When a compliment feels like a lie… and what to do about it.
You are out with your friends when an attractive man/woman comes up to you and compliments you on something about your appearance.
How do you react?
Well, there are many ways in which we can react and I think all of them would depend on the context of the situation and how you feel inside. You could react negatively, get embarrassed or feel ridiculed, or you could smile and accept the compliment.
Which reaction do you usually display?
Compliment rejection and body image
Compliments can be a tricky thing and how we react to them can really say a lot about what we feel and think inside, as well as the culture in which we are brought up. It’s been shown that a lower self-esteem tends to go hand in hand with the inability to accept compliments easily. People with lower self-esteem seem to be difficult to compliment: they usually get embarrassed, feel ridiculed, or like they are being put on the spot when all they really want to do is hide. In this case, the negative reaction doesn’t only make the complintee (compliment-receiver) feel worse, it often makes the complimentor (compliment-giver) feel bad and confused for causing this reaction. (Yes, I made these two terms up lol)
Him: “I think your body is so sexy”
Her: “..Oh.. hah.. please…” *scoffs, embarrassed*
(now her mind is going crazy – “how could he say that about my body, I’m nowhere near my goal weight! I appreciate that he’s trying to be nice and stuff but I know he would rather be with someone who actually has a fit body; ugh, now all I’m gonna think about is my body and that he really does NOT think it’s sexy, I’m not stupid – I know all about reverse psychology! Ugh…”)
In this situation, a man who is clearly attracted to this woman wants to verbally express his desire and affection for her physical shape. However, because the woman is clearly self-conscious about her body, she dismisses the compliment and feels embarrassed that the man has noticed and put her on the spot about it. She may think that it’s his reverse-psychology way of telling her she’s not actually sexy and should lose a few pounds. She may think that he’s just saying that to make her feel better about herself but doesn’t actually mean it.
If the woman has poor body image, the compliments that are focused around the thing she feel self-conscious about are more likely to cause her distress. I’m speaking from personal experience and from experiences I’ve read about when researching this topic. When we feel really self-conscious about something and spend a lot of time guilt-ridden and ashamed of that part of ourselves, we tend to deny the feedback we get regarding it that opposes our belief. If we think we’re fat and we are ashamed of our body and perhaps feel unworthy of love and affection on a subconscious level, we will only accept the comments that approve our belief as being rational even when it is completely irrational.
Before I stopped dieting, I would frequently feel fat because I wasn’t at my goal weight. I was obsessed with dieting, felt felt ashamed of my body and felt guilty for not being able to reach goal. I was practically waiting for someone to call me “fat.” I was looking for the negative feedback to come because it would prove to me that I was right and my thinking was indeed logical. When the feedback came as the opposite, when I was complimented as having a nice and lovable body, I didn’t know how to react – after all, this would mean that my beliefs were irrational and untrue – and we want to protect our beliefs. The negative self-conscious thoughts do not believe the compliments and see them as being ridiculed or made fun of rather than true. Anything to protect our beliefs.
Regardless of what popular culture magazine tells us, men are actually attracted to a myriad of body shapes and sizes. There are men (and women) out there who are attracted to a whole range of body types. There is not one universal body shape that literally every single person in the world is attracted to.
This verbal expression of adoration is meant to be exchanged and received in a loving manner. It is not always easy for people to compliment others and express how we feel verbally. It often takes courage to speak our true feelings. This could have been the case for this particular man.
Having the compliment be entirely dismissed by the woman not only makes the man confused, it might also make him hurt for being shot down… Because rejecting a heart-felt compliment feels like rejection. Rejection is a very unpleasant feeling and no one wants to feel that. This could cause the man to refrain from complimenting the woman (or other women) in the future. And what’s the good in that?
The role of compliments in a healthy lifestyle
Do we actually need compliments? Is receiving and giving compliments unnecessary for our optimal living experience?
According to the Rule of Esteem, “all humans need and want praise, recognition, and acceptance. Acceptance and praise are two of our deepest cravings. We need affection to satisfy the need to belong, we want praise so we can feel admired, and we want recognition to satisfy our need for personal growth.”
Whether we care to admit it to ourselves or not, we are complex beings who were meant to connect and form bonds with other human beings.
