“Wow, that was really great!”
A blush. A stammer. “Oh, thanks but… it wasn’t really… I’m not… “
Does this reaction sound familiar to you? It does to me. I used to be unable to receive a compliment graciously.
When I started performing in front of other people, the reaction was immediately positive. I got encouragement and support all over the place. The problem was, I had no way to receive it. I was blocking the support people were trying to provide.
Luckily, I had a great director, Sherri D. Sutton, who always held me to higher standards than I held myself. Sherri did not take my self-defeating crap. The very first time she saw me shuffle my feet and stare at the floor when someone was trying to compliment me, she pulled me aside.
“When you deny someone’s compliment, you are insulting them and doing yourself a disservice. Just smile and thank them. Let them have that.”
That blew my mind. I had never thought of it that way at all, but Sherri was right. When someone enjoys something you have created, who are you to tell them they shouldn’t have enjoyed it? Why would you deny them the pleasure of thanking you?
Some of us were raised to be humble. Humility is fine in small amounts (folks who come across as arrogant tend to be ultimately insecure) but shrinking is completely different and robs us of our power.
When someone compliments your work, they are trying to give you back a little bit of what they feel you have given them. A performance, piece of writing, office presentation, or any other type of project is an exchange of energy. By putting it out into the world, you will get some sort of reaction back. Why is it so easy for us to take criticism and so difficult to accept praise? Try not to block the positive energy someone is sending back to you. Rather, allow the exchange to be complete and enjoy the affect your creativity has had on another person. It’s better for both of you.
These days, when I perform, there are times that I feel a little shaky, or didn’t think I did my best on stage. Still, if someone approaches me to pay me a compliment, I still that impulse to tell them that I could have done better — instead, I smile broadly, shake their hand, and say “Thank you so much.”
(please check out Sherri’s website while you’re at it. She’s a hilarious and talented woman!)