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You Asked: I Can't Accept a Compliment

You Asked: I Can't Accept a Compliment

Dear Sugar,

When someone compliments me, I get extremely uncomfortable and don't know what to say. I know it's all a matter of insecurity, but I don't see myself as insecure. I love my appearance and who I am on the inside, but for some reason I just cannot accept flattery. I started dating a new guy and he's constantly complimenting me, which makes me feel good, but also incredibly awkward. I am literally incapable of just saying thank you.

To make things even more challenging, I was recently at dinner with family and friends to celebrate the beginning of my sister's new company. In front of over 100 people she asked me and my younger sister to be the faces for her ad campaign. I immediately declined — in a very respectful way. It would have been fun, but I just can't help but feel like someone else might have deserved it more. I don't want to miss opportunities because I have this complex! How can I learn to just take a compliment?

— Compliment Complex Casandra

To see DearSugar's answer,


Dear Compliment Complex Casandra,

Though I certainly think insecurity can play a role in not being able to take a compliment, I also think much of accepting flattery is simply learning how to properly give a gracious "thank you." From a young age we're taught that there's nothing worse than an immodest woman, and thus we learn to think that by agreeing with a compliment, we're both conceited and impolite. But it's time for ladies to learn that responding graciously to flattery is far better than averting our eyes or downplaying ourselves.

Next time you a receive a compliment, remember that there's nothing wrong with saying thanks. There's no need to agree with the person or go on and on; you can simply acknowledge that what they said was meant to flatter you. In fact, it'll will be far less awkward to offer a thank you than dodging the statement. The more you do this, the easier it will get, but it does take a conscious desire to change, so keep at it.

As far as working with your sister's concerned, why not see if the position is still available? There's nothing wrong with changing your mine and taking a little credit. Plus, it never hurts to ask!


