Updated: Jun 11, 2021
How do you feel when you receive a compliment? Do you accept the words easily and take them as they are intended? Or do get embarrassed. Perhaps even dismiss it and quickly move on to a different subject?
I really struggle with compliments. I am quick to comment back with a dismissive comment or to change the subject. When I was in Toastmasters after a speech if someone would come over and say “That was a great speech.” I would get embarrassed and deflect, saying something like “Oh no, I stumbled on my words during....: and then quickly change the topic. Why is it so hard to say, “Thank you” and really accept it?
This question has been weighing on my mind lately, and I’ve been working through it. I decided to write a bit about it here. Perhaps some of you are struggling with the same thing?
Here is what I think. It is about being humble. Sometimes we may feel that accepting the compliment too eagerly is a sign of vanity. I don’t want to be perceived as someone who is vain of “full of herself”. But to be honest, I don’t think that’s the real reason – at least not for me. I did some soul searching and some journaling and realized that for me, under the layers of excuses, if I can call it that, is the feeling of not being worthy of those compliments.
It feels like they are talking about someone other than me. Here is the truth though – they are seeing something in me that I am not able to. But it must exist, right? I mean, if one person says it, then okay I accept – that’s just their perspective. But in a situation like Toastmasters, when week after week, speech after speech, the comment cards I received contained compliments, then there must be some truth to it.
Here is what happened, though. I got overwhelmed. I was a member of Toastmasters for a year. I joined it because I was doing better with my self-esteem and thought this was a logical next step for me. To learn how to speak in public. Without exception, each speech I gave I received compliments. The first speech I gave, my ice breaker as it is called, I got a standing ovation – talk about a high! Somehow though, during the year, I started getting overwhelmed. Between the compliments I received and the push to do more from the more experienced members I started to spiral downwards which led to me quitting. I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me from the others, but the reality is the pressure was from me. I felt like they were putting pressure on me – but no one actually said anything directly. All they did was compliment me and encourage me to push myself. But I took their compliments as pressure. Is that on them or on me? It’s on me.
If I had the self-esteem to accept their compliments and encouragement in the manner in which it was most likely intended, I would probably still be a part of Toastmasters. Instead, I allowed my self-doubt to put a roadblock in my way and derail the progress I was making. It has taken a long time for me to admit that to myself – and now to you. I am still not ready to go back to Toastmasters. But this realization is an important step.
This is one of the hardest posts I have written to date. I second-guessed hitting “publish” on it many times. In the end, I wrote it in the hopes that my vulnerability and honesty might help someone else. second-guessed