Soaking it in

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Photo by Cathleen Trainor

Why is it that us women have such a hard time accepting compliments? I mean isn't it wonderful to hear nice things about ourselves? Shouldn't we soak it all in and bask in the glory? 


Unfortunately, most of the time it just doesn't work that way. We seemed to be programmed to be  uncomfortable accepting compliments and for many women (even the most confident) getting a positive comment brings out a need to counteract with a negative. 

Oh this old dress? I've had it for years and it was only $10.00 on sale!
Are you kidding? I'm having a bad hair day, figures you'd like my hair today!
I look good? I've gained 10 pounds and feel like a stuffed sausage!
Well you might like my blouse, but my butt looks huge in these jeans!
You love that photo of me? I look like I'm 100 years old--check out those lines!

Sound familiar? 

Compliments can make us feel awkward and draw out a strange need to explain ourselves in a negative way. Why can't we just say THANK YOU and feel good that someone took the time to say something reinforcing? We need to do better to become positive role models for the younger generation.

There are lots of reasons why women don't do well with compliments. Maybe it's that we feel the need to be modest. After all, if I believe the compliments to be true, wouldn't that make me conceited and arrogant? It would be like bragging!

Ever notice the game women play when it comes to compliments? We're great at doling out them out  to each other, but horrible at accepting them! Pay attention to this the next time you get together with your girlfriends.

Women are givers, not takers. When the attention is focused on us, it's super uncomfortable...almost un-natural!

Then there are the inner critics. I know these rascals on a first name basis. They're those nasty little devils that pump negative messages into our heads. They're loud and obnoxious and very hard to get rid of. They come from past experiences, childhood, old relationships, etc etc. Silencing them takes lots of hard work, but totally worth the effort as they are destructive to our self-confidence.

How do you handle a compliment? Do you really believe it? Do you come-back with a negative? Do  you get self-conscious and embarrassed? Or, do you say "thank you" but internally resist?

I don't think there's a quick fix for this problem. Some of us are certainly better at taking compliments  than others (I'm in the others mix, but working on it!).  After all, we truly deserve to believe good things about ourselves...why should we feel "less than"?

Here's my advice.

  • Take notice of how you react to compliments--pay attention!
  • Pause and wait before you say anything--give yourself a second to take it in.
  • If a negative message pops into your head, don't let it rule.
  • Get your girlfriends on-board and make a pact to do away with self-deprecation.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Say thank you (just thank you) as much as you can and find a way to justify the compliment, even if it's something like "wow, it's so wonderful to be told I look nice". 
  • My wise friend Mira Furth has this advice "Here's an experiment.  Look in the mirror and repeat to yourself a recent compliment. Say it at least 5 times until you can smile and tell yourself, thank you". 
  • Own it.  Own your wonderfulness and allow compliments to reinforce your confidence.

My friend Ellen reminded me of a beautiful quote from The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” 

Just say thank you when people tell you so. After all, it's true!
XO Susan

P.S. I happen to think Amy Schumer is brilliant. Here is one of her skits illustrating how women don't take compliments. Warning! It's very raunchy (Schumer style), so if you get offended by vulgarity don't watch. Although it's over the top, there are definitely some very real messages here.

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