The Problem With “Thank You”: Why it’s So Hard to Accept Compliments

Life + Faith

My words were used against me. I hate that. 

“Why do people do that? You give them a compliment and then they won’t take it?”  I pondered on that for a moment, realizing that I’d just talked to another woman about that very thing the week prior. And now, here I was, doing the thing I said she wasn’t supposed to do: Someone gave me a compliment and I alerted them to the reasons that they were wrong and should perhaps reconsider thinking I did a good job on the complemented activity in question. What’s wrong with thank you?


Typically, I find, we fall into one of three camps:

The “no, you are!” : Someone, “You’re really good at that!” You, “No, YOU are really good at that!”

The “no, I’m not!”: Someone, “You’re really good at that!” You, “Well, I’m not that great but I’m trying.”

Or the “no, everybody is!”: Someone, “You’re really good at that!” You, “Everybody helped! They deserve the credit!” 


Did you see yourself in one of those responses? Is one of them your go-to deflection? 


I think we tend to feel like the simple, straight forward acceptance of accolades means that somehow we are overly proud of ourselves. Like a simple “thank you” actually translates into “Yes, you are correct, I’m basically better than everybody and being in my presence is a privilege. Now off with you, peasant, I must go adorn myself with many jewels and await the chariots that are surely being sent in my honor.”


That’s a lie and all of the answers above, while they sound nice and humble, are actually just self deprecation disguised as humility. We want real, authentic confidence in what we do and who we are. No more playing small. You are allowed to take up space and you are allowed to feel good about being seen. 


In considering this question personally, I realized that if whatever is getting complimented isn’t in its final form, or hasn’t reached the potential I know lies in it, I want to make sure that the thanking party knows that I know that it could be better. And yes, that is unnecessarily confusing.


Essentially I project my insecurities onto complimenters, thinking that they should also judge me by them as much as I judge myself.  

Many of us grew up being conditioned to believe that it’s cocky or prideful to own  your accomplishments or the things people find generally good about you. 


Any proclamation of assertive pride was typically shut down. That embeds in our thought process and manifests into a weed of sorts that chokes any expression of acceptance of our abilities. 


Things are different now as social media has given us access to plenty of women who are not shy about their abilities – and I am absolutely here for us owning our confidence (I mean it’s in the mission of this whole thing). Let’s get to the place where we can do the good work we were created to and be thankful when that good work is seen. 


So, I have a challenge for us this week (your week starts whenever you happen to read this): When someone says something nice to you, your job is to say, “thank you.” 

That’s it. Simple and straightforward. The only things you are allowed to add are a “very much” or a “that’s nice of you to notice.” or anything else that does not detract from the compliment, but simply acknowledges that they have been heard and the statement has been accepted. 


Can you do it? Grab some friends and do this “Thank You Challenge” together. Report back here or on IG.

Why do you think we deflect compliments so much? 

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