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Thank you therapy (or how to take a compliment)

Wed, Aug 11, 2010

MizFit Muzings

Miz, I’ve lost 15 pounds & still have at least 30 more to go before I’m at goal.  I don’t want to be a skinny minnie so even that’s just an average weight for most people.  Lately I’ve had a friends start to notice my weight loss. When they tell me how good I look I never know what to say. I don’t think I look good yet and I end up telling them how fat I still look and how much more weight  I want to lose.

I guess this isn’t really a question. Thanks for reading I know you’re busy.

Ok, even though our emailer was right, & the message wasn’t really a question, I decided to post it anyway.

I welcomed the chance to address the notion she brought up in her email: how to react when others give you a compliment.

It’s still baffling to me how these snippets of niceties which should be so easy to accept throw many of us women (men? chime in!) into a tiny tailspin.

Today’s lesson is also brought to you by MizFit’s Awkward Moments in Life # 2323: the compliment bestowage.

About a decade ago it clicked for me that someone else being GREAT at something did not, in any way, diminish my greatness at aforementioned endeavor.

Let me elaborate.

If, for example, I read a friend’s manuscript & am blown away by her writing skills it does not make my writing any less fantastic.

If, for example, I see a woman sauntering down the street looking fabulously coiffed and tell her so—-it doesnt make my hair that day any less fantiztastic looking.

Make sense?

Let me delve deeper (briefly) into the notion that, in my younger years, I didnt always grasp the fact I shouldnt feel threatened by someone for her ‘gifts.’

I hadnt yet come to the concept that the mere existence of them has no impact on my ‘worthiness’ what so ever.

There is room for everyone.

Following my Ah Ha! moment, however,  I began to lack an internal monologue & prance up to strangers and tell them what Im thinking.

“You look awesome today! I like to pretend it’s mamahood which makes me disheveled—-but that’s just an excuse. I never looked as pulled together as you do.  It’s who I am. You look great!”

“Wow. I saw how you handed that interaction and had to come up and tell you how in awe I am of your zenlikecalm. I completely would have lost my mind.”

Id be lying to you if I didnt say following my bestowage o’compliment I often want to run & hide in the nearest closet.

The awkwardness.

The brushing off.

The inexplicable “Oh? You too!!”

At times I *almost* wish I could take the entire gesture back.

That’s why today is Accepting Compliments 201: the refresher course we can all use.

1. Pause and listen to what the person is saying. HEAR the compliment. Dont allow yourself to immediately respond with ‘it’s nothing’ or ‘I usually screw everything up. I was lucky this time!‘  Sit with the praise for a moment no matter how uncomfortable or ‘unworthy’ you may feel.   Take additional time, when you’re ready, to ask yourself *why* you might feel embarrassed/unworthy of the specific praise.

2. Remember that there is kindness behind the words. When you brush off a compliment you are, in essence, denigrating its giver & putting her in the position of defending her judgement. By reflexively launching into a list of what you perceive to be your weaknesses BOTH of you feel awkward which wasnt, I guarantee you, the compliment-givers intention.

No matter what you feel in the moment try and smile in a way which conveys you appreciate the thought behind the words.

3. Feel free to respond honestly to the praise. While I urge you to accept the compliment there’s nothing wrong with explaining your ‘success.’  I’ll never forget one woman, whom I praised for staying shockingly calm while her own Tornado had a public meltdown, explaining to me it was an entirely new approach for her.  She shared that she was CALMCALM merely because it was the first time she’d tried the tactic.

Explain if you wish (“Thanks! I never have time to plan my outfit but I made myself do it this morning. Glad it worked!”) but avoid letting the explanation transition into listing all your (perceived) faults.

4. Practice. Practice. Practice in the mirror. Is accepting a compliment not your best trait?  Are you the type who immediately needs to return the sentiment (not necessarily a bad thing) or put yourself down?  Try repeating these phrases as you look at yourself in the mirror.

Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Thank you, I’m honored by your words.
Thank you, I admire you so your praise definitely means a great deal.
Thank you I really tried hard on this one!

