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The One Thing That’s Easy For Me To Give But So Hard To Receive

Maybe many of you feel the same way?

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illustration of woman dodging a big speech bubbles, receiving compliments
Kiersten Essenpreis
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I ran to the grocery store late last night to pick up a few things I needed. While reaching for the bananas in the produce department, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to find my mom’s hairstylist. I immediately noticed her gorgeous hair color and told her how beautiful it looked. She smiled and thanked me for being so sweet, then said she hadn't done a thing to it all day. I assured her it looked like she just stepped out of the salon, and I was amazed that it looked so good after such a long day.

Once I was done shopping, I went to the only open check-out line. The cashier and bagger were teenage boys who greeted me kindly, and I acknowledged how late they were working. The bagger explained that he has volleyball practice after school, so he has to take the night shift. After a long conversation about the hard classes they’re taking on top of their jobs, I commended them for their drive, determination and hard work.

While returning my cart in the parking lot, I ran into a woman I saw in the store who had the most colorful glasses, earrings and shoes to match. I was thrilled to see her again because I wanted to tell her how much I loved her fun outfit. She smiled and thanked me, then unzipped her jacket to show me her tie-dyed sweatshirt. She excitedly shared how she works in a preschool with bright colors and always likes to match the environment. “You’re adorable!” I exclaimed as we walked away to our cars.

I’ve always had this instinctual habit of noticing people’s positive aspects and usually saying them out loud. I never plan on complimenting anyone, but I do it regularly because it just comes naturally. I truly believe everyone deserves to be praised and appreciated and I love to be the one to do it.

Paradoxically, it’s difficult for me to receive compliments, and I struggle to respond. I’m so overwhelmed and caught off guard by their kind words that I fumble with an awkward expression of thanks. Then, there are times I thank the person but immediately add my own self-deprecatory opinion, which inadvertently dismisses their compliment. Or I divert their attention off me by immediately pointing out something positive about them.

No matter how terrible I am with receiving compliments, I reflect on them for a long time because I secretly crave encouragement and affirmation from others. Why can I so easily give compliments but resist them for myself? After serious contemplation and self-introspection, I’ve come up with three explanations.

I’m a positive person who feels grateful for my strengths and accomplishments. But when it comes to my flaws, I am very self-critical and hard on myself. If someone compliments me about something I view as a weakness, it’s hard to accept their perspective because of my own negative opinion.

Recently, a friend told me how much she loved my smile. I winced at her words and instantly quipped that I thought my smile was too big and that I hated my teeth.

Although I’ve led countless groups and activities through my work and ministries, I really don’t like having the attention on me when it comes to receiving praise. I’m much more comfortable applauding others and focusing on their positive qualities. When a church leader recently shared nice feedback he received about a new member I helped with something important, I immediately pointed out his positive role in the situation instead.

Even when someone compliments me about something I actually feel good about, I’ll downplay it with a modest response because I don’t want to appear prideful or conceited. Interestingly, when others confidently accept my compliments, I never think they are arrogant. Instead, I’m so glad they received it willingly and that it validated their self-worth.

Most people respond to my compliments with surprised delight and appreciation, but some struggle to receive them just like me. When this happens, it feels like they are rejecting a gift I’m trying to give them. I don’t want people to have the same experience as me, so I need to work on receiving their compliments with the same spirit from which they came.

It’s time I stop downplaying compliments, tainting them with my negative opinion or deflecting the praise back on them. I need to change my internal narrative and start responding with full acceptance of the generous gift I’ve been given.

After all, if I truly believe everyone deserves to be recognized, validated, praised, and admired, it's time to believe that I deserve it, too.

Do you feel the same? Do you have a hard time taking a compliment? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle