Accepting a compliment can feel like a precarious tightrope walk. We lean too far to one side, and we fall into ego. We lean the other way, and plunge into exaggerated humility.
So, what do we often choose to do? Ignore it, shrug it off, and toe that wobbly rope pretending that it never happened. Better to ignore than to risk a disgracious reaction, right? Not so. Dodging compliments not only makes social interactions awkward, it cheats us out of the gifts that praise offers: positive, meaningful interaction and a healthy dose of self-esteem.
No One Likes Humble Pie
There is an art to being humble. Too much of it can backfire on us and come off as feigned humility (which is uncomfortable for everyone involved). The fact of the matter is, many of us believe that accepting a compliment will make us come off as arrogant, whether we feel we deserve it or not.
But consider the last time you gave a well-received compliment. Did you balk at the positive reply? Likely not. And if not, why hold yourself up to a harsh standard of acceptance?
Gracefully accepting a compliment is a compliment in and of itself. You’re letting the giver know that they’re heard, that their opinion matters to you, and that you appreciate their thoughtful consideration.
Enjoy the Spotlight
Shrinking away from compliments is a behavior that lends us insight into the self. When we find ourselves acting in this manner, it’s likely that problems with self-esteem are at the root. We may tell ourselves, subconsciously, that we don’t deserve the praise, and therefore mentally (and sometimes verbally) reject it.
How do you behave when you’re placed in center stage in other areas of your life? Are you a shrinking violet when all eyes are on you?
Enjoy your moment in the spotlight, however brief, and remember that being the center of attention doesn’t mean that you have to put on a show. Just be present and authentic, and help shine a light on those who may need a little bit of encouragement themselves.
Trace the Source of Your Conditioning
So is this the part where we blame our parents, right? Kidding, but there is some merit to this! More accurately, this is the point where we begin to investigate the climate we were raised in and how that impacts our reactions as adults.
We take in and integrate information like a sponge when we’re children, unconsciously shaping our futures by simply being present to the dramas, circumstances, and stories unfolding before our young eyes.
Think about how your parents or guardians reacted to compliments. Did your mother pressure you to reply to compliments out of decency rather than sincerity? Did your teachers praise everyone’s papier maché sculptures to the same degree, regardless of skill or effort?
And let’s not forget culture and societal conditioning. We learn not only through our immediate ecosystems, but also through the behaviors of our TV, film, and reality idols. In a culture where compliments are stereotypically rejected, it’s no wonder that we let compliments roll like water off a duck’s back.
Give and Receive
When we shrink away from compliments, we do both parties a disservice. Consider that the act of receiving, regardless of what it is we’re receiving, is a very important part of giving. When we’re not open to receive, our well dries up, so to speak, leaving us drained and feeling very much the martyr.
The ideal connection involves a healthy, steady stream of giving and receiving in which both people feel equally appreciated. So long as we don’t feel obligated to give, or obligated to accept, we enjoy an open and honest exchange of energy.
The next time you receive a compliment, treasure the experience. The moment is yours, so be present with it. Remember that receiving praise is not only a healthy human experience, it’s a completely natural one. Turn convention on its ear by gracefully accepting, offering gratitude, and soaking up the good vibes!