The art of accepting a compliment with grace & believing it
A compliment. Just a few words about my physical appearance or personality and I’m instantly in a tailspin, swept up in a whirlwind of self doubt and insecurity! I know I’m not alone. We women have mastered the art of the personal put down. We are our own toughest critics and because we hold ourselves to such high standards, (often set deliriously high) we are genuinely taken aback and rendered speechless by a loving compliment.
But there is so much power in a compliment. Accepting, internalising and believing a compliment is fuel for unshakable confidence. With this post, I’m preaching to the choir. On good days, I can accept a compliment and run with it, propelled forward by its positive vibes.
But the days when remembering how to take a compliment matters most are the bad days. The days when nothing fits; when my natural curls have a mind of their own and make me look like Loretta from Family Guy! (For the sake of this article; we’ll run with hair as the focus of our compliments.)
I’ve learned I’m learning how to take a compliment with these four tips:
1. Change Your Response
Think about the last time someone paid you a compliment. Maybe someone came up to you and said, “I like your hair!” Did you:
A. Say “Oh, it’s horrible; I hate my hair!”
B. Do nothing, but tried to awkwardly laugh off their compliment.
C. Change the subject to something other than your hair. Or anything to do with you.
D. Question their intention & wonder if they meant it.
E. Reply with sarcasm.
F. Give them a compliment back almost immediately after.
If you said yes to any of those six options, you need to change your response. Especially if you’re like me and have a tendency to combine responses into something of a anti-compliment killer combo. I usually go for an A + B + F combo.
What should you say the next time someone comes up to you and compliments your hair? Try any of these:
A. “Thank you!”
B. “Thank you!”
C. “Thank you!”
D. “Thank you!”
E. “Thank you!”
F. “Thank you!”
2. Do not Deflect
The responses in options C and F are examples of deflecting. It’s probably the most common way to respond to a compliment you weren’t expecting and don’t fully believe is true. Why do we deflect? Because when someone compliments us, they’re giving us attention. They’re speaking out loud about an aspect of ourselves that we perhaps do not fully appreciate. The tendency is to hide this part of us, not just from ourselves but also from others.
Deflecting compliments damages us. It equips us with the ability to allow people’s words (the well-intentioned, honest words) to simply pass in one ear and out the other. We don’t dwell on the positives within ourselves and by not dwelling on the positives others point out, we make it easier to fall into a cycle of dwelling on the negatives.
When you spend day after day putting yourself down and highlighting your shortcomings without accepting and loving them, you look for opportunities to dwell on other aspects of your life where you come up short. You memorise the negative comments and carry those around with you so that your inner dialogue becomes a repetition of put-downs, criticism and negativity. Of course you deflect; for fear of your complimenter picking up on another flawed part of you!
Instead, take a step back, but do not deflect.
3. Step Back and into Their Shoes
If someone says they like your hair or they find you attractive, generally, it’s because they do. Drop your guard. Don’t deflect their compliment; see yourself through their eyes. Maybe their hair is a different colour from yours? Maybe your hair reminds them of someone else’s, a loved one perhaps? It doesn’t really matter why someone likes your hair. If they’ve taken the time to tell you they do, trust that they do!
Think about the things that make your hair lovely and likable and focus on those. For instance, on my Loretta Brown hair days, my curls are tightly curled; they’ve shrunk by about 80% of their length and they have a mind of their own. I do not like my hair this way. But still, I get compliments! I could spend ages obsessing about why, wondering if they’re just being spiteful or mean or I could focus on the things that make my hair lovely and likable:
- it’s healthy
- it’s a really intense, dark black colour
- when you pull on the curls, they spring back like coils, which I always find amusing
- it’s different from a lot of other people’s hair and there’s a 98% chance, it’s different from the hair of the person who just complimented it!
- et cetera
If you’re really struggling to focus on what makes your hair lovely and likable, ask them. After they compliment you, say: “Thank you; what do you like about it?” There’s nothing wrong with asking this! Remember their answer and trust it.
4. Believe Everything You Hear
When it comes to the compliments you receive, believe everything you hear. You do not have a reason not to! You do not have a reason to doubt them! This is the most difficult aspect of taking a compliment, but the most important. Believing your compliments to be true leads to believing, knowing and understanding good things about yourself. It leaves you in a position to accept yourself for who you are and it leaves you with an indication of the things that make you attractive. But the best bit about believing your compliments is over time, you begin to play to those newfound strengths.
Taking a compliment with grace is simple: Say thank you. Do not deflect the attention away from yourself. Focus on identifying the likable aspects of the area you were complimented on. Believe what you hear.