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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  • I take them VERY WELL! Are you kidding me? What is there to question?! I hate when people start looking around when I compliment them and they have this dumb blonde moment look on their face, like “lol ol me”. Yes, YOU, DUH! Not the wall behind you.

    A compliment is just that, nothing more nothing less. Say thank you and keep it moving. Don’t try and compliment me back. No!

    • OSHH

      I tend to take them very graciously also esp when they are sincere and said in the right spirit and respect.
      If I notice something about the individual I may compliment them back in a genuine and sincere manner, like style recognizing style, and there is nothing wrong with that.
      Kindness can be contagious and while I am much more than my looks, that is what people see first when they don’t know you as a person.

    • oh girl, that’s fine complimenting back after being complimented. But probably I should have clarified, and added, don’t do it under the duress of courtesy, do it out of genuineness.

  • Introverted Leo

    I prefer not to be complimented. I do not know what it is about me, but for some reason, people have always felt it their duty to tell me what to do with my hair and physical appearance. What I think is that people hate for someone who they consider to be attractive to be a ‘Plain Jane’. What I am getting to is that, I don’t like compliments, because it reminds me of how as a woman, my physical appearance is always up for critique. When someone compliments me, I just thank him or her and keep it moving. I notice that nowadays people offer compliments, and the person who received the compliment then gives one of their own or they detract from the compliment by saying, “Girl, I had this for awhile now” or “This is old”, instead of just thanking the person.

    I detest people who fish for compliments. I can always pick up on it and never satiate that person.

    As far as work or accomplishment compliments – I guess it’s easier to accept those compliments because they don’t focus on physical appearance, and they don’t remind me of the mean things people have said to me. Funny though, because the people who weren’t ‘checking’ for me back then express their interest now as an adult…

  • Elle Michelle

    @Niema: I can certainly relate to your “smart” friend. I was always affirmed and encouraged in school, and I excelled in college (but I wasn’t told that I was beautiful, especially at home). As a result, I began to see myself as one-dimensional and limit myself to academics. When I receive a compliment on my appearance it still feels awkward, but I’ve learned to smile and say “thank you.”

    So to answer your question, yes, it is easier to receive compliments on my work and accomplishments.

  • Toni

    I have this issue… I’ve just always been self-effacing and and humble. My first instinct when someone compliments me isn’t thank you, it’s to return the compliment; this sometimes comes off a bit awkward :/

    • I’ve started returning compliments to deflect some of the ’embarrassment’ I feel. This weekend when I did this the person turned around and deflected the compliment I returned to them.


  • Dalili

    It took sometime to get here, but am no longer uncomfortable when someone compliments me. I don’t value work/accomplishment compliments over my looks or vice versa. I put some effort in all those endeavors my thinking is why separate them?