Self-Love: Compliments

Since we are rapidly coming up on what my daughter’s friends call Singles Awareness Day (because nothing makes you feel as acutely aware that you’re single than Valentine’s Day, you know?), I thought I’d do a short series on loving yourself.

My friend N often says, “The only proper response to a compliment is, ‘Thank you.'”

Think about the last time someone complimented you. How did you respond?

“You look nice today.”

Did you say, “Thank you“? or did you say, “Oh, no, I have this huge zit right here!” or “My hair wouldn’t do what I wanted it to” or “I hate this shirt” or “I feel fat today” or some other self-deprecating comment?

Do you know what you’re doing when you do that?

You are telling yourself that you don’t like yourself very much.

You know the affirmations we’ve talked about recently?

This would be the opposite of that.

Affirmations try to counter your negative self-talk, and not accepting compliments, in fact denying them, can undo all the work you’re trying to do with the affirmations.

Back in November, someone I know casually on another internet forum connected to me on Facebook. While we were having a conversation about how we knew each other, he said, “you were always the scary smart one.”


“Scary smart”?

This guy is an attorney with a pretty impressive resume and rapier wit, so, you know, he’s not dumb himself.

And I know a couple of scary smart people like L, a math professor and researcher that excels at taking complex concepts and explaining them to the average person. Or S, the tax attorney that creates complicated spreadsheets to analyze test data or housing and investment trends for fun. 

I posted on my wall, well, here’s part of the conversation [I removed identifying stuff]:

Me: Someone just called me “scary smart”; I’m not sure I can live up to that.

Now, you expect your mother and sister to say complimentary stuff, but both T and G are themselves very smart, educated women whom I respect.

While I’ve been reexamining some of my inner work stuff lately, I realize that I totally do this. I mean, I deflect compliments.

M has said some very nice things about me lately, and my first, immediate emotional response is to deflect it, to deny it, to diminish it.

But by doing that, not only am I disrespecting myself, I’m disrespecting him and his opinions. 

And every time we deflect a compliment, we are saying to the person giving the compliment, “I don’t trust your judgment.”

So, from now on, when someone compliments you, how you look, how you dress, how smart you are, your parenting, your compassion, your kindness, your organizational skills, WHATEVER,  just say, “Thank you.”

And then stop for a moment and really think about what they said; take it in; LISTEN to it; repeat it to yourself; write it in your journal; do something that helps you remember it.

Because the old saw about loving yourself before you can love someone else? Totally true.

 But sometimes looking at ourselves through someone else’s eyes can help us get there.

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Posted in self-love
11 comments on “Self-Love: Compliments
  1. Karen Grothe says:

    This is something I have to work on. It sounds crazy, but I find it really takes practice for me to just respond “Thank you” to a compliment. The bad habits of deflecting, denying, and diminishing are so in-grained that that kind of response is almost automatic. And for me, I think I was raised to believe that was the humble way to respond and that it was important to be humble. I get upset now when I think about how my dad would see my good grades and manage to find the places where he thought I could improve to ask me about (as in “Why did you only get an A- in this class rather than an A?”) rather than simply saying, “You did a good job”. So, I feel like there's always something to improve and have trouble just seeing something about myself as being simply good or worthy of compliment. I have a deep feeling of never being enough buried in my subconscious. So, yeah, I have to really work on this.

  2. Ah, the humble thing. I almost mentioned the humble thing.

    Have you seen Mean Girls? There's this scene where the Queen Bee tells the new girl, “You're pretty.”

    The new girl acts appropriately with a “Thank you.”

    And the Queen Bee turns it around as, “OH, so you think you're pretty” as if now, that's the worst thing imaginable, to believe something good about yourself.

    It's ingrained in us that we can't be arrogant, that we can't be conceited, that we can't be aggressive. And somehow, taking a sincere compliment has been turned around to mean, “Oh, yeah, I know, I'm better than you!”

    But it's not.

    And we need to reclaim that.

    “Thank you” IS a humble response. It's honoring the giver's judgment and opinion. It's honoring yourself.

    A non-humble answer would be, “Oh, yeah, I know. I'm better than everyone else, I'm prettier than everyone else, I'm smarter, etc”

    But a simple, “Thank you” is humble and honoring both the giver's intent and the receiver.

    And believe me, I know how hard this is. I struggle with it.

    But if I want to believe good things about myself, I have to listen to the judgment of the smart, savvy people I've surrounded myself with, don't I?

  3. Karen Grothe says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Karen Grothe says:

    Ah, Mean Girls … I watched that during the time when I went to movies by myself when the boys went to stay with their dad on the weekends after he moved out. It's been a long time since I've seen it, but I remember liking it pretty well. Thanks for the reminder.

    And thanks for the reminder about honoring both myself and the compliment-giver through a simple “Thank you” response to a compliment.

  5. Priska says:

    I too struggle with the need to be humble along with the belief that the the person giving the compliment is under an illusion, they're unaware of my flaws, so I need to make them aware.
    I am going to notice next time I receive a compliment.
    Before I jump in believing that they have 'put me on a pedestal I don't rightly deserve' I will be humble enough to understand this is not what the case.
    They're paying a compliment about one thing in particular they have observed.
    I will keep it at this and say 'thank you'. Perhaps instead of then looking for flaws to bring to their awareness I might switch my thinking to notice a special thing I see in them.

  6. Yes, that thing, “unaware of my flaws”

    But you know what? They don't WANT to know your flaws. 🙂 Have you ever given a compliment to someone and had them go on and on and on about their flaws? Isn't it annoying?

    But yet, I've done it; I know I have. I've been the person putting myself down for 10 minutes after someone says a nice thing.


  7. Anonymous says:

    I took to wearing a cologne that hasn't been made since the 80s. Mostly find it on Ebay and at perfume outlets of significant size. (and after a search, Amazon is selling such as well)

    I was awash in said scent one time while out cruising the local indoor flea market, when a woman essentially bullied me into the wall at my back. She inhales deeply “f*** yeah! What is that scent?”


    “Excuse me?”

    “It's called “Kouros”, a scent by YSL.”

    “Mmmm..that's a good smell……”

    “Perhaps, but I do not know you.”

    Rejected, denied, tossed aside, asap. Why-for?

    I'm a gambling man….such an event…why not ride that wave? After such a brazen confrontation, what else could remain to cause embarrassment or doubt?

  8. Well, you keep saying you don't think you have a way with women, and here, a woman is attacking you! (and for not the first time in your life).

    Did she notice the eyelashes?

    But, let's follow it through. If you went with it, went with where she apparently wanted to go. . .Would you have gotten what you want?

    Do you want a one-nighter with a stranger at this point of your life? Because I don't think that's what you want now.

    And if you subconsciously realized that the. . . click. . . wouldn't be there, then why waste your time and energy?

    BUT, it still was a compliment. 🙂 I mean, shit, man. Ask your buddies how often that happens to them.

  9. Great post had me laughing at the introduction. I learned the importance of accepting a compliment from a book when I was in my early 20s. Rejecting compliments can be a difficult habit to break, but I'm happy to have overcome it. Thank you for the reminder. It's always good to have positive habits reinforced. Cheers.

  10. Thanks, Ronnie.

    I hope we can get the Google+ group up and running a bit more. 🙂

  11. Anonymous says:

    Also – please remember that the things you say when you are complemented will linger in the other's mind for a long, long time. You may change their opinion of you by what you say.
    If they have just complimented you, wouldn't you rather that they remember you that way?

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