Take a Compliment, Already!

With the Loveland Studio Tour is full swing, I’m once again reminded of a certain tendency of mine. I cannot accept a compliment.

Whether it is about my art: “You are so talented!”

Or my work ethic: “I’m amazed at how much you accomplish…”

Or my hair: “Your hair just glows.”

I deny and re-butt every one of them. I usually come up with a quirky and humorous denial…

”Talented? Naw, I’ve just practiced a lot...you should see all my bad paintings in my basement!”

“My work ethic? That’s due to the obscene amount of coffee I consume everyday.”

“Oh, my hair? That glow is grease from lack of washing…..”

Hardy-har-har.

I believe what my funny remarks are attempting to get across is that I truly don’t believe I deserve those nice remarks people keep flinging my way. What I'm really dealing with is not necessarily self-loathing, but fear. Fear of what will happen if I just said “thanks, that’s really kind of you to say that.”

I know that I’m not alone in this. I’ve met very few people that are capable of taking a compliment. Very few. Why is this? What are we scared of?

I’m honestly not sure, but when I try to answer that loaded question, I do come up with a few ideas.

1. Fear of becoming arrogant-- If I said “thank, you,” doesn’t that make me come off as “full of myself” or proud? I can imagine folks saying…”Man, she sure thinks she’s something….”

I think we use compliment-rebuttal as a safety against the pitfall of arrogance, but could it be that instead of someone assuming pride in your “thank you”, they simply witness gratitude and acknowledgement of a kind word? There is actually great humility in receiving the gift of a compliment.

2. Fear of stagnation-- If I acknowledge that I am really talented, pretty or capable, I will not keep trying to improve myself. I will trick myself into stagnation if I agree with this person’s positive affirmation of who I am, right at this moment. I think this is a false, negative belief. One founded in irrational fear. And perhaps rather than seeing a compliment as a deceptive trap, we view it as a truth that we also need to hold on to. Yes, I am talented, I am pretty, and capable and I’m going to continue to grow in these things. I’m just fine the way I am, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop growing...I can keep becoming more and more of who I am designed to be.

3. Fear of high expectations--I think this is huge one for me. I’m so afraid of failing the person who thinks of me in a certain, positive light. What will happen if I acknowledge his/her viewpoint and then my flaws are seen? What if I ruin a piece of art? Or what if I actually dropped all my juggled balls or what if I am seen with bedhead? I will have failed the complimenter and therefore, I cannot accept this compliment. I’m protecting them.

Really?

Here’s what I think. Failure is human and no one but you, expects you to be perfect. And how is rejection of a compliment helpful? Isn’t that just a little bit hurtful to the giver of said compliment? It certainly annoys me when someone refuses an encouraging word rather than taking it for what it is intended....to simply show love and kindness.

So, guess what? It’s time for us to cut it out and start saying thank you. Not just saying thank you, but also giving out our own compliments because if you are an expert compliment giver, you soon find yourself doing much better at receiving them because you know how much fun it is to give them away and have them snatched up by the recipient.

You, my friend, are an excellent blog post reader….you’re welcome.

What do you think? Have you found yourself in this place of compliment unacceptance? How do you feel when someone denies your compliment? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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