Taking Compliments to Heart
Having been raised in the South and a product of cotillion, I remember this concept first being introduced there; it is rude to turn down a compliment. Why? It is thought to discredit the giver, as well as ourselves, so we were directed to accept it gracefully, no matter what our internal thoughts may be telling us. For example, instead of saying “ugh, I need to have it cut!” when someone tells you your hair looks nice today, simply thank them in return and feel free to add something playful like, “That puts some pep in my step!” Or, “I’ll have to go out tonight!”
Much more recently than cotillion, I have explored this concept in my work with the eating disorder population as well as teenage demographic, who both may be prone to disordered body image or low self-esteem. The act of accepting a compliment does not come naturally for some, as it may feel easier to be self deprecating or simply not feel worthy of receiving it, and they feel prone to replace a flaw or shortcoming with the suggested strength. Another example might be when someone says “thank you so much for your help”, and you reply with “I barely did anything”. While it may feel like you’re practicing humility on your end, why should you consider another
When we think about our health and wellness, building self-efficacy and confidence will serve you in terms of building healthy behaviors and sustainable change. Your thoughts dictate your behaviors and your behaviors becomes your habits. So, if we are constantly discrediting our effort or physical or personality traits, what message are you sending yourself repeatedly? That you are not capable or worthy of feeling, looking and being the healthiest version of yourself. I love the expression “think of yourself as a fit, healthy individual and soon you will become one.”
I teach Nutrition at a high school whose administration has a three year plan of increasing self-confidence and fostering positivity in their student population. This month, students are practicing accepting compliments. Does the high school’s plan sound like part of your wellness vision for yourself? Why not take this to heart during National Heart Month, and practice a little self love.
Next time someone pays you a compliment, be intentional about accepting and thanking them, and even taking it at face value to be true, if that is a struggle for you. As we build ourselves up and speak to ourselves as we would our loved ones, you may find it makes all the difference in feeling worthy and capable of meeting your health and wellness goals.
– KEELEY MEZZANCELLO, MS, RD, CSCS