Confessional Monday – Inner Dialogue

There was a time when I just couldn’t accept a compliment. If I was told something I did was kind, I felt it necessary to contradict with an “it’s what anybody would do” or give a mumbled non-response. As I got older, I realized such a response was less humble than it was annoying. It annoyed me when people received a sincere compliment from me with an argumentative response. I would think: Can’t you just say ‘thank you?’

I didn’t want to be annoying. I decided the mature, appreciative response to any (sincere) compliment is a simple ‘thank you.’ Not an argument that required the other to re-compliment. Not an implication that the other was clearly either blind or stupid – or just lying – when she offered kind words. So I worked very hard at cultivating an automatic pleasant smile and “thank you” to any given compliment. Self esteem, confidence and maturity require such a response.

And now, years later, as accomplished as I am with the practiced response, I confess that the response is entirely external. Inner me is going ballistic. For instance, someone recently told me I had cute shoes. I looked down and saw two platypus bills encased in leather. I smiled and said “thank you.” Inner me? Cute? I guess they would be if they were two or three sizes smaller – boy do YOU have vision! It took great effort to squelch it.

Last week a friend said: “Your hair looks nice today.” I slapped a smile on my face and squeezed a “thank you” out between gritted teeth to stop inner me from having its way. My internal dialogue? Really? On the one day I wake up late, only have time to wet my head and let the wild Oklahoma wind have it’s way with it? I see chaos. You see cute. If I deliberately create this mess thinking it’s REALLY cute, no doubt you’ll ask me if I overslept. I even annoyed myself with such wearying inner chat.

Yesterday somebody smiled at me and said: “Great dress!” Inner me burst past years of conditioned response and blurted out loud : “Only $24.99 on sale at Dilliards.” This to someone I barely know. Lest she mistakenly think I simply have good taste, I need to clarify that it’s more about a bargain that fits. The “what the . . . ” look on her face left me wishing for a do-over where I could utter an appropriate “thank you.”

I confess that while my mouth has generally graduated to positive and gracious, my head hasn’t caught up. Kind words are a gift. It is an act of ingratitude to swat them back at the giver. I believe if I shift gears and focus more on gratitude and less on myself, I will be a more gracious receiver of compliments. That’s my plan to continue heading toward Fierce.       -El


  1. I make it a point of giving at least one compliment a day, often more. I get uncomfortable when people don’t know how to accept it, but it doesn’t stop me from continuing to give them.

    1. That’s a great policy, Jill! I think my own annoyance at other’s not accepting compliments gracefully is what triggered my own behavior change. I think my internal response will evolve too now that I’ve reframed compliments simply as ‘word gifts.’ – EL

      1. Or 60+! I guess I’ve been hoping for that magically infused confidence without realizing it. I shall try my best to stop hoping, and jump in with you.

  2. I think many of us have trouble graciously receiving compliments. I know I do. Most of the time, “thank you” is more than enough, but I’ve said – and thought – just about everything written in this article. 🙂 Good job! (That’s a compliment. 🙂 )

  3. I do the same thing all the time. Now I will try to remember this post and just say “thank you”.

    1. I think it will be easier for us if we think of compliments as ‘word gifts.’ If somebody handed us an object and said ‘this is for you’ it probably wouldn’t occur to us to go into reasons why we don’t deserve it! Glad you joined the community, Denise! – EL

      1. That’s a really great point, and puts it in a whole different perspective! I will remember that!

        1. If you’re talking about a compliment being a ‘verbal gift that we shouldn’t swat back at somebody, reframing compliments in that light for myself was helpful, too. – EL

  4. This really had my name on it. I too have said & thought about everything in the article. Years ago at a workshop this was one of the topics & while I did find it helpful I still struggle sometimes to just say “Thank you” & let it go……Enjoyed the article, it was a reminder for me, thanks for sharing!

    1. Your most welcome, Terry. Having this opportunity to write it out is what actually got me to my ah-hah conclusion about compliments simply being word gifts – and realizing how rude it is to argue with the giver! – EL

  5. A speaker I once heard said you can always tell middle-class people by their jewelry. That and the fact that if you compliment them on something they’re wearing, they’ll tell you they got it on sale and how much it cost. She said not only can they not take a compliment, they want to tell you how cheap they are! And I always thought I was telling them how smart I was to find such a bargain! 🙂

  6. I do the same thing, El. A friend made me practice saying ‘Thank you” and I do it quite well, but my head spins like a top and sometimes green pea soup still spurts out my mouth. I love the platypus thought … that one was priceless!

    Oh, and the same friend told me “No” is a complete sentence. Who knew? I haven’t mastered that one either. I have a compulsion to explain. Thanks for understanding.

  7. Oh my gosh, this post SO SO SO hit home for me! I tire of my stupid responses to a compliment as well! Why does my mouth blurt those things out? I recently realized when I complimented my mom on her outfit, where this horrible trend might have come from. “you look so cute mom!” I said, she responded with “oh, it’s really old!”. If had been in a courtroom, someone would have objected “irrelevant!”. Haha, why do we feel compelled to be so honest? I am committing to try harder to shut my mouth when I receive a compliment, and I am going to remind her too! I am going to have to muzzle myself to break this habit!

    1. Are we really being honest or just over-sharing? Whatever it is, it’s clearly not an age issue! Muzzles for everyone! And thanks for introducing your mom to us, Lindsey! – EL

  8. Can I say “thank you” and then “it’s really old”? Lol. I am so happy I can still wear my old things! 🙂 point taken-great advice.

  9. Last week my Mother-in-law was acting really strange. She was complementing everything, my house, my decorating, my hair. When she complemented my hair, I was taken aback because I was 2 weeks overdue getting the color done. I was about to point out the roots, when out of my mouth came a “Thank You.’ That was it. I smiled and went on about my business. It felt so good!

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