When Praise is a Problem: Especially for People with Anxiety Disorder

Photo by Alvaro Marquez on Unsplash

How do you react to a compliment? Suppose you took great pains to prepare a delicious supper to have it with your family and friends. Seeing the results of your endeavor disappear so rapidly, you understand the dish has been a success. You hear the words of gratitude and praise: “Delicious!”, “The best dish I’ve ever tasted!” Everyone wants to learn your recipe, letting you know you’ve really impressed them. It’s not the first time you cook for them, but this supper is definitely special. You’re delighted. In a few weeks you might remember it with pleasure and pride.

But it’s not everyone who feels like that in such situations. Some people feel uncomfortable when they come across a great deal of praise and attention. They would prefer their effort, fantastic though they are, to be just acknowledged. If others praise them, they try to pretend nothing’s happened and erase the memories of success, not enjoying it.

According to the University of British Columbia, it’s the tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive that is characteristic of people having social anxiety disorder (SAD). Such individuals may smother all their positive memories, which is bound to affect their career and life in general.

To check this theory, the scientists took 68 grown-ups with SAD and 71 people without it. For the most part they were women about 30 years old. Before the experimental session took place, the participants were briefly interviewed for the experts to define their degree of anxiety. Also, they filled out problem check lists.

For the experimental part of the research, the participants were to deliver a discourse before the web-camera on any subject chosen by them, while the independent judge assessed them according to a number of criteria. After the performance, they got fake responses depending on their condition.

The participants were actually judged according to their anxiety, nervous tremor, and their reaction to the result. Then they were to remember what had happened in detail. The key aim was to find out whether those with SAD would remember the negative responses better than the positive ones, and whether they would mention the points according to which they got no response.

So, the results confirmed the assumption that people with SAD were less likely to remember positive evaluation than others. Thus, the inability to pay attention to pleasant events makes those having SAD remain ready for the future failures instead of accepting compliments. They don’t remember good emotions, unconsciously getting rid of them.

Taking into account numerous control measures applied in this research, it’s safe to say it does confirm the unique influence of social anxiety on the reaction to praise.

Certainly, you shouldn’t 100% trust this research and consider it the truth of the highest instance, because:

Its duration was only a week, which is quite a short period.
Even the best conditions created by the university are nothing like the real life.
The selection consisted chiefly of women and had insufficient cultural diversity.

The conclusions show us that some people perfectly understand what they are paid a compliment for, but can’t accept it. Either because of the feeling that they don’t deserve it, or for the desire to avoid attention, or owing to constantly pushing positive experience away from their consciousness.

You shouldn’t be too proud of whatever you do: of course, you shouldn’t put on airs.

Still, you should be able to accept praise and derive positive emotions from it. It’s a part of our life — a part of a real life.