5. Be the Tornado. While I could bore you with stories the bottom line is thatchidren, in general, are pretty much how we should all aspire to be: uber confident. (yes, some of it is hilariously misplaced—but Im fighting the urge to digress.)

Next time you are around a young child pay attention to how she accepts a compliment. Chances are not only will she happily accept the praise, but she’ll also point out one or two other things she does well.

We adults may not wanna go quite that far—but a little bit of Tornado’y confidence couldn’t hurt.

That concludes Accepting Compliments 201 and, as usual, I’m certain I didnt nail it all in my post.

Got any other suggestions for our emailer?

Have any good stories about attempts to BESTOW compliments which went horribly awry (normalize my life a bit for me)?

Please to take your smart, wise, witty, stunning, svelte self & hit us all up in the comments.

Tags: , ,

76 Responses to “Thank you therapy (or how to take a compliment)”

  1. Lydia says:

    There is room enough for everyone.
    ——-
    You are amazing.

    Thank you for that sentiment.

  2. Helen says:

    I am one who always says “oh you too!!” when given a compliment.
    You’re right—it can get awkward :)

  3. fd says:

    thanks for this, i really needed to hear it. i think its something we all need to work on. for me, there are two parts to your message because i’m pretty good and pretty well rehearsed at the ‘taking a compliment’ part - the public and shared reaction. but i still struggle with this:
    “I hadnt yet come to the concept that the mere existence of them has no impact on my ‘worthiness’ what so ever.

    There is room for everyone.”

    i am frequently still thrown and confused and down on myself when i see other people who are “great” at something that i’m proud of myself for having “got better at”.

  4. Nan says:

    I shall try to be the Tornado!

    When my son was young he was the same way. I would do something (open a jar for example) and he would shout I DID IT!!!!

    We all need to be a little more like the Tornado :)

    Good post.

  5. Bea says:

    I like how you differentiate between responding honestly and negating.
    I am a negater.

  6. A very important topic, so thank you! :)

    I’m mostly okay with receiving compliments these days, but I’ve noticed that some folks can compliment my weight loss with such a wistful tone in their voices that I almost feel guilty for having been successful. It’s teaching me to be more aware of *how* I give compliments as well as how frequently.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I don’t love this about myself but where I am right now I often feel when I see someone thinner than I am or more together (how I define it) I can not yet be happy for her.

    I am working on it.

    • MizFit says:

      and as I said above it was a process for me to get here.

      FINALLY (rimshot? see monday’s post? :) )

      especially with regards to my writing.

  8. Natalia says:

    Great topic! I’m getting better at accepting compliments. I try not to make excuses and list all my perceived faults! ;P

    Compliments received do make me uncomfortable, but I try real hard to say “Thank You!” and then change the subject.

    I like giving compliments better! I love that you give compliments to strangers. Awesome!

    Thanks for being you!

    xo

  9. Tina says:

    Love this post. I wonder why it is so hard for us to take compliments. If we all accepted them, I wonder how much more confident we could all be.

  10. MrsFatass says:

    Okay, remember how I said yesterday that your formerly post was one of my favorites? Well, it was because I didn’t know this one was coming.

    We’ve talked about this before, encountering people who seem to think that extending kindness or support to somebody else makes their own foothold less secure or something. I’m sure there were times I was like that, too.

    But, no more. As I’ve grown and married and reproduced, I’ve figured it out. You put the positive energy out there. It’s the best way.

    Oh, and one of my new years resolutions this year was to learn to accept a compliment.

  11. Kellie says:

    I am with Mrs Fatass (love that name and just found her blog when you linked it last week!).

    Favorite post ever.

    (Do not remind me I say that same thing all the time LOL)

    Kellie

  12. Andrew says:

    Miz, this is a wonderful post, you constantly amaze me with your depth of insight!

  13. Aubry says:

    I recognize myself in the above.

    Next time I am on the receiving end I will just say THANK YOU.

  14. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    My husband absolutely hates it when he says “You’re beautiful” and I respond with “Ha, yeah right” or “No way.” It drives him bonkers. It’s true, though. It’s awkward when you give someone a compliment and they brush it off.

