments make us feel. So we try to counter these positive words with negative replies, as if negating what was just said will somehow diffuse what we perceive to be an awkward situation.

It's the opposite of the humble-brag because the last thing any of us wants to do is appear vain or overly self-confident. We work hard to become masters at the Art of Downplaying, and before we know it, we can brush off every compliment that comes our way -- practically with ease and the utmost of effortless calm.

It's almost as if we're disconnected from everything we do, like the successes we have in life happen to us rather than being the result of something we did. We're not talented. We're the victims of random happenstance. We couldn't possibly be the cause of our own good fortune -- yet are, of course, the reason behind every single bad thing that's ever happened to us. We're bystanders in our own lives.

Last month, Refinery29 wrote a great trend piece on women and compliments, noting that while women can easily dispense compliments, accepting them is a completely different story.
"Women are typically harsh critics of themselves. So accepting compliments can be difficult if a woman is not self-confident, said Dr. Amy Wechsler, a board-certified dermatologist and psychiatrist. " Women are brought up to apologize for their intellect and to deny positive comments about themselves. I think this is slowly changing, but it's a hard habit to break."
I know I'm not AT ALL immune to the Compliment Conundrum, either. It's become a knee-jerk reaction for me to scrunch up my face and shrug off the "nonsense" whenever someone says something nice about me. Even if I'm inwardly proud of myself, I don't want to appear too boastful to the outside world. And it's sort of weird because I'm more comfortable about being proud of myself in the company of my family, but maybe that's just because I'm much more relaxed and open with them. Is it the absence of shame here that makes the difference?
I suppose my point is this: It's confusing enough trying to navigate the world these days without having to make such a show and effort to fend off genuine and harmless compliments. It's much easier -- and healthy -- to accept them in the spirit with which they are given. Yes, it may take work to re-wire your brain, but I'm willing to bet the end result is more than worth it. So the next time someone compliments you on your sense of humor or your know-how when it comes to presidential trivia, stand tall, hold your head high and say those two little words out loud...

"Thank you."

You'll be glad you did.

[Photos via We Heart It]

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