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  • Writer's pictureSusie Barber

"Why is it so difficult for some people to accept compliments?"

Accepting Compliments:




Gratitude as a strength: the magic of accepting compliments

Discover how embracing praise can make a positive impact on your mental health. Learn to accept compliments and boost your self-esteem.

Let’s play a quick game

  1. You’re out at a party and the host says “You look stunning!” You respond with: A. “Oh! You must be going blind” B. Stop it…” C. “Thank you.”

  2. You meet your first boss and she says “You’re doing brilliantly! You’ve come a long way.” You say: A. “Everyone says I’m born under a lucky star” B. “I have still so much to do” C. “I’m so glad to hear you say that. Thank you.”

  3. You wow everyone with a presentation at work and a colleague comments, “That was incredibly insightful! You really know your stuff.” You reply with: A. “Oh, I just threw some slides together last minute.” B. “I guess I got lucky this time.” C. “Thanks so much! I’m glad you found it helpful.”

If you’ve chosen option c in all three scenarios above, congratulations! You are doing brilliantly! But most often, we women are so self-critical that accepting a compliment with grace can be surprisingly challenging.

This seemingly small act, saying those two simple words “thank you” holds immense power, capable of transforming our mental health and boosting our self-esteem. Yet, so many of us struggle to get those words out. Instead, we opt to deflect or downplay the praise we receive.

It’s time to explore why embracing compliments is essential for our well-being and how it can help build stronger self-acceptance and mental resilience.

Why compliments feel good but can be hard to accept

Receiving a compliment can make us feel great for the whole day.

Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

Yet, acknowledging that compliment, accepting it with a simple “thank you’? That often feels as tough as solving a maths problem. And that’s because a lot is going on behind the scenes when someone says nice about you.

Hearing good things about yourself should make you feel amazing. The warm, fuzzy feeling is partly due to your brain releasing a happy chemical called dopamine. This not only makes you feel great but also nudges you to keep doing whatever you do to earn that praise.

But here’s the twist: Even though compliments are like mini cheerleaders for your self-esteem, you probably deflect them for the most part. Why? A lot has to do with how you’re raised and the mixed messages you get from all around. Societal norms dictate the need to be modest, not too proud, and always strive for more. So, when someone sends a compliment your way, it can feel like you’re suddenly put in the spotlight, and your first instinct is to step out of it.

But here’s a helpful tip – think of compliments as tiny gifts of words. They’re meant to be opened and enjoyed, not pushed away. They give you a peek at how others see you, shining a light on the good stuff you might not even notice about yourself. And isn’t it a joy to discover something positive you didn’t realise you had?

But, getting to the point where you can happily accept these word gifts takes a bit of practice. It’s about retraining your brain to understand that it’s okay to feel good about yourself and to see your own worth through others’ eyes.

You need to get comfortable with letting those positive vibes in and letting them lift you up. It’s simpler than it sounds, and with a little bit of practice, you can definitely get there.

Learning to accept the applause

In the words of author, Steve Goodier, “Sincere compliments cost nothing and can accomplish so much. In ANY relationship they are the applause that refreshes.”

It’s one thing to understand that compliments are like secret boosts for your self-esteem. It’s also easy to acknowledge that accepting them can sometimes feel like trying to hug a cactus. But how do you get from awkwardly sidestepping praise to fully embracing it? It boils down to changing your mindset and practising until it feels natural.

It’s not bragging, it’s believing:

First up, let’s tackle the big myth: Accepting a compliment doesn’t mean you’re full of yourself. It means you’re starting to believe in your own worth, and that’s always a good thing. When someone says you did a great job, they’re not expecting you to disagree. They’re giving you a verbal high-five. Would you leave a high-five hanging? Probably not. So, why leave a compliment hanging in the air?

Practice makes perfect:

Like any skill, accepting compliments takes practice. Start by resisting the natural urge to downplay or deflect. The next time someone compliments you, try responding with a simple “Thank you.” That’s it. No “but” or “it was nothing” attached. Just “Thank you.” It might feel weird at first, but keep at it. Over time, it’ll start feeling more natural, and you’ll begin to see yourself in the positive light others see you.

