I have come across many people who have accomplishments and talents to be proud of, but who so willingly dismiss the acknowledgement of their greatness because they are either afraid of being perceived as arrogant, or they lack the self-esteem it takes to admit that they are talented and should be proud of their accomplishments. Arguably, the first explanation also implies a lack of self-esteem, because a confident person understands their strengths and is proud of how they utilize them, and therefore understands that to feel successful does not mean that you are arrogant.
Here’s what I mean. First, let’s go to a well-known and notable source, Dictionary.com. Arrogance is defined as an, “offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride” (Dictionary.com, 2011a) and confidence is defined as, “belief in oneself and one’s own powers and abilities…self-reliance” (Dictionary.com, 2011b). Did you catch those key words in the definition of confidence? The “one’s own powers and abilities” and the emphasis on “self-reliance”? If you need to do so, take a moment to reflect on what those key words mean. They refer to the simple act of knowing that you can accomplish something. Knowing that you are worth something. And knowing that your abilities and your strengths rely on you. This means that when you accomplish goals and you achieve success, it is because you did it. Sure you may have received help along the way, but you did it. And that’s what matters when receiving compliments.
On your side, receiving a compliment well is not about making you feel better about yourself. The receiving is about taking the compliment with confidence and grace, and being able to walk away from that person and that moment with the satisfaction of realizing that you deserved your accomplishment. And that’s the point. It isn’t that you deserved the compliment, but rather that you deserved the accomplishment, and being proud of yourself for that.
I was at a dinner party a few months back with some old friends, and we were talking about the fear of the compliment. All of my friends have plenty to be proud of, but sometimes they lack the courage to step up and be proud of themselves. One of my friends, who works in customer service, chimed in that her way of dealing with receiving compliments is to respond to the compliment-giver with a “well thank you for letting me help you.” While this is a polite reaction to a compliment, it does not address the fact that this is a cowardly way to accept a compliment. Whatever happened to thanking someone for saying something nice about you, and accepting it? Stop turning it around so that you don’t sound proud. Stop making your strengths the attributes of someone else, simply because you can’t handle the fact that you accomplished something, whether that something is as minor as a good hair day, or as major as an important promotion at work. You strengths are not about anyone else but yourself. Understand that, and understand yourself, and utilize your passions, your talents, and yourself to the best of your abilities.
Dictionary.com. (2011). Arrogance. Dictionary.com. Retrieved August 9, 2011 from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/arrogance.
Dictionary.com. (2011). Confidence. Dictionary.com. Retrieved August 9, 2011 from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/confidence.