How do you handle a compliment?
Do you accept it humbly? Do you feel embarrassed? Do you take it in stride and quickly return the favour?
Or are you like me and try to convince yourself the compliment was misplaced?
Aloud, you might [awkwardly] say, “Oh, yeah, thanks…” Internally, your brain sneers, “They’re just saying that to be nice.”
I’d like to think this is common for most people. Certainly those of us that do creative work struggle to believe the good things said about us. Deflection is our go-to response, while some negative memory surfaces to reinforce why the compliment is undeserved.
Them: “Your latest blog post is amazingly written. Well done!”
You: “Yeah. Fortunately, I had an amazing editor and proofreader go over it before publishing.”
Your brain: “They’re just being kind and don’t want to hurt your feelings. Remember how awful your first article was five years ago?”
Obviously, it’s a confidence thing. Imposter syndrome at its worst, making you think you just got lucky.
It’s hard to accept praise when your inner dialogue tells you otherwise – that’s cognitive dissonance 101.
Rejecting compliments is a way to let ourselves off the hook from future failure. It’s a way to ease the pressure of feeling insecure. You may not be so lucky the next time you have an important job to do. If you lower expectations, others won’t be let down when you miss the mark.
But remember, luck has nothing to do with it.
- You got that job because you’re qualified and a great fit for the team
- You earned that raise because you’re dedicated and deliver excellent work
- You nailed that presentation because you were prepared and you’re a good speaker
And another thing: compliments are healthy.
Both parties (giver and receiver) experience a shot of dopamine, which makes you feel good. Compliments are empowering, too, encouraging us to grow our skills, learn new things, and continue to do good work – all while rewiring our brains from a negative mindset to a positive one.
Have you made mistakes in the past? Sure. Are you going to make mistakes in the future? Definitely. But don’t let them rule your mind and deny you from feeling uplifted.
Albert Einstein said, “Failure is success in progress.”
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Henry Ford said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
I say, growth comes from iteration, and compliments serve as a reminder to keep going. When you lose your way, they help you reconnect with your purpose and give you confidence in the face of adversity.
So, next time somebody praises you for something, anything, don’t try to deflect or justify. Accept it willingly and with grace. Better yet, offer a compliment in return. You’d be surprised at what it can do for your mental health.
Here’s to the journey, my friends.