Why I Can’t Accept a Compliment

Compliments happen all the time; they’re a natural part of life. I won’t do you the boredom of breaking down what a compliment is and why it happens (even though I did find an interesting study that says it feels just as good to give a compliment as it does to receive one – food for thought!) – instead, I’m going to tell you why it’s so hard for some people to accept a compliment.

What does it mean to accept a compliment? It can be as simple as agreeing with someone when they say something nice about it, or even just saying thank you. But there are plenty of people who do not – or cannot – accept a compliment from someone. There’s plenty of articles that build on what this means but since part of this blog is about my experience, I want to give you a first-person perspective on what that means – and why I think I struggle with it.

I don’t know when it started, but I struggled with accepting compliments for at least a decade. What does that mean? It means that I often don’t say thank you after someone says something nice to me. I don’t often disagree with people, or stay silent altogether. Or I diminish the value of what I did, saying that whatever I did wasn’t that big of a deal. I initially did it because I genuinely believed those things, but as time went on it became more of a habit and a reflex – like a ping-pong of deflection time and again.

While the first person that made me aware of it was my therapist, I don’t think it takes a professional to see this sort of behavior. It’s more so that once you’re made aware, it becomes very easy to spot. And I started to spot it everywhere.

For those of you like me, don’t be afraid! While it can become a reflex rather easily, it’s not an impossible thing to get rid of. I’m not saying that because I have rid myself of that behavior – but I am not as bad as I used to be. While there are tons of psychological reasons for why people can’t accept a compliment, mine was pretty cut and dry. I didn’t believe the things people were saying about me, so I could not accept them. If someone said I looked good that day? I didn’t accept because I don’t like how I look. Someone thanked me for doing something nice? Well, anyone would have done that – I’m not special.

This can be a personality trait at it’s worst, and at it’s best? It can be tedious and annoying. But unlike some things that are chemical or genetic when it comes to mental illness, this can be a behavior that can be corrected (though it isn’t easy!). I’m still in the process of correcting my behavior – my friends and family can attest – but I will say, it is a thing that you can improve on with practice.

On Thursday I will share some tips for how you can accept a compliment when you want to do anything but that, but for now I’ll just say this – if this is something you struggle with, you’re not alone! This isn’t just a mental health issue, it’s a people issue, and we can overcome it together.

Walter Inglis Anderson.png

 

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