“Compliments? No thank you!” Why we need to reshape our thoughts on praise

“Oh, it’s nothing.”


“I was just lucky.”


“I was in the right place at the right time.”


We’ve all been guilty of trying to downplay any kind of success. We shy away from the spotlight or praise, never wanting to be the centre of attention. The question is why?


As humans, are we intrinsically built to shy away from compliments so let’s look a little deeper…


Why do we shy away from praise?


There are three potential factors at play when we turn against praise, they all feed into one another endlessly to make it hard to accept compliments: low self-esteem, cognitive dissonance, and high expectations.


Low Self Esteem


A new research study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that people with low self-esteem have the most difficulty accepting compliments. If you think you're somehow flawed, or you believe that you aren't good enough, you might have trouble understanding how others can say such kind things about you.


Cognitive Dissonance


This is the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time. Cognitive dissonance is a very powerful motivator which will often lead us to change one or other of the conflicting belief or action. This inconsistency between what we believe and how we behave motivates us to engage in actions that will help minimise feelings of discomfort. We sometimes attempt to relieve this tension in different ways, such as by rejecting compliments, explaining away, or avoiding new information.


Unreasonable Expectations


According to the movies we should all live in a New York penthouse, earn millions and have a gorgeous partner to answer our beck and call…however, it’s simply not real.


What we read and see each day through mainstream media warps the expectations of our own lives. We know most of these goals are fabricated, yet as humans, we still manage to set totally unrealistic expectations of what ‘success’ looks like.

Accepting praise and small wins can create a positive snowball


In her TEDTalk, Educator Vancouver-based educator Mehrnaz Bassiri explained that our views of success are so warped that we have started to measure any kind of progress on a ‘oversized scale’. This leads us to viewing our small successes as overall failures.


“Small wins have a transformational power. Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion to favour another small win and another small win until the combination of these small wins lead to larger and greater accomplishments.”


Essentially, the more we can accept small wins and the associated compliments, we can slowly re-train our brain to more positive. The more positive we are the great successes we can achieve.

Here’s a challenge for you


For one whole month – accept any compliment or praise that comes your way. You don’t have to over play the situation, a simple thank you is all you need to respond with however it’s important you accept the praise wholeheartedly.


Your mind may try to convince you otherwise, but I want you to stay firm and learn the art of receiving praise.


Embrace your success and let that drive you forward.

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