Totally Terrific Tinu asks: “When I get compliments from those close to me and people I’ve just met, it overwhelms me. My question is, how do you deal with it or what do you do with it. I usually say thank you but it is overwhelmingly uncomfortable.”
Believe it or not, I used to have the same problem. In fact, I was far worse than you. When someone would give me a compliment, I would say something to deflect it, even putting myself down, and in effect, telling the other person that they were wrong to compliment me.
Then one day, when I was about 19, a good friend did me a huge favor. He’d just told me that I was good at something and I’d shot it down. He gave me the following advice, or rather, he angrily yelled it at me: “When someone gives you a compliment, just say thank you and shut the f*ck up!” This stopped me in my tracks and led to a wonderful, eye opening and life changing conversation.
Why compliments can feel bad
When someone gives you a compliment and it makes you feel uncomfortable, your discomfort is a sign that you don’t believe them. If someone tells you that you look beautiful and you don’t believe that you are, the contradiction between their statement and your thought are going to cause discord in your vibration. Their words are triggering your false belief, which feels awful. So, your negative reaction isn’t actually caused by their words, but by the contradictory belief you hold within yourself.
If you’ve come to the conclusion, at some point, that you’re not good enough, then any thought or statement that contradicts that will make you uncomfortable. Your mind will try to make sense of this discomfort, but having been programmed with a negative belief, it generally makes an even bigger mess of things. So, your mind tells you that the other person is just being nice. They don’t really mean it. They may even be buttering you up so they can get something from you. Your mind will come up with all kinds of explanations, except one: that the other person may be telling the truth.
The people around you are not all big fat liars
But that view, when you really think about it, is horribly jaded. You’re essentially calling anyone who compliments you, which generally includes the people closest to you, big, fat liars. You would rather believe that you’re worthless, or ugly, or not good enough, than even conceive of the possibility that they might be genuinely telling you the truth. Perhaps they really do love your dress, hair, painting, work, etc. Maybe, just maybe, the horrific and painful way in which you’re seeing yourself isn’t the “truth” at all. Perhaps you’re a lot prettier, more talented, or smarter than you think you are.
Step One: Stop deflecting compliments
Now, it sounds like you’ve already done this, but for the sake of other readers, I’m going to include this step here. When someone gives you a compliment, don’t tell them they’re wrong. Don’t put down the thing they’ve just complimented (“Oh, this old dress?”). When you do that, you’re making them feel horrible for paying you a compliment, effectively discouraging them from ever doing it again. You take a beautiful moment of affection and connection and you shit all over it. Stop that. Think about how they feel.
Step Two: Consider the possibility that they might be right
This is a big step, and it’ll take a bit of focus and practice.
There was a time when my own self esteem was so low that I actually looked down on anyone who thought highly of me. If a man thought I was beautiful, I either thought he was full of crap, or I thought he was even lower on the pecking order than I was, rendering his compliment worthless. It was the old “I don’t want to be a member of any club that’ll have me” story. The idea that I might actually be beautiful was so inconceivable to me that I was willing to brand any man who thought I was beautiful as an idiot, and any woman who told me the same as either biased and blinded by love (like mothers who still love their ugly babies), or fake. And, of course, I let no other evidence in.
And yet, as strong as my belief was, I did manage to change it. This wasn’t an instant thing, although, to be fair, not all of it was deliberate, so that did slow me down. The conversation with my friend really helped. It opened me up to the fact that I’d been so readily dismissing the other person’s point of view. Not only was that incredibly disrespectful to my friend, but it really didn’t serve me. Just the realization that there might be another valid point of view, another possible way for me to look at myself, started the process of shifting this horrific belief.
Think of the last compliment you received, which made you uncomfortable. What did they say to you? What thought were you holding on to that contradicted this statement? Which thought do you want to believe? What if your belief was wrong? What if their compliment was actually genuine? What if they don’t see you the way you see yourself?
When we negate a compliment, we often think that the other person is seeing what we’re seeing, which causes their appreciation to seem nonsensical. If they are looking at the same ugly mug that we’re looking at, there’s no way they could genuinely think it’s pretty. But what if they don’t see what we see? What if our own view is distorted? What if we’re looking through a fun house mirror lens that makes us look way uglier than we really are? What if the other person has no such lens and sees something completely different? What if they really do see someone beautiful when they look at us? What if they’re telling the truth?
Step 3: Choose to look through a different lens
Once you’ve opened yourself up to just the possibility of different perspectives, it’s time to go looking for a better feeling way of looking at yourself. So, let’s say that you’re insecure about your work. Someone compliments you on your latest project and tells you that you’ve done a great job. You instantly feel your stomach clench, but you are aware that all this means is that you’ve got a false belief that isn’t serving you. You’ve also opened yourself up to the possibility that the way you’re looking at your work may be totally skewed.
When you look at your work, all you can see is how it doesn’t quite measure up. You always think it could be better. You’re aware of what’s NOT there.
Instead of counting all the reasons why it’s not good enough, try this instead: Make a list of all the things you like about your project (or hair, or dress, or body, or personality, etc.). What’s good about it? Or, if that’s too far to reach, then look for what doesn’t suck and work up from there. What do you like about it? Find any aspect at all, and focus on that until you can find another. Remember, that you may need to focus for a few minutes before you gather enough energy to manifest more thoughts, so don’t give up if you can’t think of anything in the first few seconds. Keep looking for something you can genuinely feel good about.