Turn the compliment into a conversation:

If “Thank you” feels too short or inadequate, and you’re itching to say more, use the compliment as a springboard for a conversation. For example, if someone praises your presentation skills, you could say, “Thank you! I’ve been really working on them. Is there anything you think I could do even better next time?” This way, you’re accepting the compliment while staying engaged and open to growth.

Reflect on the praise:

After receiving a compliment, take a moment to reflect on it. Instead of brushing it off, think about what was said and how it makes you feel. This reflection can help reinforce your positive qualities in your own mind and gradually build your self-esteem.

Spread the love:

Getting comfortable with receiving compliments often makes you better at giving them too. When you start noticing the good in yourself, you’ll also start seeing it in others. Sharing genuine compliments can create a positive feedback loop, where everyone around you feels appreciated and valued.

Remember, you deserve it:

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you deserve the compliments you receive. They’re not flukes or mistakes. They’re reflections of your hard work, talent, and the impact you have on others. Embracing them is not just about feeling good in the moment; it’s about building a foundation of self-worth that can carry you through challenges and successes alike.

Embracing compliments: a step towards loving yourself

Accepting compliments gracefully isn’t only about navigating social situations with elegance; it’s an act of self-love and affirmation. It’s a declaration that you see your worth and are ready to embrace the love and respect others offer you.

Beyond the ‘thank you’:

Understanding and practising the art of accepting compliments lays the groundwork for a healthier, more positive relationship with yourself. Each “thank you” you utter is a step away from self-doubt and toward self-assurance. But the journey doesn’t stop at simply accepting kind words; you need to internalise them – letting them take root in yourself, and allowing them to grow into a sturdy, unwavering self-esteem.

The mirror of reflection:

Think of each compliment as a mirror, reflecting back at you the qualities and strengths you possess. This mirror doesn’t lie; it simply shows you what others see – the best parts of you. Allow yourself the grace to believe in this reflection, to accept it as your truth. It’s in this belief that the true transformation begins, transforming not just how you see yourself, but how you navigate the world around you.

A ripple effect:

When you start to accept compliments with grace and gratitude, you don’t just change yourself; you also change how others interact with you. Your acceptance encourages more open and positive interactions, creating a ripple effect of goodwill and appreciation. This isn’t just about making yourself feel good; it’s about encouraging an environment where kindness, appreciation, and positive reinforcement thrive.

Final words of encouragement:

Accepting a compliment, even with “thank you” is more than about being polite – it’s a powerful affirmation of your worth. Each compliment you receive is a gift, an offering of respect and admiration. Embrace it. Cherish it. Let it remind you of your value, especially in moments of doubt.

If you find yourself struggling to accept compliments, don’t be discouraged. Like any skill, it takes practice. Start small, remind yourself of your worth, and remember that it’s okay to feel proud of who you are and what you’ve accomplished. You are deserving of praise, not for perfection, but for the effort, the passion, and the uniqueness you bring into this world.

In closing

Your journey through this exploration of compliments is much more than about learning to say “thank you.” It’s about recognising your value, allowing yourself to be seen, and, most importantly, seeing yourself through a lens of kindness and appreciation.

As you step out into the world, carry with you the knowledge that you are worthy of every kind word, every note of praise, and every accolade that comes your way.

May you walk forward with your head held high, your heart open, and your ears ready to accept the beautiful truths others see in you. Remember, each step you take in accepting compliments is a step towards embracing your true self – flaws and all – with love and pride.


Outline of topics

Module 1: Professional Business Introductions:

Proper business introductions and making a great first impression.

The proper handshake.

Social and business introductions.

Business cards and introductions.

Etiquette status cards skill practice activity.

Module 2: Business Meetings Etiquette:

Are meetings a waste of time?

General business etiquette guidelines..

Arriving early and arriving late.

Seating etiquette considerations.

Module 3: Telephone Etiquette:

First impressions – Activity.

Preparing before you call.

Telephone etiquette and protocol considerations within a business setting.

Basic telephone etiquette.

Module 4: Business Attire:

The importance of proper business attire.

Proper business attire for women.

Proper business attire for men.

What exactly is “Business Casual”?

Module 5: Business Correspondence Etiquette:

Written communication etiquette guidelines.

E-mail etiquette.

Before you hit “Send”.

Module 6: Business Dining Etiquette:

Business meals pre-planning arrangements.

The seating dilemma.

The ordering dilemma.

Table set-up scramble – activity.

Handling formal dining mishaps.


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