  15. Leah J. Utas says:

    Thanks for this. It took me a while, but I just say thanks now. It galls me no end when people brush off a compliment. I want to say bad words to them. We’re taught to be modest. This is wrong.

  16. Marisa @Loser for Life says:

    I’m getting better at saying “thank you” but still feel the need to explain! UGH! It is strange that accepting compliments is so hard and uncomfortable. I am constantly complimenting my daughters for various things that they do, so hopefully, they will be used to accepting and complimenting others!

  17. I saw a friend after I had lost weight. She told me how thin I looked and then went on to remark that I had no boobs! She was right. But my response to her was that I never had any!

  18. moonduster (Becky) says:

    My parents were recently telling me stories about things I did and said as a child. I have suffered with shyness, to an extent, since my teenage years, and hearing how confident and downright cheeky I was as a child was a bit of an eye opener.

  19. Jules - Big Girl Bombshell says:

    AWESOME! just awesome, as usual!

    I had to come up with “canned” responses. The simpliest was THANK YOU…..

  20. Annie says:

    I read this before work and did it Miz.

    I practiced in the mirror :)

    AWKWARD but good for me I am certian.

    Annie

  21. Miz says:

    AHH TIMELY.

    I said to the Tornado just now: you did such a good job at yada yada yada. You really worked hard and are great at that!

    Tornado: I know that Mom.

  22. Fab Kate says:

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

    You KNOW how much I need to hear this.

    and it couldn’t have come on a better day for me. Tonight is Volunteer Appreciation Night. I’m going to let myself be appreciated with grace and calm.

    Better yet, I’m going to appreciate myself, too.

  23. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    I used to have the hardest time accepting compliments, even long after my weight loss & muscle gain. I am proud to say that today I have learned how to say thank you instead of making an excuse for why I did not deserve the compliment!

  24. Meredith says:

    I am a pleaser who struggles with accepting compliments.

    I’m goning to remember this and think about the fact I’m hurting someones feeings when they compliment me and I say no not true.

  25. Irene says:

    I feel like people are sometimes being facetious (sp?) when they give me compliments. But I am learning to accept them more and more just as they are.

  26. angela says:

    Thanks for this. I’m not a good compliment taker, could definitely use some work on it.

    And you’re 100% right about the Tornado. My 9 year old Tornado is the best compliment taker on earth! Her response is usually along the lines of “You know, you’re right! I’m great at that! And at this and that, too!” It can be hilarious, but I hope she holds onto that outlook for a long, long time.

  27. I think, for me, when I don’t accept a compliment…it’s cause I don’t feel worthy of it.

    I now except that when they come, it’s a reminder that I am worthy.

  28. Christine says:

    I totally needed this post.
    THANK YOU.

    *taking notes*

  29. Eve says:

    Book? Ebook?

    Something Miz something.

    I need to hold this in my hands.

    Oh. I could print it huh?

    Never mind ;)

  30. Ren Man says:

    Because I tend to think all of life’s questions are answered in the movies, I give you Wayne’s World…

    Wayne Campbell & Garth Algar: [to Alice Cooper] We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!
    Garth Algar: We’re Scum!
    Wayne Campbell: We suck!

  31. Katdoesdiets says:

    I am 34 and just learning to take compliments. I have always felt like I needed to diminish myself for others. My fear of greatness post talked about that. I know now that I can and should be the best me. I’m learning to simply say thank you. It’s still weird, but I’m getting better. I talk big about how awesome I am, but really I’m faking it ’til I make it.
    I have always been like your emailer. I have found that I need to appreciate where I am and how far I have come while I’m still headed where I want to be. Pointing out how much I still have to lose isn’t what the complimenters want to hear, they simply want to hear a thanks.
    I loved the compliments you listed in this post, you should never stop bestowing them…I think so many women neeeeed them, whether or not they know how to take them.

  32. JourneyBeyondSurvival says:

    There is an acidic woman in my life at church that I avoid like the plague. I decided to bite the bullet and just try to pay her a compliment.

    To make myself feel better about her so I could feel better about myself.

    Following?

    I gave her said compliment. It was hard to find something I could honestly say that wasn’t dumb. I was really proud of myself. (just keeping it real) I told her the compliment. She sneered (literally and verbally) and turned it into an insult. I gave her my back up compliment. She turned it into an insult again. I tried four. The last one she turned back on me and insulted my son.

