How to Accept Compliments and Build Self-Esteem

 

Laura Muth

Do you ever hesitate to accept compliments? 

Among women who struggle with poor body image and self-esteem, it can be especially difficult to accept a positive comment about your body.

Individuals suffering from eating disorders in particular can find it extremely hard to believe that a positive statement aimed towards them is authentic. At the core of their illness is the belief that they are unworthy and horrible. Therefore, any form of positive statement is often beyond belief. To some people, dodging compliments comes extremely naturally: “Your eyes are so pretty.” “Oh, thanks, but I don’t think so – I wish I had your skin.” “What do you mean? My skin is horrible…” Many people also express difficulty in accepting compliments on their talents and abilities.

Learning how to not only accept compliments, but believe these statements, is a central part of recovery.

What is it that makes it so difficult to accept a compliment? 

While many factors may contribute to this (e.g., wishing to appear humble, copying behaviour modelled by peers), one thing is certain – resisting compliments tends to reinforce poor self-esteem. It is also (often) insincere, as most of us are quite pleased when someone else pays us a compliment, even if we do not necessarily agree with the compliment internally.

How to accept a compliment 

The first step is becoming aware and noticing whenever you reject a compliment as after a long period of time, putting yourself down may be second nature.

Instead of perceiving a compliment as a lie, remember that receiving a compliment is not so much about agreeing with what has been said. It is more about receiving the gift of encouragement and affirmation that someone wants to give you, and letting them speak positive words into your life.

So the next time someone pays you a compliment, instead of deflecting their positive words, try receiving the compliment with a simple smile and a “thank you”. This does not come across as arrogant—rather, it is the most humble and sincere way to respond to a compliment. Allow yourself to be encouraged and built up by people in your life who make an effort to do so, and you will be surprised by how much this helps you in your journey towards a positive view of yourself.

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