Why Can’t I Take Compliments?

Why for some people, does the purpose of compliments falter when received, leaving them awkward and uncomfortable instead of uplifted and happy?

Do you ever just wish to dig up a tunnel and hide beneath it because you have done something really embarrassing in a moment? It has evolved into, for people like myself, a classic fantasy for flight response, which is a desire to disappear, rather than to face the embarrassment caused. However, people can imagine the exit routes all they want, but at the end of the day, they have to experience the lived reality of their awkwardness. Some people might feel the same after failing to respond to a nice well-intended compliment, while taking the conversation to some other uncomfortable tangent, thinking with hindsight that they shouldn’t have reacted this way and could have done without so much effort had they just nodded along the way. They probably might be looking up on the internet some template answers on how to acknowledge compliments! This is not an exaggeration and one of the many responses for getting awkward upon receiving appreciation.

Image Credits: Via Twitter: @michaelala21

“I just smile and at the same time tell them that there are so many others out there who are better than myself, and then I get so stupid that I keep repeating this same statement everytime they talk good about me. In addition, I also try and fail in changing the subject.”

-Kriti Gupta, a student from Maitreyi College, speaks on how she responds to compliments

Another reason for being so nonplussed upon being the recipient of compliments  might be this inherent downplaying of one’s self esteem and self worth where relativity is a major concept. In consciousness or maybe the lack of it, some of us are guilty of setting standards according to other people’s achievements and deem things praiseworthy or not according to this set benchmark. Constantly thinking about what you have done or achieved, amounts more or less in comparative terms can be the reason for denying to accept any praise. However, it’s not the same for everyone. Some people come off humble or modest or even give the impression of being rude, because they don’t wish to associate themselves with what they believe is the redundancy of superlative compliments. This is triggering in some cases for the cognitive dissonance in people, where the said things don’t fall in line with how one views themself. For example if someone says, ‘You’re so beautiful,’ and it falls out of the way of how you view yourself and think it’s their kalopsia.

For some people compliments might trigger the imposter syndrome in them, which is a condition where a person feels skeptical about her/his/their own accomplishments and feel that they are on the verge of getting caught as an imposter who has achieved everything so far due to external factors(luck/chance) and not with their own talent. People with this syndrome take the fall and credit when things go south, but always attribute success to other factors except their own self.

Credits: via twitter @joythomps

“I love validations, they cheer me up, I always look forward to hearing good things about my work or performance or my new style or nail art. They add positivity to my life, though I am not dependent on them, but sure I feel happy when they come my way.”

-Arunima Tripathi, a student from Kirori Mal College, speaks on how she takes compliments

It’s easy and uplifting for some people to enjoy compliments, however for some it imbues as a task. How we give and receive compliments in a larger construct reflects how the cause and effect are so interlinked. Perhaps promotion of unrealistic beauty standards, or romanticism of overachievers, among other things can be contributing factors. It’s like societal components affect your sense of self and then come with their not so genuine remarks to mess it all even more to suit their own likes and score cool woke brownie points. Not to generalise, but in some ‘guys circle,’ still complementing one another would indulge a follow up of, ‘no homos’  or in some ‘girls circle’ a toxic adulation would make someone conscious of their body or performance. It’s not equally tough or simple for everyone to react to praises as it varies with differing degrees for different people. We can learn to be careful with our words, and tailor it according to whom we are giving to, while following up and checking that the subject of our crafted compliments is comfortable and line of complementing is non problematic.

Feature Image Credits: The Lilly

Umaima Khanam



Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history.Freedom to Express.