Can’t accept compliments?

By David Joel Miller

There may be reasons why you find it hard to accept compliments.


Accepting compliments.
Photo courtesy of

If you find it hard to accept compliments there may well be two principle reasons why you just do not believe people when they give you one. There may be something suspicious about the person giving the compliment or it may be about you.

Do you wish you could believe a “good job” well done or ever just a congratulations? Were you taught you were supposed to be perfect?

Were you taught you didn’t deserve a compliment?

If you grew up in a non-affirming home, if you were constantly criticized, you may have developed “low self-esteem.” Low self-esteem stems mostly from excessive judging of one’s self. People who are criticized but never given praise can begin to think that their worth depends on them getting everything right. They need to be perfect.

Since we know that we are not perfect we can easily dismiss praise believing that this can’t be true. People with low self-esteem have difficulty giving themselves credit for things done well. The result is they never believe praise when they get it.

Compliments make you feel attacked.

The only time some people remember hearing a compliment was those back-handed sarcastic kinds. From an early age, you may have learned that what might at first glance sound like a compliment was, in fact, a disguised attack. This will leave a legacy of making you distrust all compliments you receive.

Too many compliments don’t feel genuine.

People who hand out compliments freely, complimenting others even when there is no reason to hand one out make us all suspicious. Flatters know that if they can spread around the compliments, butter you up, if you will, then they will have less difficulty slipping something by you.

Researchers find that most of us find it easier to take a compliment from someone who also occasionally points out a fault. If the other person sees your mistakes but gives you a compliment anyway it is much easier to believe that they are being honest in both rather than strewing compliments in your way in an effort to manipulate you.

Give yourself credit when you deserve it.

The first step in being able to accept compliments from others is beginning to give yourself credit and not dismiss your own accomplishments. Once you can accept your own opinion that you have accomplished something it becomes easier to accept others compliments.

If you are dependent on others for that feeling of “well done”, you may never get enough sincere praise to meet that need and may always distrust others positive statements about you.

So if you find it hard to take a compliment, consider what a real true friend might say about you and begin to acknowledge to yourself when you do something correctly. Give yourself compliments and they will feel natural when offered by others.

When someone does offer you a compliment accept it with a simple “thanks.” No need to belittle the compliment with a statement like “it was no big deal.”

Watch others behaving and try to give out sincere compliments when others do something worth praising.

Keep practicing and soon you will be giving and receiving compliments because you know you and others are worth it.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


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