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By Brooke Stoltzfus, LSW


I’m sure we’ve all had the conversation:

“Hey you did a really great job on your performance! Nice job!”
“Oh well, I could’ve done x,y,z better, but it was all right.”

Or another instance:

“You have such a great voice! You should sing more!”
“Oh no it’s not really that good, and I don’t enjoy singing in front of others.”

I’d feel pretty confident in my guess that the vast majority of humans have engaged in or witnessed this type of interaction. And, I would say a fair amount of us have been on the receiving end of a compliment and deflected it in some way. But why do we feel the need to deflect (subconsciously or not) these compliments? For many people, receiving compliments can be quite uncomfortable for a variety of reasons! Maybe we aren’t used to receiving compliments, or accepting them might come across as cocky, or we might feel that we simply did a bad job, so we’re undeserving of a compliment. Whatever the reason is, the following can encourage you to genuinely accept the compliments given to you, and give you some insight on how to receive them well!

1. The compliment is meaningful

When given without ulterior motives, people genuinely mean the compliments they give you! With pure intentions, compliments are meant to encourage and build others up. In general, we want to be listened to and our words to be taken seriously. This principle rings true even when we’re complimenting someone. People who mean their compliments are not just trying to “butter you up” or mean it in a backhanded way. If they are complimenting your performance, it means they genuinely enjoyed it and thought you did well. We can listen to the compliment-giver by accepting their compliment, even if we don’t share the same opinion.

2.You should feel good about your work, performance, etc

Does it feel good submitting a project half complete? Or completing a task knowing it was rushed and not our best work? Not really. When we work hard on something and give it our all, it’s something to feel good about! We can recognize when we’ve done exceptionally well, and other people might see it too. Is it ok to agree with them when they point out our success? 

“You played really well in that game!”
“Thank you! I felt quicker today!”

This kind of response leads me to reason #3 to accept compliments.

3. Accepting compliments does not make you cocky

Agreeing with someone when they point out our success or exceptional work does not make you an ego-maniac. There is a vast difference between someone who puffs themself up because of their pride and someone who feels a sense of accomplishment about their work and accepts someone’s praise of it. See the difference? We can be humble and accept praise without becoming arrogant and prideful. 

Furthermore, are we called to have low self esteem? We are certainly called to be meek, humble, and gentle (among other attributes found in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5). Humans are created as image-bearers; this is the highest compliment! We can be confident in our status of image-bearers rather than engaging in putting ourselves down.

4. It is genuine of you!

If you truly feel proud of the work you’ve done, and you deflect compliments, are you not short changing yourself? There will be times when people compliment you even when you feel like it wasn’t your best work, and maybe in those times you’ll be honest about how you felt. But especially in times when you feel accomplished about your work, you can accept the compliment wholeheartedly in a genuine and meaningful fashion. 

5. Accepting compliments can strengthen relationships

When we accept compliments, we essentially are telling the compliment-giver that we believe them. Accepting compliments allows ourselves to believe what the compliment-giver is saying about us; this can add security and strength to a relationship. And while compliments are meaningful in a relationship, so is constructive criticism. Accepting compliments can leave room for constructive criticism later in the relationship because we have established a sense of security and safety already. For example, we believe when our coach says we are a talented player, and we accept the pointers our coach gives us to better our performance. See how in that instance, we are accepting both the “positive” and “negative” things that someone is saying about us? Accepting only negative comments from people can be damaging and unhelpful to our self-esteem. Allow yourself to receive compliments, especially from people you love, in the name of strengthening your relationship and doing yourself a favor!

Truthfully, all five of these reasons can be summed up into one statement: accepting compliments is good for you! Whether it is uncomfortable to receive compliments, or you feel undeserving of them, stretching the muscle of accepting them is healthy for you. If accepting compliments is a challenge for you, here’s a list of lines to tuck in your back pocket!

“Thank you!” – Starting here without the “but” phrase is a great way to simply begin accepting compliments.

“I appreciate you saying that.” – This can be useful especially when you did not feel as good about your work, performance, etc.

“Thank you; this is my favorite (piece of art, song I’ve made, position I play)” – you fill in the blank! Adding a personal bit of information can often make the situation less awkward if you feel uncomfortable.

“Thank you; I love your ___” – It can be easy to make others feel good when we feel good as well! Repaying a compliment with another one makes both parties walk away smiling.


Looking for help?

Our caring and experienced team at Lime Tree Counseling is here to help you if you desire to build your self-esteem and confidence. We provide individual counseling and couples counseling both in-person at our Ambler, PA site and through online counseling in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Our counselors can help with Christian counseling for anxiety, emotional abuse, and trauma therapy. Please contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation with a member of our staff today or schedule a 50-minute initial session. We look forward to hearing from you!