Humour me: I took this blog post title from one of my favourite Vines circa some point in the noughties (??) – (RIP Vine). You know the one: Marleen needs to just take the frickin’ compliment because she’s all “oh, it’s just nothing” self-deprecation. Well, much like Marleen, it transpires that I, too, cannot take a compliment.
And it’s a forever struggle I have – it’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember.
In this blog post, we’re going to tackle the perils of accepting compliments. Our default reactions when someone praises us, how to tackle the awkward ground-swallow-me-up feeling that can come along with compliment territory, how to truly *actually believe* said compliments, really take them in and, in turn, learn how to make compliments an act of self-love in your personal life. So, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Let’s get started, shall we?
Here’s the awful truth: when someone compliments me, I have two default states that my subconscious likes to pull out the bag. First: I might panic at said compliment and instead say something self-deprecating to distill the attention on myself.
For example, compliment A) “Nice dress Maddie!”. Answer A) “Oh, thank you! It bobbled after the first wash lol classic.” Compliment B) “Love your hair today Maddie!”. Answer B) “Thanks so much!!! Means a lot. This is, like, the only day I’ve managed to get it nice since 2019 lol but thank you so much!”
Lol. Not great.
My second default compliment status is that when someone says something nice, my subconscious will instantly trick me into believing said complimentee (not a word; roll with it) was just ‘being kind’ to me. What? Honestly, when I think about it, I know I’m being ridiculous, but we’re talking about default, instant reactions here – and I’ve got to be honest. I don’t have the strongest (read: I have nil) self-esteem and I don’t often sit back and feel proud of myself for anything, so whenever someone compliments me, my lack of self-love-and-self-confidence comes out to play and I end up feeling like a fraud.
Any of this feel familiar to you? Maybe you feel the urge to offer a sickly sweet compliment in return when someone says something; maybe you hit the levels of blush and awkward laughter that make you want to hide under a rock. Let’s be honest, we all have weird coping mechanisms when it comes to dealing with compliments. And today, I’m here to tell you you’re not alone. We can work through this together.
First of all, it’s time to get out of our own heads. As humans, we have a pathological tendency to think we may be the only human in existence incapable of something, when in fact, everyone’s struggling in their own way. We just don’t admit it enough. I reached out on Instagram to ask y’all how you respond when someone compliments you – turns out, we all need a little bit of schooling in the confidence department:
What’s your default when someone compliments you? How do you handle it?
- “My default is to smile awkwardly and then compliment them to remove the attention from me!”
- “I actually tend to RELY on praise and compliments for validation, which isn’t always healthy.”
- “I struggle to know what to say… I just say ‘thank you’ a lot haha.”
- “I can be confident in some areas of my life… But then I get a compliment and I’ll get SO shy.”
- “I’ll half sarcastically say ‘awww, thankssss’ – I don’t know why.”
- “Awkward laugh comes out… every time.”
- “I say ‘thank you’ but then always try to dumb it down by self-deprecating.”
- “When someone compliments me my default is to rush to compliment them back.”
And 69% of us over on Instagram struggle to know what to do when someone gives us a compliment. 59% of you have what you’d define as ‘odd coping mechanisms’ when trying to deal with the awkwardness of someone saying something nice about yourself.
The point is: it’s HARD. But we’re not alone – it’s something a lot of women struggle with. As a follower over on Instagram messaged me to say when I was doing research for this piece, a big realisation she had which helped her come to terms with how she reacts when she’s complimented is by knowing that ‘women are taught by society to self-loath and be dissatisfied with themselves’. And I don’t know about you, but that struck a chord with me.
Depending on what the compliment is commenting on, I’m very insecure about certain areas of my life, so I don’t internalise the compliments because I don’t feel like they’re justified. If someone comments on my appearance, growing up I was insecure in that department, so now I find it hard to shake off those earlier insecurities and believe in myself now. And when it comes to how I’m perceived by the world in a society that tells us to be ‘dissatisfied’, I never want to appear ‘full of myself’ if a compliment is thrown my way, so I will always try and downplay it.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to change society overnight. A lot of work needs to be done in how society makes women feel, and a lot of women have a lack of confidence thanks to the way society perceives us. BUT one thing we can do, and we can do right now, is to begin to make some change WITHIN. How we speak to ourselves, and how we speak to others, will both make the world an easier place to be a woman, and it’ll make us feel more comfortable in our own skin, so we can just accept the FRICKIN’ COMPLIMENT.
Why should it be that compliments are a thing that only come from other people’s mouths? Why can’t we make complimenting ourselves a daily act of self-care and self-love, to help congratulate ourselves for the little wins and support our growing self-confidence, so that next time when someone compliments us, we can really take it in with pride?!
I asked you all if you had any tips on learning to be more accepting of compliments. And here is your incredible advice:
How do you work on becoming more accepting of compliments?
- “I take selfies most days. It always boosts my confidence.”
- “Turning negatives into positives and complimenting myself for them always helps me every day.”
- “Giving out more compliments regularly to other people helped me deal with receiving them.”
- “I’ve made my own mirror affirmations that I can change daily to suit me – and so I can internalise these affirmations each day.”
- “I think it’s about simply having trust in others and that they’re not lying to you. They mean it!”
- “I realised that I only ever compliment someone when I really MEAN it and so it helped me become more confident in realising people do mean the nice things they say to me.”
- “Remember this: if other people see it, the compliment must be true.”
For me, I think it’s a three step process. Once you begin saying kind words to yourself every day, and remembering to take time to congratulate yourself on your own little wins, instead of hurtling through life at a million miles an hour with no time to stop and reflect, you begin to feel your self-confidence grow. Then, take time to compliment others wherever you can. A kind word goes a long way – and you make the change you want to see in the world by offering truly meaningful compliments to others. And finally, you’ll realise that any compliments you’re personally paid are to be bloody well taken in, internalised and celebrated. Because you’re wonderful – and that is that.