Compliments: how come we crave them yet fail to accept?

One of these days I praised somebody for the great work she had done. After receiving my compliment she said something like: “That’s actually not that big of a deal, and I am not the only one responsible for the end result, but… thanks“. However, actually it was a big deal and the end result was mainly thanks to her. It made me think about compliments and “properly” accepting them.

Those of you who are active on social networks or have blogs of their own, you crave likes, don’t you? You want as much people as possible to give you that “thumbs up” – a modern equivalent of “a good job!”. Moreover, if your activity did not receive the desired amount of likes you almost feel like something important is missing. Recognition. We all crave recognition. Nevertheless, if actual recognition beyond a simple “thumbs up” comes their way, it somehow makes a lot people try to … apologize.

I must admit that I used to have that same attitude. It felt like I was actually not worthy of praise. Yes, I wanted it very much, but if I compared my achievement to achievements of others, it seemed I didn’t do anything major. Ok, yes, I did a great job winning that court case, but so what? I was paid to do that. Or people were saying that my presentation was great, but there were also other great presenters; I just did it at the quality level required. Or I write poems, but what’s so special about it? Some people draw beautiful pictures, but I can’t – now, that’s a skill! But poems… On the other hand, I actually wanted to get that recognition for the case won and for the presentation and for the fact that I do write poems. It was a dubious feeling: on one hand craving it, on the other – failing to accept.

So what might be the reasons for apologizing for your achievement?

  1. it could be the actual feeling that you are not worthy (low self-esteem);
  2. it could be the fear that if you yourself won’t “diminish” the importance of your achievement, there will be somebody else who will;
  3. it could be the feeling that you will be perceived as arrogant if you just accept it;
  4. it could be the comparison trap, when you start comparing your achievements to those of others (as the quote goes: “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid“);
  5. it could be a plain habit…

There are probably more reasons for failing to accept compliments, but the bottom line is: there is no need to apologize! If someone recognizes your achievement and praises you for that, yet you continue to apologize, you are additionally putting that person in an awkward position. Think about it for a moment. How should a person react to your apology? Persist with saying how great you are? But he or she already said that. Agree with you that you are actually not worthy of the compliment and he or she was wrong? Is that what you really want?

Nevertheless, most importantly, we are all unique human beings with our unique set of skills and talents. We are all worthy of love and belonging (as Brené Brown repeatedly has said – see her fantastic speech at TED if you still haven’t – click here). We don’t need to be compared for the sake of comparison. Moreover, let’s accept it – we like recognition and there is nothing wrong with accepting and enjoying it.

So the next time you hear something good about yourself, some compliments, some nice words, just accept them, embrace them and give back a genuine smile and a “thank you!”. That will be more than enough.


6 thoughts on “Compliments: how come we crave them yet fail to accept?”

  1. I absolutely agree with everything you say. I used to be shy when receiving compliments, but on the other hand, I work so hard to achieve things, so why couldn’t I make myself accept well deserved praise in the process?
    Now I say, “thank you” smile and explain in a few words, how I managed to get this work done, or how I intend to make it happen in the future for other projects as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a hard time accepting praise on my writing or blog. As it seems as I get one praise, I get many more telling me I am wrong. It is hard to accept praise when so many more are saying it is wrong. Such as making blogs personal. Or one blogger who says persona blog are those writing about their day doing dishes, laundry and such. I always believed being personal has more to do that that. Those are more diary type blogs. Now I am not sure if I am right or wrong.


    1. Whatever people say it is just an opinion. It is not about being right or wrong. In the end, this is only up to you to decide. 🙂 And decisions such as how you want to express yourself – are definitely only up to you to make. 🙂 Some people will always say you’re wrong…


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