When someone gives you a compliment, you have a choice about how to receive it. I will say up front that this is a problem that I have personally struggled with at times in my life, but have worked to change over time. Most of us intend to be gracious and appreciative when somebody compliments us, yet our responses do not always reflect that intent. If someone compliments you, and your first instinct is to say “no that’s not true” or something else that minimizes and downplays the recognition, you may want to reflect on whether you are being truly gracious in that situation.
When you minimize, negate, or dismiss a compliment that you have received you are probably trying to convey a sense of humility and avoid looking as though you have been trying to call attention to yourself. There is a good reason why you are trying to convey that message. Women in particular have been conditioned by society to be polite, humble, and appreciative in every situation, and not to appear to be braggadocios or self-congratulatory, at the risk of being labeled stuck-up. Men are not immune to these messages either, but they also are more likely to be conditioned to have confidence in themselves and to take credit for their accomplishments. Regardless of gender, though, when you regularly dismiss any positive things people say to or about you, you are doing yourself a disservice and you may not be conveying the messages that you truly want to send.
First, consider the position of the person who has paid you a compliment. They tried to say something nice to you, but you dismissed what they had to say because you were trying to be humble, or maybe just out of habit. Now they have to spend additional time convincing you to receive the compliment and say “thank you” before the conversation can comfortably end. Furthermore, if you continue to make self-deprecating statements you can end up coming across as actually fishing for compliments, because the other person is now in the position of having to refute all the negative things you are saying so that s/he does not come across as rude. A situation in which another person tried to say something nice has now become an exercise in contradicting your negativity. This isn’t humility, it’s insecurity.
Think also about the impression that you want to give to others. The inability to receive a compliment graciously can have the effect of making you look insecure and perhaps even incompetent. When you constantly refute positive things that others say about you, people may start to believe that you don’t want or deserve the accolades. If other people see something positive in you, don’t try to convince them otherwise! That only ends up reinforcing any negative feelings you may have about yourself in the eyes of others. It’s okay to take credit for the positive things you have accomplished, or feel good if you happen to be looking fierce that day.
Even small habits like dismissing compliments can have a negative impact on your overall sense of self-esteem and confidence. However, this also means that making a small change in your habits can be a boon to your confidence. It can be challenging to graciously receive a compliment when you have been in the habit of dismissing them. Luckily, practicing this small change is easy and simple once you’ve recognized the problem. If appropriate, you can give credit to others who may have helped you with whatever the accomplishment was that you have been recognized for. Do not say it was all somebody else’s doing, though, because that again minimizes your contribution. Above all, avoid negating what the other person has said, or arguing about whether the compliment was deserved. The best, and most gracious way to receive a compliment is simply to say “Thank you”.