“Wow - you’re amazing!” Words to make you glow with pride…. Or shrink into a tiny ball of embarrassment?
If accepting compliments makes you cringe a little (or a lot), you might be surprised to know you’re not alone. Over the years a few researchers have explored our reaction to compliments. Way back in 1990, one study found that women only accepted compliments 40% of the time - except when they were given by other women, when the figure dropped to 22%.
(The rest of the time, the study participants reflected it back; minimised what they’d done; or deflected it on to someone else like a co-worker).
Why do we find it hard to accept a compliment?
Although it seems counter-intuitive, many of us find it hard to accept praise. It might be because we’re suffering from “Imposter Syndrome” - we secretly feel as though we’re not really qualified to be in our roles.
After all, if you’re worried you’re where you are because of luck or fluke, it’s understandable that being praised might feel uncomfortable.
Inside, a part of you is thinking “You wouldn’t be saying that if you knew how incompetent I really am!”
Then there’s the fact that many of us are taught to mistrust or compete with other women. Perhaps you’ve had difficult experiences in the past, and are quick to assume that others are out to undermine you. You feel suspicious of praise, wondering if it’s genuine or an attempt at manipulation.
A third reason we can find accepting praise difficult is because of our personal relationship to success. For example, you might have been brought up in a family in which people who were “too big for their boots” or “think they’re better than us” were routinely criticised.
“Tall poppy syndrome” refers to the wider cultural tendency to want to “bring down” people perceived to stand out due to their success.
So there are a whole range of reasons why being praised can feel so uncomfortable.
Spend a few minutes journaling on how you respond to praise. How would you react to a compliment from your boss? A colleague? Your partner? A friend?
Are your responses different in different contexts?
What does that tell you about who you are?
Why accepting compliments matters
If it’s common to want to deflect or avoid praise, you might wonder why it’s so important to learn to accept compliments. Isn’t it a good thing to be humble and support others?
Let me explain.
Here at One of many we use 5 Women's PowerTypes™ to guide us to our most powerful form of leadership. These powerful models of feminine power each have specific strengths we can draw on when we need to – and it’s the PowerType of Queen we connect to when we practice the art of receiving.
When the Queen is praised for her beauty, wisdom or skill, she doesn’t say “Don’t be silly, it was nothing.” That would gravely insult the gift she had just received.
Instead, she receives the compliment graciously. Fully in her power, she thanks them wholeheartedly.
The Queen archetype is the one who inspires others with their vision. Who is confident in her decisions. And who sets and maintains exquisite boundaries, understanding the true value of her contribution and the importance of preserving her energy.
Receiving compliments allows you to connect to your own Queen nature. Strange as it may seem, learn to receive compliments and you might find your power around making choices, avoiding procrastination, and trusting your own judgment expands too.
How to accept a compliment.
Really, that’s all it takes!
Of course, you can explore other ways to really absorb the praise you’re receiving. If you tend to deflect by minimizing your effort - “Oh, this old thing?” or “It really didn’t take long” then you might want to try acknowledging the energy you’ve put in.
For example, if a friend praises your outfit you might say “Thank you. I really love the colour of this scarf, it always makes me smile.”
Or if a senior colleague comments on a report, “Thank you. I’ve been focusing on improving my writing skills lately - so I’m glad it landed.”
If you tend to give credit to others, you can continue to do that. Just make sure you accept your part too: “Thank you. I really appreciated Alice’s input on the data.”
And if your instinct is instantly to praise them (“Oh, it’s not nearly as good as yours”) then why not hold back for a moment? Savour your own success - and make a mental note to praise them the next time you’re impressed.
A compliment challenge
This week, my challenge to you is this:
- When someone praises you, try simply saying “Thank you” in return.
- Compliment someone else this week - and observe how they respond.
Let us know how you go in the comments!
Want to explore the Queen further?
If you’d like to learn more about the Women’s PowerTypes™, including a full description and a playlist of music that can help you tap into the energy of the Queen, download the “Life’s Little Toolkit”. As well as our favourite resources to stop worrying and beat overwhelm, it contains a guide to the Womens PowerTypes™ and suggestions for music to help you embody each one. Click here to access your FREE Toolkit now.
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