I’m not good at taking compliments

I get complimented sometimes. I don’t know if it’s a lot, or a little, but every now and then, someone I know (or someone I don’t know) will say something nice about me.

I never know how to respond to compliments. Usually, I just resort to a quiet ‘Thanks’ and a quick nod, before overanalyzing everything about the compliment that could possibly be overanalyzed.

All things considered, I have had a relatively successful life thus far: I’ve published some thoughts, I’ve created some websites and some games, I’ve done well at a pretty good college. If people compliment the work that I’ve done, that’s easy to deal with. I’m very proud of the work I have accomplished in the past few years, and I feel like I have to be proud of the effort I put in, so it’s sort of ego-boosting to hear that others like that work. Whenever someone compliments me on something I’ve done, I’m always genuinely happy to hear that, and I’ve been told that that happiness is obvious on my face.

But when it comes to compliments about me, I completely, ridiculously, fall apart.

Almost out of habit, I brush off compliments about my appearance, as I usually don’t care about it. (Clothes shopping for me is practically just buying five sets of the same shirt / pants and alternating them, so I don’t have to pay attention to what I’m wearing). Since I don’t put any importance into my everyday appearance, I almost feel a little guilty if people really think I look good. Instinctively, I don’t wish to be rewarded for things I put absolutely no effort into.

The same goes for when people around me admire my personality. (I don’t know how to word this without sounding vain, but I have gotten compliments on the way I act around people.) I cannot easily change my personality no matter how much I try, and my actions are always the ones that come most naturally to me, so I don’t feel there is any reason to be proud of the kind of person I am.

This is somewhat of an obvious statement, but people compliment others on qualities that they find 1) desirable, and 2) nontrivial to obtain. (e.g. most people don’t compliment each other on being able to walk well, as most people are capable of walking. Also, nobody compliments a native-English speaker on their English speaking, but may compliment a non-native speaker for their fluency).

However, a lot of the qualities I’ve been complimented on are qualities that were either easy for me to obtain, or qualities that I couldn’t easily change about myself…or even qualities about myself that I wished I could change. I know I’m just thinking waaay too hard about this, but a part of me always wants to explain to the poor person who complimented me that I’m not as confident or admirable or hard-working in those aspects as they think, that I really did just throw together this outfit in less than two seconds and it just happened to look decent.

I’m not sure why I am that way. I’m not sure why I can’t deal with nice words…perhaps it’s the subtle pressure they put on me. Every time I get complimented, or admired, I feel like I have to live up to another person’s ideal of me. For just a moment, my ego takes over, and I feel like I have to be the perfect person, so that I can be worthy of those compliments.

And then the moment passes, and I realize that while someone has been saying something nice about me, I’ve been standing there spaced out like a fish.


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