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Cringy Compliments

You would be surprised how many clients tell me that they “hate compliments.” Usually after I dig a bit more into why they push away these niceties, they reveal that getting compliments makes them feel uncomfortable. Some people even describe a sensation of discomfort in their body (imagine nails on a chalkboard.)

So, why are we so uncomfortable with compliments?

Compliments are a newer form of communication for the human species. When we were simply competing for food and shelter there was no time for comments like, “What a great cut of meat you were able to get from your hunt.” Survival was key. So, the neural pathways that accept compliments are relatively new for us humans. We need to build them up.

So, how do we build the compliment muscle?

We need to learn how to accept compliments rather than dismiss them. For a long time whenever someone would tell me they liked my earrings I would say, “These old things? I’ve had them forever.” With this response I am not internalizing kinds words and I am also rejecting what someone is saying to me. Think about the last time you gave someone a compliment and they quickly dismissed it saying, “Oh this, it is nothing, it is from Target.” How did it leave you feeling? Maybe unsatisfied or even a little silly for giving the compliment in the first place. When we don’t acknowledge a compliment we are leaving the other person hanging. So, the next time someone gives you a compliment try to say this: “Thank you so much. I also really like this item.” This might feel odd at first, but keep practicing and soon you will be accepting compliments like a pro!

If you are up for even more of a challenge try this exercise that I did this past week. Write an email to five to 10 people and tell them you are doing a little self exploration. Ask your nearest and dearest what your three best qualities are, or your superpowers (I have Marie Forleo to thank for this amazing exercise). Thank them for their time and hit send!

When your emails start flowing in just write, “Thank you.” No qualifying and no excessive gratitude. This is important because we can undo a compliment by negating it or over thanking someone for it. Read the words people write to you and let them sink in to your body as if they were being poured over you like water in the shower. Take some time to really let them sink in. You might need to read them more than once.

Taking the time to read and soak in your strengths will help build your compliment muscle so that you can give your friends and loved ones what they want —acceptance of a generously offered gift, a compliment.


What Should I Do Next?

When you’re ready to begin therapy, we hope you’ll consider contacting The Center for CBT in New York City. We offer a safe space where you are free to be who you really are and express yourself and your values authentically. We embrace, value, and welcome people of all sexual orientations, genders, and racial identities. The Center for CBT in New York City makes beginning your therapy journey simple. You can get started any time by completing our online consultation request form. One of our team members will be in touch within 24 business hours to answer your questions.

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