How To Own Your Success Without Being Narcissistic Or Selfish

Psychotherapist By Megan Bruneau, M.A.
Megan Bruneau, M.A., is a psychotherapist and wellness writer based in New York City. She received her bachelor of arts in psychology and family studies from the University of British Columbia and a masters of arts in counselling psychology from Simon Fraser University.

I used to think accepting compliments meant I was narcissistic or selfish, so I would respond with statements like:

  • Trust me: it's an optical illusion
  • Oh no, I did nothing.
  • It was a flukey shot/good angle/lucky guess.
  • A monkey could have done it!
  • I blacked out. I don't know how it happened.
  • Are you blind?! Ew. No.
  • (insert name here) did everything. I just made sure everyone was well caffeinated.

… and so on.

Many of us have a really hard time accepting compliments. Why? Because our culture values modesty and encourages deflecting compliments, especially as women.

Plus, for those of us who struggle with perfectionism, we worry that acknowledging our achievements or being satisfied with ourselves might lead to becoming lazy or unmotivated.

But the thing is, accepting compliments with gratitude doesn't mean we're conceited or self-centered; it means we're gracious and secure. Think of when we compliment someone else, and they respond by negating our comment or telling us we're crazy. Now think about when they accept it. Do we judge them as conceited?

Obviously there's a balance, here. It's probably not serving to respond to a compliment with "I know — I'm the best," while rolling our eyes, but that's usually not what we're assuming when we accepting a compliment.

Rather, by acknowledging our strengths and successes, we shed light on parts of ourselves that we value — parts that are interspersed amid imperfections and qualities we might desire to change. In doing so, we recognize our positive traits and increase our self-confidence.

If you're on board, challenge yourself to do something different the next time you receive a compliment.

Notice how it feels. It's unlikely anyone will consider your actions rude or self-absorbed. (If it's someone you trust, ask them what it was like to hear your accepting reaction.)

If accepting compliments is quite foreign to you, smile and try one of these responses:

  • Thank you.
  • Thank you, I worked hard at it.
  • Thank you, I like your __________.
  • Thank you, it makes me happy to hear you say that.
  • Thank you, I'm glad you think so.
  • Hey, thanks! It feels good.
  • Thank you, I'm excited.
  • Thanks, that means a lot!

Bottom line: Being humble does not mean we should devalue ourselves. Own your successes. Recognize your strengths alongside your flaws and challenges. It just might help shift how you view yourself.

Megan Bruneau, M.A.
Megan Bruneau, M.A.
Megan Bruneau, M.A., is a psychotherapist and wellness writer based in New York City. She received...
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Megan Bruneau, M.A.
Megan Bruneau, M.A.
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