Compliments are a weird thing. Last week I cut off all of my hair. It wasn’t “the big chop” in the transitioning to natural hair kind of way. But I went from having locs to being bald. More than people’s reaction to my hair, I started to notice my reaction to their positive feedback. I don’t think I’ve ever learned how to properly accept a compliment. My smiles were a bit awkward and my thank yous had a slight question mark.

I started to think about conversations I’ve had with my friends throughout the years regarding. I have a friend who hates being called pretty. The first time she told me, I was beyond confused. I’d seen her modeling pictures. People had always made note of her beauty. I was sure that she was used to the compliment. Yes, she admitted, she’d been called pretty all of her life, but she felt that people never saw much beyond her looks.

Another friend grew up being “the smart one,” so when people started talking calling her beautiful, there was a slight discomfort. Compliment her on something she’d worked extremely hard for, she was all about it. Complimenting her on something that she’d learned wasn’t very important and even superficial? That would take some getting used to. It was something that I completely understood.

There was so much baggage around beauty and the characteristics we tied to it, that the compliments that were supposed to make us feel great and empowered made us slightly uncomfortable. Somewhere along the line we learned that beauty and brains mutually exclusive. Sure, we knew better and we knew women who are super smart powerhouses and also great beauties. When it came to our personal lives, there was a disconnect. We’d decided early on to be known as smart and someone commenting on our looks was almost an affront.

After each discussion we always came to the conclusion that we needed to completely unlearn whatever we’d been taught about beauty. We needed to learn how to take a compliment. I’m still working on it.

How well do you take compliments about your looks? Is it easier to accept compliments about your work and accomplishments?

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