Accept the Compliment: Self-Esteem & Feminism

Compliments can boost your self-esteem. It could be your supervisor or co-workers praising you for a job well done. It could be your friends or boyfriend/girlfriend admiring the way you carry yourself. The personality traits that are unique to you. Although compliments are a positive connotation, we aren’t all comfortable with accepting it.

In the past, it was an all too natural reaction for me to deflect a compliment. Around my sophomore year in college, I was featured in CUNY Newswire for participating in a women’s leadership conference. My roommate told me that she thought that was great. I don’t recall my exact response but I’m certain I brushed it off. She later told me “You never take credit for yourself.” Another instance was when the internship coordinator on my campus was happy that I’d speak at the orientation for a Role Model Program for Queens College. She said people look up to me. I agreed to do it but my reaction lacked confidence. She later expressed that she notices that when she compliments me, I act uncertain. Or I brush it off.  I haven’t accepted compliments well.

I would later realize that part of it had to do with insecurities, the “imposter syndrome.” Another part of it is because of not wanting to draw negative attention. To not want to be disliked by others.

In “Lean In,” Sheryl Sandberg discusses how this likeability factor takes place for women in the workplace. In the chapter “Success and Likeability,” she references Ken Aluetta. He states that for women “to protect ourselves from being disliked, we question our abilities and downplay our achievements in the presence of others. We put ourselves down before others can.” This played a role in Sheryl’s life as she discussed that at a young age, she would be mute about her accomplishments. In the book, she states that when she sat down for a formal review, her supervisor stated that her desire to be liked by everyone would hold her back.

Not accepting compliments because you want to be liked is a disservice to yourself. We should learn to validate ourselves and worth. We shouldn’t be afraid to admit that we’re deserving of our accomplishments.

In “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes, there’s a chapter “Yes, Thank You.” Shonda shared that she was at a dinner celebrating women in TV hosted by Elle Magazine. She wrote that “not a single woman in the room could handle being told, “You’re awesome.” I couldn’t handle being told I’m awesome. What in the hell is wrong with us?” She had to learn to start accepting compliments though it felt uncomfortable. In the past, she tried to make herself seem smaller in the face of her greatness. She wanted everyone else to be comfortable. However, she said if you negate someone’s compliment, you’re telling them they’re wrong.

I am learning to say Thank You. To not deflect compliments but embrace it because it’s an act of self-love. I wholly believe we all need to embrace self-love. To be okay with liking who we are and what we do.

For those who need help with their self-esteem, in a past blog post, I include a list of positive self-affirmations statements that you can use:

What are your thoughts on women and self-esteem?

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