If this is an insecurity that comes up a lot, get a notebook and write down the positive thoughts you find. This will make it easier for you to focus on them, which will increase their power. In time, it will become easier and easier for you to see what’s right with your work, body, hair, whatever, instead of what’s wrong. Again, it does take a bit of time and focus, but if you practice this technique consistently, you can feel better after just one session and see massive results in as little as a month.
And then, when someone pays you a compliment, you’ll notice that it no longer feels off. It will actually feel good. It will be proof that your new thoughts are right. You are beautiful, good enough, talented, etc. Your smile will be genuine, your reaction one of joy. And then, when you say “thank you”, you’ll really mean it.
First of all, what a lovely Christmas message you gave to your readers and happy new year!
Secondly, the last compliments I’ve received were from my sister, that I have a good fashion sense. They were from a place of love, with her sweet voice and eyes completing the whole picture, but since she repeated them two or three times (and due to stuff she’s been dealing within herself) they felt uncorfortable. They do most of the times, and I realized it just now. It’s like they make me feel guilty that for having some qualities she will feel threatened and look at herself in a destructive way… I became aware of that nonsense and stoped and continue to give compliments to her gorgeous looks (yep… she is a pretty girl).
I feel sad because her suffering sometimes shows in ways that seem so violent and egomaniac and like we all have to be extra-careful with all our words… And that she is feeding it, the pain. Sometimes I don’t feel just sad, but frustrated and angry. Well, the holidays were fine, but there were a few uncomfortable moments.
Luckily I’ve been inspired to say some stuff at the right moments. I hope they help her to make some clicks. And I don’t like these manifestations of hers.. Yes I know, me and/or my family also may have lined up with manifestations like that, but specially her deliberate or not choices… I don’t like those manifestations because talking these things about her, even by describing facts, sometimes feel like I’m demeaning her, or making her “inferior”…. I imediately see the wonderful things she has made, but then her own pain becomes “abusive”. At the same time I feel sad and a bit of a condescending asshole when some attitutes of her make me realize the path she has to travel in some areas of her life to be happier. And the fact that I’m almost ten years younger than her… 🙁
I know this family is shifting huge resistances and it is a step by step process. Just letting this out of my chest.
Thanks as usual.
No problem H. That’s what we’re here for! 🙂
Huge hugs right back atcha!
I don’t really know how to deal with a compliment. I always think that you’re oblige to give one back. And then you’ll have that ecky mushy feeling towards that person. It’s uncomfortable to be near him or her. Well I guess this only applies to guys like me. This post is an eye opener.
That’s a good point. You’re not obliged to give one back. In fact, it can come across as forced and cheezy, unless it’s truly genuine. Just say thank you and smile. 🙂
This one is always fun, and just recently gave me a little insight into LOA. If you can get compliments from someone, then you had to line up with that. You had to vibrate at a level that allowed that compliment to come into your life. So you were the catalyst to the compliment. You had enough love for yourself to attract a compliment!
If you can do that, even while not really believing you deserve a compliment, imagine what you can bring to yourself when you actually start thinking in a new way!!! The compliment came despite your negativity, so you had some positivity ringing through you at the same time. So which do you want to build on?
I say run with the compliment that you vibrated into your reality, because that’s proof that you can get something better than the negative you have been thinking. 😆
Great perspective Nay! I love it. If the Universe is willing to bring you compliments just to show you how low your self esteem is, imagine what will happen when you have high self esteem! Yay!
Happy New Year! Glad you’re still having fun spa-ing.
This post is wonderful! It made me think of other situations, not just receiving compliments. I’m wrestling with a specific negative self-perception at the moment, and these steps will help me get past it. Thank you!!
Thanks Mary Carol!
Can’t wait to hear all about it!
Another awesome post Mel.
This happens to me so often that it was like you were answering my own question. My anxiety is so strong when I hear a compliment that if the compliment comes along with prolonged attention to what is being complimented (e.g. my hair, or outfit) I start to sweat, my legs start to shake, its a whole mess. I think it happens because when people compliment me I’m wondering if they are looking deeper to find something negative to balance out the positive comment. In my mind, there has to be something negative that they notice because I notice the negative things everyday. If I get a compliment about my hair, I’m hoping that they don’t notice my newest pimple. Or, if someone compliments my outfit, I’m hoping they don’t notice the scuffs on my shoes…stuff like that. Just as you said, its an automatic thing that takes practice to change.
Quick story: One day I came back from lunch and I had just gotten my eyebrows arched. The arch was a off and it bothered me. When I got back to my desk my co-worker complimented my eyebrows and I immediately starting angrily rebutting her compliment by telling her all the things that were wrong with the arch. I didn’t even think about it but I was basically telling her she was an idiot for liking something so obviously horrible. Before the conversation was over she actually APOLOGIZED for complimenting me! It was very awkward and I felt like a total weirdo after that. Since then I have learned to just say thank you and shut up (like your friend said). Its a work in progress but it has gotten easier. I never would have pegged this as low self-esteem but reading your blog has really opened my eyes to my issues with self-esteem and confidence. Finally, I’m on the path to feeling better about myself and allowing others feel good about me too 🙂 Thanks!
Yay Linda! Thanks for sharing your story! It so perfectly illustrates my point. 🙂
I love the meaning behind compliments. If you give one, it’s means you’re looking at the best in a person & appreciating them. If you take one well, it means you trust & value that person & believe in yourself. Beautiful!
Exactly Mike! How we give and receive compliments says a lot about us.
Great comment, BTW.