Stop Deflecting Compliments — Here’s How

Friend: “Oh my gosh girl, your legs look so good.”

Me: “My legs? Oh gosh no, it’s the jeans. They’re new.”


Friend: “I would love to have your abs.”

Me: “Me? What abs? I don’t have any abs.”

Do any of these sound familiar? All too often when someone offers us a compliment, we immediately deflect it and brush it off with a self-deprecating rebuttal. You aren’t alone. According to the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, people only accept compliments one-third of the time, while the other two-thirds are filled with shifting credit for said praise by deflecting attention to the other person and returning a compliment to them or outright denying the compliment all together. (Raise your hand if you’re guilty of one or all of these – I know I am).

how to stop deflecting compliments

Why we deflect compliments

I used to think I deflected compliments because I was being modest, but in all actuality I deflect compliments because I just downright don’t believe them. If you think about it, a compliment is like a gift. If someone walked up to you with a beautifully wrapped present  would you flat-out reject it? Heck no! I don’t know about you, but I would willingly take the gift with a resounding thank you and a big smile. I would then bask in the awesomeness of my gift all day long. I would maybe even tell others about it and how happy I was to receive it, so why don’t I do that with a compliment?

I don’t receive compliments well, but not because I am afraid of being perceived as arrogant. I don’t receive compliments well because more often times than not, the compliment that given to me doesn’t ring true for me and the way I see myself. If I choose to believe the truth in how others see me, that changes my own personal story, the one I have been telling myself (and worse) believing for the past 31 years. Essentially, by accepting a compliment I would be altering my self perception. Whoa…Mind-blowing.

Viewing compliments as an act of self-love

Taking someone else’s compliment and choosing to believe it is a choice. Actively choosing to acknowledge, believe, and accept the kind words given to you by someone, is an act of self-love. If we have lived our whole lives doubting ourselves, our abilities and our worth while questioning whether or not we are enough, what does that mean now when we choose to agree that yes, we are indeed actually enough? Our old stories and beliefs that we have held close to our hearts, sometimes far too close, no longer ring true, so now what?

Find your fuel

A lifetime of feeling unworthy or not enough can act as a powerful fuel for ambition, drive, motivation, self-improvement, and success, but when we take away that fuel, will we lose all of those things? Most likely not, but maybe. Somewhere deep inside I must think so if I refuse to welcome any compliments that come my way.  If we aren’t a casualty of the less than or not enough mindset, what are we?

By accepting a compliment we are forced to look at ourselves in a new way by creating a new definition of of our self. In a sense, we have to find new fuel. I don’t know about you, but that means doing something new, and doing something new can be scary AF.

Bottom line: We don’t accept compliments because they can be scary. It takes confidence and courage to adopt a new way of thinking, especially when it comes to a new way of thinking about ourselves. (I am getting heart palpitations over here just thinking about it as I write this). We have all made it this far in life believing the stories we have told ourselves about ourselves, so why rock the boat now? Why change things up?

Make a change – accept the compliment!

By choosing to make a change and see ourselves the way others see us, we are challenging ourselves to change our beliefs, our mindsets, our stories and essentially our self love by challenging ourselves to reach a new potential. Sit on that one for a minute. The next time you receive a compliment, don’t deflect it like it’s a badge of honor. Instead, be courageous and choose one of the greatest forms of self love by just taking the compliment and responding with a simple “thank you.”

Hey you…you are amazing! How does that feel to just take the compliment? Hopefully good!

And a post-script note from the author:

In case you may be wondering whether or not I am taking my own advice and accepting compliments these days, I am — well, I am trying to at least! After writing this piece I have become even more aware of compliments and accepting them while simultaneously how quickly I am to turn them down. (Not cool Ashley).

Nowadays, when I receive a compliment, I have to actively tell my mind to pause and resist the urge to deflect it. Believe me, it’s easier said than done! However, I have begin replacing the deflections with a simple smile and a thank you!

I am not going to lie, it feels very foreign at first, almost like I am doing something wrong like there’s some unwritten rule in society when one receives a compliment, it’s best practice to turn it down (I checked – no such rule exists).

The good news is that after accepting a couple of compliments, it eventually gets easier and actually starts to feel good, like really good. The next time you see me, give me a compliment and see how I do. Don’t worry, this isn’t my plan to receive more compliments throughout my day…or is it. (Kidding!)

Tag us @asweatlife so we can see how you spread the love by giving others compliments as well!


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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.

2 thoughts on “Stop Deflecting Compliments — Here’s How

  1. My favorite example of accepting a compliment is Phoebe from “Friends”. She’s the master at is. I love how someone says something and more often than not she replies with a version of “I do, don’t I?” 🙂

    But in the real world, I’m with you. Must easier said than done.

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