Learning to accept a compliment is the key to better self-esteem. The other day, a colleague told me that I looked nice.
Bearing a mock shocked expression, I said, “That can’t be right, I’ve been dining Al Vendo (ahem, from the vending machine) all week and haven’t been to the gym for six months!” She persevered, “No, no, you have a nice glow about you.” I countered, “All it takes is a few hundred dollars worth of cosmetics and an hour doing my hair!” I thought that she’d laugh. Instead, an awkward silence descended upon us.
I shut my co-worker’s niceness down? Why didn’t I just accept her kind words graciously? Clinical psychologist Catherine Boland has seen women discard praise like this many times.
“Females do it around any achievement, especially when it comes to physical appearance,” she says. “It starts in adolescence. Teen girls don’t want to stand out from a group, so they play down good qualities to fit in. The fear of not being liked holds women back a lot.”
“It’s like any learned behaviour – whether it’s playing the piano or saying ‘Okay’ when someone asks how you are,” says Boland. “The responses become automated, so when someone says, ‘You look great’, you unconsciously reply, ‘C’mon, have you seen this gut?’.” The good news is this warped way of thinking is completely reversible.
Learn to accept a compliment by saying thanks to have a better self-esteem
You can rewire your brain’s neural pathways, but as with breaking any habit, it’ll take time and practice. The best part? It involves just one word – saying “Thanks” when someone compliments you. That’s it. If you’re feeling creative, you could throw in an acknowledgement of your effort (suggestions below).
Want to speed up your progress? Just observe women who accept compliments graciously.
Women have a habit of deflecting compliments. It’s like we’ve internalised tall poppy syndrome. Constantly dismissing praise carves out neural pathways in the brain, causing your default thoughts about yourself to become depressingly critical.
THEM: “You look really fit.”
YOU: “Thanks, I’ve been going to the gym a few times a week and it’s nice to hear that it’s working!”
THEM: “Good job on that presentation.” YOU: “Thanks, I put a lot of effort into it.” THEM: “I like your outfit today.”
YOU: “Thanks, I like to spend a bit of time putting different pieces together to see which ones work.”