    So now I just avoid her. But I’m not afraid of her anymore. My confidence in me has grown exponentially and I REALLY don’t care what she thinks. I don’t care that she doesn’t care about me. I’m still worth it. I think those compliments did help because she’s not nice but she tolerates me now.

    But, I love getting compliments. So, I continue to dish them out liberally. It makes me happy.

  33. Yum Yucky says:

    Your remark about “someone else being GREAT at something” makes me think of how fantastic some women look in certain outfits, hair-dos, being a power career woman, etc. But I know that style is NOT for me. There’s plenty of awesomeness to go around, but it comes in sooo many different variations. There is not one right way. As for compliments. I do the (from the heart) “oh my gosh! thank you!”. But I really really should be complimenting people more. I think it, but don’t speak it out as often as I should.

    • MizFit says:

      Im so of the THINK IT SAY IT ilk. which isnt always a great thing — but it’s who I am.

      and who the Tornado shall be if nurture has any trumping role over nature :)

  34. Patrick says:

    I guess I have had a love & hate view on compliments. I like them, when they are sincere & warranted. When they are tossed out just because someone thinks it is something they should do, then not so much. Generally you can sense when a compliment is genuine or not. Either way any compliment is acknowledge. Likewise, I try and dish out compliments with sincerity; trat others as you wish to be treated sort of thing.

  35. Dr. J says:

    It took me a while to learn that a simple thank you is the way to go! Nice post, Miz!!

  36. Ryan @NoMoreBacon says:

    It’s funny to see how many “haters” (for lack of a better word) are unwilling to lift up or promote those around them. It happens (very unfortunately) in the blogging community all the time. Lots of talk behind the scenes that doesn’t need to happen.

    There’s way too much awesomeness to be shared and had by all for that type of stuff to take place.

    You’re a shining example in this community of exactly that. I love how you try and spread the word of everybody’s accomplishments and have no problem seeing other people rise up.

    I’ve talked to @MrsFatass about this before about you. Thanks for all you do!

  37. Brandon says:

    Well I can definitely attest to the fact that it’s just as difficult for us guys to take a compliment, or at least for me it is. Earlier this week, I was at my wife’s work for the first time since losing 70+ pounds, and of course I got numerous comments about my weight loss, how great I looked, etc. My natural reaction was to just sort of fidget, give an awkward smile, and manage to squeak out a “thanks”.

  38. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    One of the best pieces of compliment-accepting advice I was ever given was to realize that if I in any way down-played a compliment, I was basically calling the compliment-giver’s opinion into question. And that is certainly NOT what we want to do, right?

    • Miz says:

      PRECISELY, Karen. and totally the best motivation for just grinning and thanking—even when *I* might not be feeling what was said.

  39. Tiana says:

    There is room enough for everyone.

    How had I not gotten that yet?

  40. Dawn says:

    Great post Mizfit! I’m trying hard to except compliments better these days. Thanks for some more lessons I can always use more advice in that area. Funny how well we can dish out compliments but not take them as well ourselves.

  41. Heather says:

    Advice for the question-asker? Believe that it’s true. Even if you don’t think you look great, someone else does, and they believe it enough that they said it out loud to you. Accept it, internalize it, smile and say thank you. Sometimes we are too caught up in ourselves to realize how fabulous we are. When someone else notices, use it as a reminder :)

  42. Lori (Finding Radiance) says:

    I used to struggle so much with this because for the longest time I was never complimented, but made fun of by other people. It was so hard when compliments came on my appearance that I downplayed them, and later realized that I should just accept them gracefully. I now say thank you and move on.

    Worst “compliment” ever. I remember one person telling me how great I looked after losing weight. She kept going on and on about it, which then became “you were so huge before”. I finally said that while I was different on the outside, I still have the same feelings inside. Then she kind of got embarrassed. There is a point to stop when giving compliments.