Join The Conversation
Silje Silje 8 years
I don't really like to be complimented either, I think it's some kind of girl-rule that we should never say anything good about ourselves. I'm trying to deal with it, because I think it's stupid, if someone compliments me it must be because they mean it, right? So, when someone flatters me, I say; Oh, do you think so? Thank you very much (and if it's a really good, specific compliment: that really made my day!) Always accompanied with a big smile! Does the trick for me ;)
Janine22 Janine22 8 years
Just say thank-you! That's all you have to do, and people will respect you more for it! It is gracious and polite to simple say thank you when someone compliments you. Also, explain to your sister why you turned it down, and say thank-you for goodness sakes! Perhaps see if you can still do it. Don't let your insecurities hold you back anymore, it is your choice because you might really regret not doing it somewhere down the road. Good luck to you.
urban-chic-101 urban-chic-101 8 years
Just read this on True Dad Confessions... I hope I never do this... Know what I hate? The fact that any time I tell my wife something nice or positive about her, she HAS to turn it into some sort of insult. I could say "dang, your hair looks great today", and that would automatically mean I think her hair is ugly. How about "you are the best wife in the world?" That translates as "how would you know?" It's not just some time. It's EVERY TIME. I used to think it was just fishing for additional compliments, by making me have to apologize(!?!?) for complimenting her. Now, I just don't want to talk to her anymore.
looseseal looseseal 8 years
Here I thought this was a special Chinese problem. Heehee. In the Chinese language, the proper way to respond to praise is to disagree. There's even a joke around this: An Englishman tells a Chinese woman: "You're very beautiful." She says "na li, na li." (meaning: not at all, not at all.) But the Englishman takes the other possible translation, which is "where, where?" He's thinking, wow, that's pretty specific, but to be polite he responses, "Everywhere, everywhere." She says "bu jian de, bu jian de." (meaning: not necessarily, not necessarily.) Unfortunately, the other possible translation for that is "You cannot see, you cannot see."
urban-chic-101 urban-chic-101 8 years
Yeah, I totally feel ya on this. Someone will say I look pretty and I will give them the look and say are you crazy? I think it stems from a lot of insecurities and never feeling adequate... its really sad and pathetic and I really just need to get the hell over it!
vmruby vmruby 8 years
I appreciate the compliments and I always say thank you.
katiedid0985 katiedid0985 8 years
I agree with Dear and the others. Although I'm still uncomfortable with compliments, just say thank you and if you must you can give them a compliment in return (ex, "great shoes Jane" "Thanks Lisa, that's a great purse"), but only if you mean it, otherwise it's just fake. As far as your sister's ad campaign goes, if she thinks you deserve it then you should too. If you still want to do it tell her you were just surprised and had a hard time responding in front of so many people, but you would love the opportunity if it is still available. I think your sister will understand and would be happy to have you on the campaign.
AyrtonSenna AyrtonSenna 8 years
"The refusal of praise is only the wish to be praised twice." (La Rochefoucauld) Perhaps this is not true in the current context we are discussing - and it is no doubt a cynical view of human nature - but it is worth thinking about. It was interesting to read Sugar's answer and the contention that women in particular have been conditioned to decline praise for reasons of avoiding appearing immodest, conceited, or impolite. That rings quite true to me when I consider the behaviour of my female colleagues. For some reason, however, I suspect that for men the above maxim holds some general validity. (If I am honest with myself I have on occasion refused praise for this reason.) I think for all of us though, a simple and direct "thank you very much, you are very kind" is a good way to receive a compliment.
jessie jessie 8 years
if you think its causing you to miss out on some interesting events in your life, you might want to look into some kind of theraphy/self help books. sounds like its starting to control you instead of you controlling it. don't let it hamper the fun stuff in your life. good luck to you
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
I'm the same way. I get somewhat embarrassed when I receive compliments, too. I don't think I'm insecure either. For me, I think it's a matter of being self-conscious. Once someone compliments me, I become more self-aware, and somewhat neurotic. That makes me uncomfortable. Before the compliment, I was more oblivious about myself, and at peace. :) These days, when I receive a compliment, I can muster a "Thanks" with a close-mouthed smile. I can't even say "Thank YOU" with a regular smile (showing some teeth). Doing that would be too difficult.
omilawd omilawd 8 years
Up until this year, I was the exact same way! It's hard, but just smile, say "Thank you," and continue the conversation. As for declining offers because you think someone else would be worthy, remind yourself that YOU were the person who was asked. By all means, decline if you think you'll have too much on your plate, but if you think it'd be something interesting and fun, take them up on the offer! This all seems awkward at first, but accepting compliments and offers comes easilly...with practice.
jennjennnbubba jennjennnbubba 8 years
I am not very good with compliments either. And I don't consider myself insecure either. I just don't like for people to make a big fuss over me. I will say Thank You and be sort of bashful about it but its just how I have always been.
skiwi skiwi 8 years
I often get compliments on the clothes I wear so I often say "Thanks! I got it for 50% off at (store)!" But I'll admit when someone compliments me on my appearance, then I sometimes don't know what to say without sounding conceited
K-is-For-Kait K-is-For-Kait 8 years
The key is to be modest to a point. Take compliments from those you love graciously, even if you don't necessarily agree. Otherwise, you may come off as an ungrateful snob. Just don't let complete strangers sucker you into anything via excessive compliments. I say try to get back involved with that campaign! When people receive such a HUGE compliment from someone so close to them, it's because that person really loves you and means it. Your sister knows you would be fabulous and probably trusts you more than anyone else out there, so why not shed your shy skin and be fabulous with her for a few days?
Percy Percy 8 years
I think many people 'suffer' from this complex... I USED to be really bad at accepting any form of compliment to a point that I offended people! I'd get all flustered, put my head down and mumbled something incoherent and managed to turn the compliment into something negative. Yes, I'd rather destroy something that is good and sincere, than to think I actually deserve receiving something positive...(hmm...Dr.Phil - you around??) It took me awhile to realise that I actually came across as arrogant and unthankful to the person who genuinely gave that compliment. There is a difference between self-effacing humour/appreciating what you have and be humble about it, and feeling unable to meet up to those 'expectations'/or not deserving them at all. I think it's sweet and down to earth of you that you have this 'self-awareness' - goodness knows how many ego-maniacs and self-absorbed &#)$*@# are out there. As Dear Sugar puts it - it's important to acknowledge the compliment with a simple "Thank you" then move along - you only make it as big of a deal as you want to by dwelling on it. In terms of being the face of the ad campaign - well - pretend you are someone else! Don't see yourself on that poster - it's not. It's the image that you are portraying and how much fun is that! Remember playing dress ups as a kid? Go unleash the supermodel in you!
Sun_Sun Sun_Sun 8 years
im not very good at accepting compliments either. im actually pretty bad with it. i dunno why, i immediately turn a tomato tone of red and try to just brush it off. its odd i know. and im not insecure at all, actually quite confident. hmmm.
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