Why Women Can't Take Compliments

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Why Women Can't Take Compliments

Post by Fate Flyer on Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:41 am

This was being discussed on The Today Show this morning for those of you who might have caught that. See here: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/44340053/ns/today-today_health/#.Tl5RD6hPbwY

If you're a woman, do you find that when people compliment you on something about yourself that you have a hard time taking the compliment? Many women have a hard time simply saying "Thank you." If you're a man, when you compliment a girl, do you ever find that she has a hard time receiving it?

In the article above, I think in nails it when it says: "Women with high self-esteem may tend to reject the compliment because they want to be seen as modest and self-effacing... Women with lower self-esteem 'are more likely to genuinely not accept the compliment because it is inconsistent with their self-concept, and they find it threatening.'"

For women, take this scenario...

A close friend of yours is introducing you to some of her new friends (other women). You've never met them before, but have heard about them from your friend. They seem nice and pleasant. One of the girls you just met suddenly says to you, "Wow, your hair is really pretty!" How do you respond?



I was trying to think of how I am socially when it comes to compliments, and I think this is typically how I personally am... When strangers or people who I don't know well at all compliment me, I tend to bashfully or shyly and not confidently take their compliment and just say shortly, "Thanks..." I don't ever want to seem rude, so I just will say thanks and move on. If the stranger is around my age though and is one of my peers, I find it very common for me to simply avoid responding in any way to their compliment and just reply with, "Oh, I love such-and-such on you!" I do that a lot, since many times I do find a lot that I really admire on other people, and when they compliment me, that therefore opens a window for me to talk about things on them that I have been thinking that I love.

A prime example of this is, when I was working as a hostess at a sushi restaurant, I saw a lot of people. One of them was a girl around my age, and from the moment she walked in, I thought, "Wow, she has gorgeous hair!" I'm already a sucker for redheads, which she was, but she had it braided a little, which I also love. So, when she and her boyfriend were leaving and I was saying thanks for coming and bye to them, she said, "I really love your outfit!" I immediately said, "Oh, I love your hair! It's such a pretty color!"

However...

I am completely the opposite when it comes to receiving compliments from those I know well. If I know you really well, I tend to shrug off compliments or flat out deny them completely. I don't know if this is because we're already friends and close and I feel like you'd just be saying that since you already like me or if because I'm just so comfortable enough with you that I don't feel ashamed to start pointing out my flaws about things on me you say you like.

My boyfriend Axiom Awaits is the biggest person that compliments me, and I swear, every time he says he likes something, I will either ignore it or argue and continue to point out how he's wrong. A great example of this is, last weekend, we both went out to eat at the mall and my friend Kristin showed up. Kristin is by far the skinniest person we both know, as she weighs about 100 lbs, and she even has a kid. She never wears makeup either, yet still managed to look quite pretty. (In fact, here is a picture of her and her son.)

Whenever I'm around Kristin, I always feel huge. Now, I'm not crazy. I know I'm not a big person. I weigh 108 lbs myself (as of this morning). I do, however, feel like my belly is nowhere near that of a person of my weight. It is the part of my body I have the most trouble with, as it has never been flat in my life. Kristin though has a very flat stomach, in addition to looking pretty without makeup, so I made a comment about that to Axiom later that night after we had hung out with her. He went on to say that I was being silly, since I look good without makeup and that she is too skinny, that he wouldn't want me to be as skinny as her. I respond by saying he's just saying that since he's my boyfriend and that he's wrong, blah, blah, blah. I would never, ever be able to take that compliment, since I feel wholeheartedly that I do not look good without makeup and that I am not at all thin enough, because I am thoroughly unhappy with my stomach.

Now, if an acquaintance said that I was pretty without makeup and that I was already really thin, for instance if they saw me swimming (obviously without makeup) and in a bathing suit, then I might just say, "Thanks," and not argue anymore. I think it's just my personality to not argue with people, since I'm too shy to. I think if people didn't know me well though, they might take it that I'm not at all humble, when in fact that's quite the opposite.

What do you girls think? How are you with compliments? What about you guys? Do you feel you're good at taking compliments?

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Re: Why Women Can't Take Compliments

Post by Gadreille on Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:56 am

I'm definitely of the "low esteem" category, and much of what you said is how I too react. If someone compliments me, I usually say "Thank you," and turn away. I remember one time I was sitting at a bar, and I was particularily happy because my hair (which was, at the time, long and unmanagable) had somehow miraculously turned out good. Two ladies sitting next to me complimented my hair, asked if it was natural curl or a perm (they were hairstylists, and wanted to know) and I told him how I did it and thanked them for the compliment. I guess it was easier to take the compliment because I believed it. In another situation, after I gave birth people would comment on how skinny I was, and I would hold my stomach and say "Not really, I've got a lot of work to do," and they'd usually get angry or protest. But I was just being honest. My stomach was swollen and it took me many months to get back into my original shape (or as close to it as one who has had a baby can get without personal trainers/plastic surgery).

If a man I don't know compliments me...I get very nervous. It's defensive, I think. And it has little to do with being married because I was like this when I was single, too. I don't really like to be hit on, or its happened so rarely that I don't know how to properly respond Wink I guess there were times when I was younger and would hang out with my guy friends (as I'm not much of a girl's girl...) and would not realize they were trying to hook up with me until...well until it was too late. Now any compliment I receive (and I'm sure some are completely harmless) I meet with wariness.

