Why Do So Many Women Struggle to Accept Compliments?

body positivity Feb 06, 2019

You’re at a party, and a stranger tells you your dress is amazing. You immediately say that you bought it in a sale.

Modern marketing has convinced us that unless it is a designer label or you have just bought it, it’s not worthy of a compliment.

You are at work and a colleague says ‘I love your Prada bag’, you make an excuse and say ‘It’s from an outlet” or ‘It’s last seasons’

We often feel uncomfortable and embarrassed if we have paid a lot for an item. 

Your husband/boyfriend says you look great in an outfit and you say “Really?”

No much wonder he stops saying nice things to you when you deflect his kind words every time!

Rarely do we just say “thank you.”

What is it with women and compliments? No matter how confident and comfortable with ourselves we feel, it can be downright impossible to accept a compliment without deflecting the praise, explaining ourselves, or even totally ignoring it.

Renee Engeln, a psychology professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, said that the mixed messages women receive about desirable or acceptable behaviors are to blame. Women receive one set of messages telling them to love themselves, to accept themselves and to look in the mirror and see how beautiful they are, to know their worth.

'[We’re told] love yourself, but not too much. Be confident, but practice a style of humility.

'Believe in yourself, but never admit it out loud, least you make another woman who doesn’t feel good about herself feel bad.

Men, on the other hand, aren’t held to the same standards. I would love to be able to walk into a room and not even once consider who’s in the room, who’s looking at me, who’s not looking at me, if my shoes are as good as hers. I don’t think men walk into a room and say ‘Look at his shoes, I have to start dressing better.’

Our inner critic is a noisy chatterbox. That little voice inside most of us hurls insults our way all day long: You’re not thin enough. You have awful hair. You’re a rotten mum. You’re lazy. And because that mean self-talk comes fast and furious, the nice stuff we hear doesn’t have a shot at actually sinking in. “Often, that negative chatter is so loud that it’s hard to notice the outer world,” says Lanier. “That internal analyst actually shuts down the compliment before we can fully receive it.” Hence the self put-down (“Oh, this old thing?”), the insta-deflection (“No, your shoes are amazing”) or the skepticism (“Really? I thought I looked fat in this top)

“In our culture, there is this unspoken rule that women are supposed to be modest,” says Alyson Lanier, a psychotherapist and life coach in Wilmington, North Carolina. If we accept a compliment fully, the fear is that we are going to come off as arrogant or conceited.

So what’s a girl to do if she wants to get better about acknowledging a little admiration—without seeming to be too up herself?

So how do we change this? Because after all, isn’t this part of the reason why we plonk down our plastic for new clothes and shoes, spend time (and more money) getting our hair and nails done, and generally try to wow everyone at work, home, and everywhere in between? Don’t we want other people to notice what stylish rock stars we are?



How to Start Accepting Praise

...Or, at the very least, learn to take in the compliments and respond with an appreciative “thanks.”

1. Notice what you do when someone pays you a compliment. 

Do you deflect the attention? Deny the compliment? Put yourself down? “You have to be aware of what you tend to do in order to change it,” says Lanier.

2. Remember that there’s something genuine behind every compliment. 

When another woman tells you something nice, it’s usually an attempt to bond, says Lanier. “When women compliment other women about surface stuff, like clothes and how they look, it’s really a simple social behavior in an attempt to connect,” she says. “It’s almost like it doesn’t even matter what she’s saying—the translation is, ‘I’m not going to hurt you, I want you to know that I like you, and I want to feel a little closer to you.’” When you think about it that way, it might be a little easier to open up rather than shut the interaction down.

3. Try pausing before you say anything. 

Though this can be challenging to put into practice, make an attempt to take a deep breath after the next compliment you receive. “You might even repeat the praise to yourself silently,” says Lanier. “Just take a breath and say to yourself, ‘There’s a person in the world who thinks I look fab today.’ Then track how it makes you feel.” Can you mute your inner critic for a second? Can you allow yourself to feel happy and acknowledged? “This can make you feel really vulnerable,” says Lanier, “but it’s part of the process of making room to receive praise.” 

Let’s start a trend of enjoying compliments and that moment of praise where both the person who gave the compliment and the recipient feel good when it is received positively.

A compliment should be accepted and replied to with the kindness and appreciation it was given.

Stylish Wishes


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