Many of my coaching clients, and even I, find accepting praise or a compliment hard and bat them away with comments such as “Oh it was nothing” or “I just got lucky”.  Yet it’s rarely either of those things, as there’s normally a lot of hard work or thought put into whatever they’ve just been complimented on.

So why do we do it?  A lot of it is to do with vulnerability, low self-esteem, and simply the thought that people might think you are vain. Feeling vulnerable means that people are often shy of showing who they really are, so it is easier to just brush things off as if you aren’t bothered. If our self-esteem is low, then it’s hard for us to accept a compliment or shift our perception of ourselves as we think we are undeserving of praise.  According to science these thoughts are not unusual as our brains have been wired to focus on the negative, as it was safer in prehistoric times for primitive man to register threats (negative stimuli) to avoid danger and increase their chances of survival, rather than focus on the positives of their environment.

However, in 2023 most of the western world are not fearing attack from a cave lion, but a lot of us are still focusing on the negatives and ignoring the positives which is why we might find it hard to see the positivity in a compliment. However, a compliment is a gift, and you would hopefully not bat a gift away, because that would be rude. So why do we do it with compliments? When someone gives you a compliment it’s been thought about and it generally comes with meaning and good intention. Like giving a gift the giver gets as much pleasure in giving it as you hopefully do in receiving it. It’s about how that presentation you gave or that meal that you cooked made them feel.  You might not have felt it was your best work, but if they did and it made them feel good then that is what is important.

So next time someone pays you a compliment, take a deep breath and just thank you. Just think how good that will make them feel.

An exercise to help you use all those compliments for good:

Make a note of every time someone compliments you and the reasons why and keep referring to it.  Hopefully, as the list the list of compliments grows, and you focus on the positives you might start to believe that what they are saying.

This article was written by Charlotte Worth, Life and Career Wellbeing Coach. Charlotte helps her clients to unlock their full potential by enabling them to navigate any bumps in the road, embrace their strengths and achieve their work-life goals. You can get in touch with Charlotte at her profile page