What Are You Looking At?

“That dress looks so nice on you!”

“Thanks. It shows off my fat legs.”

Why can’t we women take a compliment? I hear exchanges like this all the time. A compliment is offered and instead of thanking the person and basking in the love, the receiver has to tear herself down or offer the price of the item and where it was purchased. I do this all. the. time.

“Your skin looks so good!”

“Thanks. I got way too much sun and will probably end up as a shriveled prune.”


“I love those pants!”

“Marshalls. $19.99!”

In my case, I may look confident on the outside, but on the inside, I’m an insecure mess. By justifying the compliment you just gave me, I am deflecting the attention and giving you something else to look at. I don’t think it was always that way. I look at my daughter now and see how comfortable she is with her body and her Zoey-ness. I have to think I used to be like that too. So what happened along the way? Maybe I was just raised to be humble.

It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the kind words or that I don’t appreciate you appreciating me. I just feel like I shouldn’t be taking credit. For looking nice. Or having good taste in blouses. Or for being a good mom. If I just say “Thank you” (and in my head I add “I know!”) I feel like I’m being arrogant. That for some reason, if I accept what you’re saying as true, I will then be judged by you for being conceited. I know–sick, right?

It’s not so often that we play nice and say nice things to each other as adults. We’re busy and the dog is barking and the laundry needs to get done, and OMG what are we going to have for dinner? Hearing someone say nice things not just to us, but about us—that is a moment that should be savored. And you know what? I work hard. I work hard at looking nice (or at least putting pants on in the morning). I work hard at being the best mom I can be. I deserve a compliment here and there. WE — women, working moms, moms, girls — deserve a compliment. We deserve it.

By deflecting compliments and not just graciously accepting them, I am teaching my daughter that I’m not good enough to be given praise. Since I want her to think I hang the moon for as long as possible, I have to re-think how I respond to compliments and praise. I don’t want her learn to be self-conscious because of me.

Here’s my plan: The next time someone gives me a compliment, whether it’s on my cooking or my hair or just for being me, I will reply with these two words: THANK YOU. And in my head, I am going to say “I know!” Sooner or later that little voice will get louder and louder. So loud that my daughter will hear it and believe it for herself.

"Your makeup looks lovely."  Oh, why thank you!
“Your makeup looks lovely.”
Oh, why thank you!

6 thoughts on “What Are You Looking At?

  1. I’ve been trying to just say “thank you” but I find myself doing the same thing as you, wanting to say “oh I got it at xx store!” or something to that effect. Also, Kate’s comment made me laugh out loud!

  2. Sometimes I say, “Awww, how nice of you to say that!” which saves me from having to self-deprecate. But I guess I’m still not owning the compliment.
    Your daughter is adorable with a great spirit that comes through even in the photo!

  3. I say stuff like this all the time too, Kriste, and I don’t think I really have low self-esteem. I wonder why? I guess it’s just easier to be self-deprecating. It’s great that you are thinking about it and teaching her (and yourself) to just say thank you.

    1. Thanks Jen! I agree that it feels easier to be self-deprecating, but it would feel REALLY good to just own the compliment too!

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