  43. Sagan says:

    When we accept compliments graciously, I think that it demonstrates how much confidence we have and our competence in working with people. Brushing off a compliment just makes everyone feel crappy. I feel great when people compliment me, and when I give honest compliments, particularly if everyone involved takes it well! We ought to celebrate our successes rather than downplay them, methinks.

  44. Helen DoingA180 says:

    I am much, much better at giving than receiving when it comes to this. But I have to say it’s because I really don’t receive many, even though I give many. One time I asked a friend why she thought I didn’t get many and she said she thought people perceived me as Uber Confident and not needing validation. “People” couldn’t be more wrong. Which is also why I probably try to dish ‘em out as often as possible. But anyway, my usual response to receiving a compliment goes like this (head and eyes down):

    “Oh? Oooh… ahhhh… ahem….. thankyouverymuch.”

  45. Laurie says:

    You are funny! But this was really helpful.
    I would like to imprint it in my daughter’s mind so that she will know forever that when she sees the skinny girls it doesn’t take away her beauty.

  46. charlotte says:

    I have learned many many things from you over the past couple of years but this: “that someone else being GREAT at something did not, in any way, diminish my greatness at aforementioned endeavor.” is probably the one that has stuck with me the most. For me, it’s not just about learning to accept a compliment graciously but it’s about acknowledging the divine spark inside every person and seeing them a worthwhile and worthy human being. I love that about you. And I love that I’m finally starting to really *get* it.

  47. Della says:

    I have a really hard time accepting compliments. I have lost about 70lbs, so yes they are deserved I know this. However, when a friend comes up to you as says “OMG, you lost half a person” or “You lost like a million pounds”, I have a really hard time seeing the positive. I just hear the backhanded side of these. These friends don’t mean it in a bad way at all. I have shocked quite a few people over the last year, myself included. I don’t know if I am mentally caught up with my weight loss yet, which makes accepting compliments of any kind really hard. Thanks for post,it helps.

  48. Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul says:

    I used to have a very hard time accepting compliments. I’d blush, shy away, OR I’d make some lame response about how it’s not really true. And then I stopped for a hot minute and realized how much I hate that when other people did that when I complimented THEM. So whenever anyone compliments me, I try to put myself in their shoes and think about what they want to hear. Which 99% of the time is “THANK YOU!”

  49. Cynthia (It All Changes) says:

    Even though I’m not at a place I want to be completely right now I still smile and say “Thank You I worked really hard at it.” I did work hard to get here and I’m still working to get where I want to be. It feels great to get a compliment noticing the work.

  50. Loretta says:

    I am learning to graciously accept and appreciate genuine compliments. But…

    Being the overweight lady in the powerchair can garner some weird reactions at times. Some people are uncomfortable… they seem to think they must find something to say to me to make me “feel better”. So they say the weirdest “compliments”.

    I’ll admit, the condescending and/or solicitous tone drives me bonkers! On the outside I smile and thank them. On the inside, I am gritting my teeth!

    Hmmm… sitting here wondering what a Tornado would say to them?!!

    Loretta
    =^..^=

  51. christieo says:

    I’m the WORST at accepting compliments, although I am trying, I promise. I did, however, feel awkward when people praised me when they noticed I lost weight. I would feel awkward when they’d say, “Boy you’ve lost A LOT OF WEIGHT!” with a couple of exclamation marks on it which made me feel like they snuck around talking about my fatness. Probably my self-consciousness but I never did nail down that whole accepting the “you’ve lost weight” compliment. I have, however, gotten better about accepting other compliments, I usually go with my standard, “Thank you so much for saying that! You made my day!” if I feel awkward, because no matter what, that’s the truth.

  52. Amy says:

    I 110% needed this today. I received a ton of compliments this past weekend and I felt awkward. I need to work on this.

  53. Alexia says:

    people say the strangest things to me like, “GASP! you’re so skinny!”

    in my mind i go, “WHATTTTTT? i’m still morbidly obese you thin person you.”

    but the appropriate thing is to graciously say “thanks, i feel wonderful! i have 40 more pounds to lose.” [insert smile here]

    it would do me no good to say, “but i’m so fat!”

