Why It’s So Darn Awkward To Take A Compliment (Plus, 3 Ways To Make It Easier)

How do you handle being told that you're awesome?

How To Love Yourself, Boost Self-Esteem, Self-Compassion, & Self-Confidence By Accepting Compliments

Loving yourself isn't always easy, and having the necessary self-confidence to do so can be hard too. 

If you're lacking in self-confidence, how can you even realize it?

A great way to gauge your own self-respect and confidence level is by noticing how you handle it when someone compliments you. 

That awkward moment when you are going about your business when out of nowhere, someone says, "You look nice today," or that they admire you or, even worse, drop a really big word like "beautiful", "sexy", or "amazing"! 


You freeze, stammer a compliment back, brush it off, and then run away flustered and feeling like you could crawl under a rock. Does hearing someone speak kindly about you make you cringe? 

RELATED: What Men Really Expect You To Do When They Give You A Compliment (And Why It's B.S.)


If you're like most people, it's a wonderful opportunity to turn on yourself, deflect, and allow that inner critic to rear its ugly head.

The question is...why is it so hard to take a compliment and what can you do to shift that and improve your sense of self-worth?

First off, you have to know that it is very normal to feel uncomfortable when people say kind things to you. Women, especially, were taught from a very young age to be humble, not to let flattery go to your heads, and that you are no better than the next person.

Although that is somewhat true, (everyone is a human being at the end of the day, and all deserve love and feeling like they belong), you are also super awesome and wonderful and deserve to be acknowledged for it!


The trouble is that the messages you received when you were very young have somehow been misinterpreted (or in some cases were downright nasty to start) to mess with your heads as adults.

Depending on those messages, we also learn to accept certain types of compliments better than others. For example, a child who is often told she is pretty will be able to hear that a little bit easier as an adult than say, a comment on her intelligence or abilities.

Also, take into consideration who the compliment is coming from. Since we are also habitual creatures sometimes we can become desensitized to certain language from certain people and it becomes irritating to hear a specific type of compliment over others.

Basically, receiving compliments in a psychological sense is a battle between our egos and our conscious and unconscious minds.


Interpreting messages we hear now and comparing them to messages we received as children, we decide what is true for us and what isn't. Since we are our own worst enemies, that compliment usually becomes twisted into an ugly truth and if it doesn't line up with our beliefs about ourselves, we dismiss it.

We deflect it, reaffirm our actual belief by minimizing the compliment, and even sometimes go so far as to project our negative feelings onto the compliment giver.

"She's lying."

"He just wants to get in my pants."

That's all fine and dandy but what do you do with that information? You learn to shift your thinking. It's a bit of a process but it can be done.


RELATED: 5 Reasons Why It Feels So Darn Hard To Love Yourself Sometimes

Here are 3 simple steps to learn how to love yourself, accept a compliment, and boost your self-esteem.

1. Name your beliefs and thoughts

This takes some self-reflection and honesty, so get comfortable with a pen and paper or a journal and find a quiet space. Ask yourself, "What do I believe about myself and what do I think others believe about me?"

The best way to get really honest is to get into your body. Take a few deep breaths and sit quietly for a few minutes and see what surfaces. If you're in your head, it's easy to rationalize your way out of it.

You might know, in your mind, that most people think you're great and even have evidence to back it up. But, if you don't feel that in your heart, it will never fully be real.


So get into your body. Think of all the limiting beliefs (a.k.a. the nasty thoughts) you have about yourself and then write them down. By naming these, you can really begin to dive into and explore where these feelings come from. 

Reflect on your childhood. When was the first time you felt like this? What behaviors were modeled for you around taking compliments? What were you told as a kid about who you were and how you should behave? Write these down.

2. Shift your beliefs

Take stock of your life right now. Of those limiting beliefs you hold, which ones do you think would be easiest to shift and where in your life are you noticing them most? Is someone in your life reaffirming these beliefs or are you choosing not to hear anything to the contrary?

Often, you enter relationships with people who you think are better than you and you compare yourself to. Or, worse, you find mirrors of yourself in others who project their insecurities onto you in the form of verbal or emotional abuse.


RELATED: 20 Easy Ways To Be Good To Yourself Today

This can look like you starting every sentence with: "This is stupid, but..." or hearing similar words about you from others. 

Regardless, if it's someone else putting that negativity on you, cut them loose! You are worthy of so much more than that!!


If it's just you doing it to yourself, then for each negative belief, write down 3-5 ways this isn't true. For example: "I have no good ideas" becomes "I am insightful" or "I am innovative."

It helps to write the contradicting/new statements as "I am" if possible, as it helps shift neural pathways in your brain and you start to identify as those things. Another way to really drive this home is to write the affirmations on sticky notes and post them on your mirror and then say them aloud to yourself as you read them.

3. Accept the compliment

The real challenge. Now that you know where these beliefs come from and you can name them, you can allow a little outside assistance to help shift them. Not all self-love needs to come from you, sometimes it's about surrounding yourself with people who boost you up. 

The first step in taking compliments is being open to receiving them. Think of them as a gift. If you give someone a gift that you put some thought into and wanted to show how you feel about them, how would you feel if they rejected it? Not that good, right? Well, that's how people feel when they compliment you! 


A little skill practice you can try is to ask for compliments. This sounds counterintuitive because we all know that person who is always fishing for compliments. You know, the way that usually starts with self-deprecating language. But, that's not what you should do here. Genuinely ask people what they think of you or see as your best qualities.

If you don't want people to see you blush, put a post on Facebook. Something along the lines of "Hey! I'm doing some self-love work lately and I need some help. What is one thing you like most about me?"

RELATED: 5 Powerful Ways To Show Unconditional Love — To Yourself!


Once the love starts to roll in, the first thing you'll probably want to do is compliment them back. Don't do it! For the purpose of this exercise, you want to just allow the feelings to land. This will mean getting into your body again so take a few deep breaths, read the comments, and see what comes up.

If you feel uncomfortable (it's normal), then re-read it, say it out loud to yourself, and remember they chose to tell you something kind because they feel that way! The next step is to say "Thank you" and that's it. If you feel it land, a.k.a. you get the warm fuzzy's and start to believe what they're saying, then and only then are you allowed to say something kind back.

(For the first time, it's best not to simply because it's an easy deflection route and doesn't have the same effect on the brain.)

Once you get good at reading compliments, the next step is hearing them, but essentially the skill practice is the same. Just hear what they have to say, take a deep breath, feel how it feels, and say "Thank you".  If you notice yourself deflecting or self-deprecating, stop and repeat the steps.


Eventually, you'll be so used to hearing compliments, you'll start to believe them!

The most important part of this process is to be gentle with yourself. Everyone has a lot of programming accumulated over the years and it takes time to shift thoughts, patterns, and beliefs.

Remember, compliments are gifts. If, at first, you can't take one for your sake, take one for the person offering. You'll be giving them a gift in return just by being open to receiving. 

RELATED: 4 Body Language Hacks To Help You Feel Wicked-Confident

Kendra Hadley is a Confidence Coach, Counsellor, and Self-Love Ambassador in Vancouver BC. Contact her today to book a complimentary discovery session, or sign up to receive your Free"Swipe Right to Life" Self Care Handbook.