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Building Self-Esteem: Learning to Accept Compliments

Do you find that you have trouble accepting compliments? If someone praises you or tells you something nice about yourself, do you find yourself shying away or rebuffing it? Does the thought of thinking of yourself in a positive light make you feel uncomfortable, or even sick?

If so, then your self-esteem may have taken a beating once or multiple times in your life.

Self-esteem is an important part of our natures – it is based on how we perceive and value ourselves. Our environment, experiences, relationships, personal attributes and the way our mind works all play a big part in forming our self-esteem.

What is Low Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is an important part of our natures – it is based on how we perceive and value ourselves. Our environment, experiences, relationships, personal attributes and the way our mind works all play a big part in forming our self-esteem.

Low self-esteem is often the result of negative experiences growing up, which could include being told negative things about oneself (“You’re not good enough!”) or being made to feel in one’s environment that you are a failure. It can also be the result of toxic relationships or major life events that knock down your sense of self-worth, abuse, bullying, being a victim of prejudice, physical and mental health problems, worries about body image, financial worries and anything that triggers a stressful life experience.

Bottom of a girl's face in a mirror.

Self-esteem is important because our opinion of ourselves shapes who we are, and if our perceived self is one which is viewed as “worthless” or “not good enough” then it will create obstacles, blockages, emotional distress and, often, further toxic relationships in our lives. In its worse form, low self-esteem can lead to self-destructive behavior, including drug abuse and self-harm.

Low self-esteem naturally leads to an aversion of accepting compliments. After all, you may think, if your opinion of yourself is negative, how in the world can anyone else have a positive one of you?

Me vs. Reality

The reality we create is ultimately the reality that surrounds us. This is where the power of the mind comes in. Just because things have happened to you to make you feel worthless or just because others have told you that is what you are, it does not make it true. Ultimately, we are all sensitive beings one way or another – usually, when a negative experience happens to us, it goes something like this:

Experience: “You’re not good enough!”

Me: “It’s true, I’m not…”

Even if we don’t recognize at the time that we are viewing ourselves as a failure, ultimately that is what we have done if we struggle with self-esteem now. This is especially true when we are children and at our most impressionable and vulnerable.

But it is important to remember that, no matter what has happened to you, there is only one person who decides how much or how little value you are worth: you.

You

If you believe in yourself, if you refuse to see yourself as a failure, if you recognize everything about yourself that makes you a unique and wonderful person, your self-esteem will naturally start to build. It can be a hard process, especially if your self-esteem has been damaged over a period of years. But it can certainly be done.

When we rely on others to decide what our self-esteem is worth, we hand all our power over to them. But the power is ours, not theirs; when we decide to build our own self-esteem, we are taking back what rightfully belongs to us and making the choice to value who we are and the unique individual attributes we were blessed with. When we are able to do this, accepting compliments from others comes naturally.

How Can We Do This?

Below are some ways you can build your self-esteem and learn to accept compliments from others.

Compliment Yourself!

The way to accept compliments from others is to first believe we are worthy of such compliments – and what better way to do this than by complimenting yourself?

Every day when you wake up and look in the mirror, find something to compliment yourself about. Is it your eyes? Your hair? Your skin? An aspect of your body that you are particularly proud of? What about your character? Is it your kindness? Your giving nature? Your desire to put others first? Your intelligence? Your determination? These qualities and characteristics are all beautiful and they deserve your compliments.

Do this every day and, gradually, you will start to believe it.

Related Article: Stick To It: The Benefits of Positive Self-Affirmation

A person stands on a road contemplating the challenge ahead.

Challenge Negative Thoughts About Yourself

When we have low self-esteem, we are very quick to put ourselves down. Next time a negative thought enters your mind, catch it and confront it. Ask yourself if you would treat a friend or loved one like this. It is unlikely – so why should you treat yourself like that?

Be Mindful

One thing that very often does not even occur to our consciousness when we receive a compliment is how it makes the person complimenting us feel when we rebuff it or laugh it off. Someone has seen something good about us and has taken the time to let us know – when we reject this, the negativity we feel about ourselves naturally rebounds onto the other person. They approached us with positivity, we reacted with negativity, and this negativity then cancels out the positivity.

The person may feel confused or hurt; they may feel offended or even humiliated.

If we become mindful of the effects our own reactions have on others, we may feel more determined to change our perspective about ourselves so that we, too, can spread positive energy to others.

Dig to the Heart of the Issue

Sometimes, our damaged self-esteem has been with us for so long that we no longer know the cause of it. It could be the result of one situation or many, but the emotions that exist because of it are now rooted deep within the subconscious.

A clean slate = a clean state of mind.

Conclusion

Having low or damaged self-esteem can be debilitating to many. It can prevent us from achieving our full potential or acquiring the love that we deserve. Self-care is vital to growing our own self-esteem. The methods above should help you on your journey towards building your self-esteem and recognizing that you are a unique being with your own set of individual talents and gifts, and this is something to be proud of. If someone you know struggles with low self-esteem, suggest the methods above to them and don’t take it personally if your compliments are rebuffed.

The journey to building healthy and strong self-esteem can be a long and difficult road, but with determination and an innate understanding that you are worth it, you will reach your destination and, in time, you will see compliments for what they truly are: confirmation of what you already know about yourself.

Read next: Strategies for Self-Validation

Sarah Brownlee

Sarah Brownlee

Having worked as a teacher, a bartender, and even a private investigator, writing was something Sarah Brownlee just fell into, even though it had been her passion since she was a little girl. To date, she has written and published 3 Children and Young Adult fiction novels, ghostwritten for others, and... Read More

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