Go Ahead, Take a Compliment

Written by Lisa Fraley

Why do we resist accepting compliments? Why do we so often dismiss them? Perhaps due to modesty... but, sometimes, I think we minimize compliments because, quite frankly, we don’t believe them to be true. If we are being honest with ourselves, there are moments we don’t embrace another’s kindness because we simply do not feel worthy of the compliment itself.

Here’s the funny thing: Compliments are gifts. They are equivalent to someone handing us a beautifully packaged gift. When we don’t receive a compliment graciously, it is as if we are shoving the gift back to them, completely rejecting it. Would any of us ever really do that with a gorgeously wrapped gift? Probably not.

So, why do we do it so frequently with compliments without even thinking about it?

Let’s take an example: Pretty much daily, my husband compliments me. He tells me I am beautiful, compliments my clothing, or looks into my eyes and says something sweet. Every single day. I do not take his generosity or his big heart for granted, but often I don’t believe a word he says. I really don’t. That sounds cold and ungrateful, I know. Let me explain.

I know that my husband’s comments are sincere and heartfelt, or he wouldn’t be saying them. But, I do not receive his compliments well, because I have realized that what he is saying just does not ring true for me. Some days I smile and thank him; but, more often, I find a way to deflect the compliment. I dismiss it, make light of it, or joke that surely his eyesight must be going. But why? Am I afraid of appearing arrogant if I accept his compliments? I don’t think so. Do I think that my ego will swell if I believe him? Not really. Is it possible that I might be a wee bit afraid of seeing myself as someone as beautiful, powerful, and amazing as he sees? Absolutely. If I choose to believe the truth of how he sees me, how does that change my story about myself? How does that change my self-perception?

Choosing to believe someone else’s positive view of ourselves is just that… a choice. Choosing to believe the kind words, rather than doubting their absolute truth, is an act of self-love. It’s an acknowledgment that maybe, just maybe, we are enough. If we have lived our lives believing we weren’t enough, what does that mean if we now ARE enough? We can’t hide behind our old story anymore. Of not being good enough. Pretty enough. Skinny enough. Smart enough. Enough enough.

Years of feeling “not enough” can be powerful fuel for self-improvement, for drive, for success, and for power. “Not enough” actually can be massive fuel for our ambitions. If we take away that fuel, will we lose our drive, our direction, our ambition? If we can’t be a victim of “less than” anymore, what are we now exactly?

We have to create a new self-definition, a new way to look at ourselves. We have to find new fuel.

That’s why compliments can be so scary.

You would think that changing our self-definition is a positive and exciting opportunity, and it is. But, it takes boatloads of courage to adopt a new way of thinking about ourselves as “enough.” Figuring how to bridge the gap between “not enough” and “enough” can feel a bit daunting. After all, we have come this far using “not enough” as fuel, and we don’t want to lose it all now. It feels risky. Better the devil we know, than the one we don’t. We naturally prefer taking the safe road, thank you.

But, here’s the thing: Is life really about always playing it safe? Isn’t it about living up to our potential? With something as simple as a compliment, if we just open our hearts, receive the kind words, and say thank you without qualifiers or self-deprication, we are taking the new road. We are choosing to see and love ourselves just as the other person sees and loves us. That road is really not as scary as we think it is, is it?

We forget that other people receive joy from sharing a compliment or expressing their love. Personally, I am someone who gushes when I share my feelings. Once the floodgates open, the words pour out, and I don’t hold back. I would be heartbroken if, heaven forbid, something happened and those I hold dear did not know how I truly felt. I love giving compliments and appreciate when people accept them without objection. All I want is for someone to smile and say thank you. I want their heart to warm when they hear my words – and I want them to believe what I say is true.

I am grateful that I married a man who is so thoughtful and generous, and who gushes about me the way I naturally gush about him, and so many others. I certainly want others to believe my compliments as true, so the time is now right for me to start accepting compliments graciously as well. That means I need to believe my husband when he says I am beautiful. I need to embody “enough,” to take the new road, to choose self-love.

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