Life at UCB through the eyes of our international student bloggers

Receiving compliments

Receiving compliments

I feel uncomfortable with compliments. Is it just me, or does anyone else feel the same way?

When someone compliments me, a lot of questions go through my head. It’s easy to overthink compliments, especially when they don’t happen very often. Sometimes, it even made me doubt the true intentions of the person giving compliments to me. Are they genuine, or do they feel obligated to give compliments? There is this belief that people only do something nice when they want something in return or even to manipulate you. Some people may see compliments as positive reinforcement. However, in our society, we seem to be more used to using punishment as a reinforcement.

I’m not trying to be overly modest or humble. I just simply do not know what is the right thing to say to compliments. No one wants to come off as a show-off or someone who is too prideful or even insecure of themselves. Nobody wants that. For a while, I have struggled with accepting compliments. I always feel undeserving of compliments because, in my eyes, I didn’t work hard or at all to be given compliments. In psychology, this could be referred to as the Impostor Syndrome. It’s like my mind is telling me not to acknowledge my achievements or what I’m capable of doing. I always feel like it’s just my luck or people are just being friendly.

Sometimes, compliments put me on the spot, especially if I’m in a room full of people. Not everyone likes to be the centre of attention, and for some, we seem to forget how to function when we are put in that position. It’s similar to when people sing Happy Birthday to you, and you just don’t know what to do. For some weird reason, I feel embarrassed being complimented in front of other people. Other times, I interpret compliments as a way for people to tell me to maintain or improve on the things I was given compliments on. It gave me the impression that people have some kind of expectations from me. It’s a lot of pressure to me that I would rather dismiss it than having to disappoint them when I’m not able to live up to their expectations. I still struggle and cringe to this day, whenever I hear compliments about myself from other people.

Simply put, showing a little gratitude is the best response to a compliment. I’m not saying that we should force ourselves to accept it. We should be thankful that other people notice something good about us even if we don’t believe it ourselves. We should resist the urge to self-criticise in this kind of situation. It is not egotistical to give acknowledgement to your achievements and capabilities. We often focus too much on what the compliments mean to us rather than seeing them from the other party’s point of view. We might be unintentionally rude if we downplay the compliments given by others and make them feel rejected.

A compliment is not all about us, it could also be the other person showing appreciation to us for the way we’ve made them feel.

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