One of my college friends recently reminded me of our freshman days when I would give her Compliment-Taking Lessons. For some reason, my beautiful friend with an absolutely sparkling personality could not accept a compliment because it felt so untrue to her. It killed me to watch her refuse to see what other people saw in her. So I took it upon myself to train her through the rigorous process of compliment-taking academia.
You are reading the words of a recovering compliment-refuser. Taking compliments feels like the most awkward thing in the world to me. I often don’t feel like I deserve them, and if I do, I want to shrug it off, afraid that accepting praise makes me arrogant and refusing praise makes me humble.
But that’s just plain untrue.
Rejecting a compliment actually shows pride — low pride, the pride of: “Woe is me, I am so ugly, fat and untalented. It’s all about me and how awful I am.” On top of that, rejecting a compliment actually makes the compliment giver feel bad. I know you know this, because I know you’ve had someone refuse a compliment you tried to give them. Remember how that felt? That’s the feeling you create every time you say, “Nuh-uh! I look awful today!”
It hurts me to see beautiful, talented, wonderful girls and women refuse the words of affirmation they need. So I started this compliment-taking school with a few lessons that I have learned. My school is not accredited, has, like, two graduates, and about a million flunkies (compliment-taking is a hard subject), but I still think it’s pretty worthwhile. In this post, I provide you with my notes from Compliment-Acceptance class/support group 101. So grab a chair, and say, “Hello, my name is ________, and I am a compliment-refuser.” Then, get ready to write these lessons on your beautiful little heart.
1. Acknowledge Someone Else’s Role
Especially God’s. Everything you have is from God anyway. I have a friend who is an excellent singer and she uses her voice to lift God up. Anytime you compliment her, tell her the song meant something to you, etc, she sincerely says “Praise God.” I try to do this in my writing and teaching. If I ever get a compliment, a word of affirmation, I always try to say “God really put that topic on my heart. So glad it meant something to you.” What could be better than that? What could be better than both of you realizing that God gets all the credit? I propose that nothing can.
Also, don’t be afraid to acknowledge another person’s role. If you are complimented on your looks, it is acceptable to say, “Thanks, you! ________ did my hair. Didn’t she do a great job?” You get the picture.
2. Make it Feel Comfortable
I, for one, cannot just take a compliment by saying thanks. It feels awkward. So find a way to accept a compliment with grace and a smile in a way that still feels comfortable to you. I often like to make these things light-hearted. I say “gee thanks!” or “O, stop!” or “You’re going to make me get a big head!” I think this is a win-win, because you’ve accepted the compliment and you’ve made someone else laugh, or at least smile.
3. Admit Your Own Insecurities
The other day, a friend of my Mom’s stopped me and said, “You are so beautiful. Let me just look at you a minute.” I had been fighting with the mirror that entire morning, so her compliment meant the world to me. Holding back tears I told her how much I needed to hear that. Admitting your insecurities does not mean you are downplaying what someone else said, it shows the compliment was needed, and it was good the person spoke up. It’s a reminder to all of us that we don’t have to be perfect all of the time, that even when we feel at our weakest and most vulnerable, beautiful things can still shine through.
4. Let the Person Know it Meant Something to You
This goes hand-in-hand with number three. Doesn’t it make you feel good to know you’ve made someone’s day? That what you said has made someone feel differently about themselves? Let people know when they have done that for you. You will both be encouraged and confident.
5. No Tag Backs
It’s just like a good, old-fashioned game of chase. When someone affirms you, don’t feel the need to shoot a compliment right back. As hard as they are to resist, tag-backs cheapen the compliment and make the original giver feel the returned compliment was insincere. Obviously, the tag-back cannot always be avoided (especially if you sincerely mean it!), but as a general rule, try to accept a compliment without feeling the need to return it.
While this lesson may not be easy or fool-proof, you, girlfriend, have been given the power to multiply confidence through the love of Christ. By accepting a compliment and not being afraid of your own amazing-ness, you have the power to make both yourself and the compliment-giver see that love.
You’ve gone through the class, you have the tools, now go use that power and make this professor proud!