I have a real issue. When people say nice things about me, I don’t believe them.
Whether it’s how I look, an accomplishment I’ve recently achieved, an idea I had, or even just on cookies I baked, when people compliment me, I think they’re lying or trying to manipulate me somehow, or that they mean well but don’t recognize that what I’ve done is actually not that good. Like when your partner tells you you’re beautiful — they’re kind of obligated, so the meaning’s gone for you.
So when someone says to me, “Wow, your dress looks amazing today!” I deflect. I’ll say, “Oh thanks — I don’t know, I guess I like it. I can ride my bike in it, which is the important thing!”
Cue the classic: “Thanks, it has pockets!”
This might sound familiar to some of you — the ability to overlook fifty positive comments in favor of the one negative one that someone said to you, once, ten years ago.
It’s so easy to believe, dwell on, eternally reflect on the negative even when it’s overwhelmingly outweighed by the positive. Why does that happen? Why do we struggle to believe good things?
Science tells us it’s a loop.
There are three factors happening here, feeding into one another endlessly to make it hard to accept compliments: low self-esteem, cognitive dissonance, and high expectations.
It goes like this: you don’t think much of yourself, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s imposter syndrome, maybe you’ve only been valued for one aspect for most of your life, so it’s impossible to see your worth in others. Maybe you’re continually comparing yourself to others and coming up short in your own estimation.
Either way, you have low self-esteem. So when someone compliments you, this jars with the truth you hold about yourself. It’s uncomfortable for your mind, because you’re…