Think back to how you felt  the last time you received a compliment or an expression of gratitude from someone. Although you were delighted by the encouragement, did a feeling of doubt shadow your interaction? Or a lingering sense of discomfort? It’s not always easy being on the receiving end of praise.

Too often, our first instinct is to brush off a compliment. For a number of reasons, we feel unworthy or undeserving of the recognition we receive, particularly in comparison to others. Alternatively, we might be concerned with how we are perceived by others. When we acknowledge a compliment, it demonstrates that we are in agreement with it. Because of this, we may be afraid that in eagerly accepting praise we could appear arrogant. When we’re recognized, we fear not only that we are incompetent, but we’re also conscious about how our spotlight can affect others. We constantly seek approval; yet, when we finally attain it, we still don’t feel completely at ease.

Compliments highlight strengths that we may not have been previously aware of and they can help us reflect on our capacities. In the act of giving and receiving compliments, we not only learn about ourselves, but also nurture a deeper connection with each other. So, how can we free ourselves from this discomfort of praise and recognize the worth that others see in us? What is the balance between humility and accepting praise?

It wasn’t “just nothing.”

Often, our gut reaction is to disagree with praise and shrug it off as “no big deal.” As women, it seems that we are expected to maintain a certain level of humility; therefore, it is no surprise that it takes courage to confidently accept praise. Confidence may be frequently misinterpreted as arrogance because both traits demonstrate an understanding of self-worth, though through vastly different attitudes. Instead, give yourself the permission to embrace confidence and take ownership of the strengths that others have noticed in you. You can readily accept praise without seeming vain by demonstrating that you value the input of others.

Confidence may be frequently misinterpreted as arrogance because both traits demonstrate an understanding of self-worth, though through vastly different attitudes.

You’re not a fraud.

Sometimes a compliment can take us by surprise. We might feel like a fraud due to the high standards we impose on ourselves; they make us feel like we are constantly trying to keep up and that we are not enough. A compliment may leave us thinking about what makes us exceptional, but also about what we lack.

Silence your inner critic from making comparisons and discrediting your worth because of how you measure up to others. Trust that this person is expressing a statement that they sincerely believe about you. Keep in mind that you are not in possession of a particular trait and that when you are complimented, it does not imply that there is now less of that strength available to others. Recognize that everyone has something to offer, including yourself.

Pay it forward.

For some, expressing admiration can also take an incredible amount of courage. When you are praised, take note of how this person has taken the time to recognize you. By responding with enthusiasm, we acknowledge an act of service that someone has shown to us and actually demonstrate an act of love back to him or her. Think of the compliment as their ‘gift’. Show appreciation to the person who complimented you by praising them in return. Instead of a simple “thank you,” follow-up with a gesture about what you value about them, too.

Compliments help strengthen our sense of self and we’re worthy of accepting them with conviction. It is possible to be confident and humble. The two are not mutually exclusive, it’s just about finding the balance.

I challenge you to give and welcome praise whole-heartedly and unapologetically. Whether compliments take the form of gratitude, affirmation, or an appreciation for simply being, let us all contribute to lifting each other up.

As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others. – Marianne Williamson

Have you ever experienced discomfort when complimented? How do you handle praise?

Image via Sara Forrest


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