This is interesting because there are many people out there who lack true emotional and spiritual connections with others. Sometimes it’s people who are extremely introverted; sometimes it’s people who are very hardworking and spend their days at their jobs; yet sometimes it’s people who simply don’t know how to connect and think they are better off without making any connections in an effort to avoid getting hurt.
Regardless of how accepting you currently are of affection, connecting with another human being on an affectionate and loving level can add a great deal of positivity to your life, such as:
- a significant reduction in stress and depression levels
- physical affection releases feel-good hormone, oxytocin
- physical affection is related to lower blood pressure
- increases your relationships with others
- increases your overall mood and betters your outlook on life
Being an affectionate person and openly receiving affection and compliments, as you can see, has health benefits that are impossible to ignore. You might be wondering then, how can we stop feeling like this whenever we get a compliment about a part of ourselves we are not comfortable with.
How to receive compliments
The thing is – it’s really important to accept compliments properly. I’m not talking about grace or social manners, I’m talking about something bigger than that – the law of attraction. What you say and believe, you manifest. The more you say something, the more your subconscious will believe it, even if you don’t necessarily mean it at the time. This can go both ways:
Person 1: “Your hair looks so nice today!”
Person 2: “Oh no, are you kidding- It looks so terrible, but thanks, I guess”
Person 1: “Your hair looks so nice today!”
Person 2: “Aw, thank you, you’re such a sweetheart.”
Okay, so I don’t know if this is actually how you would react but I know these are the two ways in which I have reacted to the same compliments before, at different points in my life. Regardless of whether you think your hair looks good that day or not, and whether you the person truly meant it (unless that person was blatanly sarcastic… If so, then just respond sarcastically back! That bitch! lol), just accept the compliment and move on.
What you say out loud, your subconscious will eventually believe and will manifest. The root of poor compliment receiving is usually low self-esteem or poor body image or something of the sort. A way to increase your self esteem is through self-love. Accept yourself for who you are, right now and right here, and you will ultimately lead a much much happier and more fulfilling life.
The more you begin to accept compliments and accept that what they are saying is indeed true, no matter what your mind chatter might be telling you at the moment, the more you will begin to believe it. And thus, your relationship with yourself will begin to change for the better.
But… It’s easy in theory – give and receive compliments and you will lead life of better quality. Easier said than done, right? It does seem like this right now but this is actually much easier to take ahold of than you might think.
2 Steps to taking compliments like a champ
So I don’t think there are actual compliment-taking champs, but let’s just say there are for the sake of this conversation. Here are some tips to help you learn to become more comfortable with accepting compliments and beginning to manifest them as being true in your own life.
1. Practice saying “Thank You” in the mirror. First, look at yourself and tell yourself a compliment. This is best if you compliment yourself on a body part you are not yet entirely comfortable with (and don’t be sarcastic about it, either). Then… take it in. Smile. Accept it. Say “thank you”. Repeat this daily. This not only will help you accept compliments more easily and effortlessly, this is also one of the best ways to begin building your body image back up. Self love is the key!
2. Start complimenting others! If we have trouble seeing the beauty in ourselves, we tend to have trouble seeing the true beauty in others. We are all beautiful in our own ways. Begin to let this fact soak in and truly ponder it. Begin looking at people through eyes of love. Find things you admire and love about other people – whether they are your family, friends, or strangers. Then start verbalizing the admiration. A simple “You look great today” can really end up brightening someone else’s day as well as your own.
Being able to take compliments properly can not only give you all the benefits that go along with receiving affection but also it will deepen your relationship with the complimentor. This will cause him to be happy for having given you the compliment and if you reciprocate, whether right then and there or in general, this will create a positive cycle of affection. Affection = good. Remember that. Cheers!
PART 2: Check out my post about: “Before you compliment someone, think about this first” – for another perspective on compliments, this time it’s about giving them.
Questions for you:
- How do you usually take compliments?
- What type of compliments do you have the hardest time accepting?
Let me know in the comments, let’s discuss!
Sources: Research Matters, Persuasion Laws, Psychology Today, Today, HuffPost
Last Updated on March 27, 2019