Most people give compliments because they want you to feel good. But, if you're like most people, those well-meaning kind words may be hard to hear sometimes.
Here are four reasons why it can be hard to accept a compliment:
1. You Have Low Self-Esteem
A new research study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that people with low self-esteem have the most difficulty accepting compliments. If you think you're somehow flawed, or you believe that you aren't good enough, you might have trouble understanding how others can say such kind things about you.
According to the study, compliments aren't likely to improve your negative self-image. And even worse, if the admiration comes from a romantic partner, those well-meaning words of praise might actually damage your relationship. You might think your partner is lying, which can cause you to lose trust.
2. Your Self-Image Doesn't Line Up
Another reason compliments can feel uncomfortable is because the words you hear don't line up with the way you see yourself. Referred to as cognitive dissonance, it's the phrase psychologists use to describe the inconsistencies.
Let's say a co-worker says, "You're so smart. You always say just the right things in your reports."
If you don't view yourself as a smart, competent person, hearing those words might send you into a tailspin. You'll be left wondering whether you lack insight or the other person lacks judgment.
Quite often, this is why people respond to compliments with a justification. Saying something like, "Well I just got lucky this time," might help relieve a little bit of the anxiety that gets stirred up when someone's description of you seems doesn't match the way you describe yourself.
3. You're Uncomfortable with Big Expectations
Studies show that people with self-worth issues prefer to set the bar low. Then, if they meet their expectations, they're pleasantly surprised.
A compliment that implies you're expected to excel will put you under a lot of pressure. If your boss says, "I picked you for this project because you always meet your deadlines," those kind words can be downright terrifying.
When you feel like other people hold you in high regard, self-doubt may creep in and cause you to feel anxious. You might think it's only a matter of time before you disappoint someone.
4. You Want to be Humble
It's hard to know how to react when someone showers you with accolades like, "You're the best boss ever," or "You have incredible talent." Saying, "Yeah I know," will definitely make you sound like a jerk.
But, for many people, even a simple, "Thank you," can feel quite awkward. After all, bragging isn't an attractive behavior.
Studies have linked humility to a variety of positive outcomes, ranging from increased self-control and effective leadership. But accepting compliments can sometimes feel more like a superiority complex, rather than a graceful acknowledgment.
Accepting a Compliment Gracefully
Trouble accepting a compliment could be a symptom of an underlying problem. Tackle your self-esteem issues or address your core beliefs, and you might find that compliments become more comfortable.
Even if you feel awkward about accepting a compliment, your behavior doesn't have to become awkward. The best response to a compliment is to show a little gratitude.
A simple, "Thank you," is almost always appropriate. Resist the urge to criticize yourself, but do share the limelight if someone assisted you in your success.