Taking a Compliment

“What a nice blouse!”

“This old rag? I just wear it to clean house.”
screen-shot-2014-02-27-at-10-13-14If you are a woman, you are familiar with this. (Men take compliments more easily). But for women, a compliment has to be denied, shoved back, or minimized.

At an art show, I complimented an artist on her work. “It’s really easy,” she replied, “I just threw some paint on the canvas.” I’ll bet she didn’t, and once she diminished her own work, I found the price a bit high. After all, if she really “just threw paint” on the canvas, it took no planning or thought.

Of course she worked hard on the canvas. Of course she worried about it. But the 3632-What-Happens-When-A-Girl-Refuses-A-Compliment-Funny-SMS-Conversation-Picturesecond a compliment floats her way, she had to pretend to be someone with no talent, who happens to make a living painting. Why? Because it hurts to admit one has talent, skills, beauty, intelligence, or even good taste. If you own your attributes, you are responsible for them. All the time.

All that may seem like too much work. So we bat away compliments. We don’t want to own them. Most women have also been trained to be humble–particularly older women. We don’t want to seem “full of ourselves,” or risk a “swelled head.” So we deny, deny, deny.

Eventually we believe that we are talentless shlubs who can barely breathe and cross the street at the same time. That doesn’t serve anyone.

First, when you get a compliment, all you need to do is smile, and say, “Thank you!” It’s not hard to do this is you immediately think that you are making the person who paid you the complement happy.

Then, there’s a bit of work to do on yourself. Why don’t you want to be talented, smart, loving, or whatever you got a compliment for? What meaning do you attach to a compliment that makes you shrink from it? Pretend, for the next hour, the compliment is true. Just for an hour. Then you can give it up. If you still want to.

P.S. It helps to give a compliment if you make it about you instead.  “Seeing you in that blouse will make me happy all day,” is a compliment that’s hard to turn down.

I read a great quote  the other day. It wasn’t attributed, so I can’t send a compliment to anyone for writing it: “It took me a long time to discover who I was not, only then did I discover who I was.”

P.S. For language lovers. “Compliment” (with an i) means a kind expression or praise. You can remember that it’s spelled with an “i” because it’s nice to receive one and nice also has an i in it.

Complement (with an e) is something that fills up or completes something else. “The book cover art was a perfect complement to the chilling story inside.” It means to complete.

-Quinn McDonald has some problems with complements herself. That’s why she writes about it.

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13 thoughts on “Taking a Compliment

  1. Accepting compliments can be hard for some as is accepting an act of generosity . . . maybe the difficulty stems from the same root.
    A woman was fishing around in her purse for small amount she was short for her groceries so I gave it to the cashier. When she asked for my address so she could pay me back I asked for her to please grant me the opportunity to do something nice for her . . . I think she thought I was a little weird but she accepted. It probably confirmed her thoughts when I thanked her.

    And what do you need to complement Quinn? You seem complete to me.

  2. GREAT post, and loved that last quote about discovering who I am NOT. Smack dab in the middle of that discovery right now. I’ve ALWAYS had trouble accepting compliments, but I am going to try and let them complement my own discovery and acceptance of who I AM. Thanks for that inspiration!

  3. HI Quinn. I did a post about this a couple years back, in which I shared my biggest lesson on this subject, which I learned from my brother a long time ago. He had just heard me denigrate a compliment, He asked if I realized I had just hurt the compliment giver – by basically telling them their taste and appreciation was off base. That really hit home and I immediately went to saying “Thank you!” sometimes adding: “I really appreciate you saying that.”
    Since it was now about somebody else’s feelings, it was easy to do.

  4. I’m fine with taking compliments from people – not so great with realizing that my work is pretty decent on my own. My inner critic is too strong. I love your posts!

  5. That’s why I’m teaching my granddaughter “This Little Light of Mine”. At 5 years old she sang to 60 people last Wednesday “You Are My Sunshine”. She picked out her own dress and said “I want to look beautiful so I can sing beautiful, and I am!” And she said “Thank You” gracefully at the round of applause. I hope she never loses that confidence and joy.
    Just a comment about use of words that you recently spoke about…in this post you used complement many times when compliment was the correct choice.

  6. Hi Quinn, again a post that is synchronous to my life at the moment. Yesterday I had a great and inspiring day and met a lot of people who where giving me lots of compliments. At this moment in life I am able to say ‘thank you’ and really let it in…….but I recognize the things you wrote about the denial of a compliment and making yourself ‘small’……..Again I remembered also the quote of Marianne Williamson about our greatest fear……. hope you don’t mind it sharing here;
    warm greet, Miranda
    ps. you are a lovely spirit and person

    Our Greatest Fear —Marianne Williamson

    it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

    It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

    We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
    talented and fabulous?

    Actually, who are you not to be?

    You are a child of God.

    Your playing small does not serve the world.

    There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

    people won’t feel insecure around you.

    We were born to make manifest the glory of
    God that is within us.

    It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

    And as we let our own light shine,
    we unconsciously give other people
    permission to do the same.

    As we are liberated from our own fear,
    Our presence automatically liberates others.

    —Marianne Williamson

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