  54. Jess says:

    I’ve realized that I used to be bad at accepting compliments. Now, I have to let it sit for a second, then I smile big and just say thank you! And that’s usually the end of that :)

    I’ve learned that when I discard compliments, it’s like discarding all of my efforts and not giving myself the praise I deserve (although there’s a fine line between being proud and being overly cocky).

    I still believe in humility but I also believe in a big smile and a thank you.

    By the way, podcast is downloaded. Will listen and then post about thoughts on intuitive.

  55. Lila says:

    I am 50 and just now learning to say THANK YOU and accept words of praise.

    great post.

  56. It didn’t occur to me until someone pointed it out that disagreeing with a compliment that someone gives is like (rudely) telling them that they are wrong. They may wish to replace that compliment with an insult about your lack of grace instead!

  57. Eryn says:

    This is a great post. Women are on the whole negaters. I don’t see this as much with men, they OWN their accomplishments, even if it’s something they have little control over (height). When are we taught as girls that it’s not okay to just say “Thank you!” when someone directs a compliment our way?

    I read once that when people offer us something, to feel okay to say “Yes, please!” For some reason this goes hand in hand with accepting complements. How many times does someone offer us a chair or a drink at a party & we say “Oh thank you, I’m okay though!”

    It makes people feel good to complement you/get you something. Let them feel good!

    We’re worth it, ladies.

    Emailer, take these complements as they are, they’re not a judgment on how much you have left to lose. Don’t let yourself make them that way in your head. People are genuinely excited for you! And I’m sure you are looking fantastic! And you better get used to accepting the complements, because you’re going to get more & more as you get closer to your goal weight! ;) Good luck to you on your journey! We’re all rooting for you to find the body build you’re happy, healthy & comfortable with. <3

    And Mizfit? Again, this was a GREAT post.

  58. Eryn says:

    Lori from Finding Radiance, I have a similar complement gone awry story. When my son was born, I lost weight very very quickly. Pretty soon I was down firmly in the underweight BMI. I felt like crap, tired, cold, weepy, the whole nine yards.

    When my son stopped nursing exclusively & I started to put weight on again, people starting complementing me. Several women said things like “You looked like you were on Survivor before!” and “We wondered if you had an eating disorder, you looked so bad.”

    I guess sometimes the complement-giver gets nervous too.

  59. Fab Kate says:

    Thanks again for this post. As you’ve seen, I’ve been trying to put this all into practice :http://fab50.blogspot.com/2010/08/taking-compliments.html

  60. Quix says:

    This is something I definitely had to learn while I was losing weight. You don’t lose 100 lbs without people noticing. At first it was “Thanks, but I have so far to go” or “Thanks, but I’m not done yet”. Then I had the AHA moment that I was invalidating their compliment by telling them that I wasn’t worthy of it. I might has well have said, “thanks, but I don’t deserve your praise because I’m not perfect yet, so please kindly bugger off”. From then on, I would say, “Thank you, I worked really hard at it. I started running and I’m really loving it” or just “Thanks”.

    One thing that I always catch myself doing too is when someone compliments my outfit, I reveal right away how cheap I got it. “Thanks - 5 dollars at the thrift store, crazy huh?” I think it’s more a sense of pride at my thriftiness, but it might be seen as discounting…hmmm…

  61. Lisa says:

    I needed to hear this.
    I need to hear this every day as a reminder.

  62. Lisa says:

    I have a REALLY hard time accepting compliments. I attribute that to the days of weighing 250+ pounds and feeling embarrassed and like I wanted to sink into the floor. Once I lost the weight, I got a lot of attention I didn’t know how to deal with. It’s still a struggle-I try to say thank you and leave it at that. ;)

  63. cheska says:

    I can’t say I’m good at this. But when admired or praised for something I did, I smile say thank u also and say something nice about the person. Usually it works :)

  64. Bunny Marisol says:

    The point you make about how “negating” a compliment flies in the face of the kindness behind the act, smacked me in the face. That never occurred to me, but you’re 100% absolutely correct. That’s awful, and I do it all the time.

    Even if you don’t feel good enough about yourself to believe what is being said, the last thing you want to do is make the other person feel sorry he or she said it.

    Wow. Thanks for the reality slap. Seriously.

    Love your blog.

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