Silvone is honest with me. He'll tell me if something doesn't look good on me, or if my hair doesn't look right, etc. So when he compliments me, I usually believe it. Same with my mom or dad. Although my dad says I look like certain celebrities that I just...don't look like. I do argue that Very Happy
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Re: Why Women Can't Take Compliments

Post by Guest on Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:49 pm

It's only been in the past 5 years that I've really started to feel pretty and enjoy the way I look - all through highschool, I never wore any makeup, always tied my hair back into a tight bun and wore baggy, concealing clothes. And I used to feel really envious of the petite and small girls with tiny, elegant features, because I'm really tall and have thick eyebrows and big chin and nose, etc. But my confidence has really improved to the point where even when not wearing makeup, I'll glance at myself in the mirror and just be really struck by my appearance. Like, "OMG! Dude! That's me! Wow! I look great!" Just sometimes completely surprised by it. I don't think I'm a supermodel or anything, but I'm really happy with who I am on a physical level.

That being said, I have a ton of insecurities about my personality. Among several things I worry about, a big thing I get really anxious about is people thinking I'm selfish or self-centered or arrogant. Short of the typical taboos(murderer, child molester, thief, etc.) being a narcissist is one of the absolute worst things(in MY head) that I could possibly be. So, even though I am very content and happy and find myself attractive, I find it really hard to take compliments or to know the appropriate way to respond.

What does someone expect me to say to "You look really pretty in that outfit"? I mean, I like hearing it and I want them to know that I like hearing it(God forbid I make them feel stupid or awkward for offering it by not acknowledging it at all). But how much do I express it? Where is the balance between accepting it/catering to their desire to express approval, and "I totally expected you to say that/I know and didn't need you to tell me."? And it's something I still have no answer for, because small responses feel like I don't believe them(which is insulting to them; I'd basically be calling them a liar if I denied it), or I'm insincere and the bigger responses, actually agreeing with them feels so conceited and haughty. Compliments actually make me feel UNattractive, not physically, but as a person.

And I feel the same way when getting compliments on my art. I love making art for people and I love showing people art I've made and I love hearing responses to it. But after that, the appropriate behavior is a complete blank for me. Because I want compliments and I like compliments and I like receiving validation for something I worked hard on and I'm proud of. But I feel like an utter douchebag if I get too close to gushing about their praise, or even if I try to deny it and point out all of the mistakes. If it's so bad, why the hell did you show it off, then, dummy? is what I basically think to myself.

Alternatively, I get really pissed off when people try to turn my compliments around or continuously deny what I'm saying. Expressing a bit of uncertainty once right after I tell you something nice is okay, but to keep on and on bashing on yourself after that makes me feel like an idiot for even saying anything. I was trying to be nice and trying to make you feel good, trying to let you know that being around you is aesthetically pleasing. But the thing is, I wasn't trying to make a big deal out of it and people usually aren't. But then it becomes this whole other bigger thing because of your denial and we've spent more time talking about you than we normally would have, just trying to argue with you and convince you you're not the Incredible Hulk's twin sister. It's exhausting and annoying and insulting.

That being said, I cannot tell you what I really expect, but I suppose it depends on the situation.

I don't ever really deny compliments, but I do make short responses that feel lacking, and it could appear narcissistic if I give such a small response, because it looks like I'm bored or as if I've heard it a bunch of times and I'm just skipping over it as if it were irrelevant. Which couldn't be further from the truth. And I do the kind of "talk about something else" thing; like, someone says something really indepth and detailed about my artwork and I start talking about my own thoughts during the process of making it, or the difficulties I had, or how I did a particular thing. I seriously have no clue how to express gratitude for those types of compliments but I love it when people feel and think something more about my art than just "like" or "+1".

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Re: Why Women Can't Take Compliments

Post by Sólrökr on Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:36 pm

Women are brought up in a highly competitive world with a demeaning world-view, much more in other cultures (i.e. Islam), but overly zealous degree in the western world (Particularly America). The nature of procreation in our species is about access, which gives women the lock and key, but just as the men compete for access to females, women compete for access to social structure, because just in the way that a male protects a mate and their child, social standing can be the difference between life and death, whether it be by the hand of nature or the culture itself. In this way, life is kind of a popularity contest, but much more for women who have to assume a macro standpoint (Whereas men vie for only a single woman, making it more of a micro situation.). Now throw in social policing, Disney princesses, models, and all the things that the media pours down our throats about 'positive' sexuality, and you've got a plethora of women who judge one another based unrealistic status achievements and ideologies, leading to weak self-esteem structures and/or overtly trite self-inflammations. Women consider so many social aspects at once, that, like Fate Foretold said, anything contrary is a challenge of worldview more than a compliment, or a disingenuous jab.

This probably wasn't what you were asking for, but there you have it regardless!
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Re: Why Women Can't Take Compliments

Post by Tartra on Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:58 pm

... Wow. I didn't realize this was an issue.
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Re: Why Women Can't Take Compliments

Post by Tartra on Wed Aug 31, 2011 4:16 pm

I just realized there's more than one way to take what I wrote. Sorry about that, everyone, if it upset you. I'll leave it up there so it doesn't look like I'm trying to wiggle out of it, but I'll certainly clarify it.

What I meant was 'I didn't realize this was such a widespread issue'. I know people are always on the watch for a backhanded compliment, but I thought everyone mostly assumed if someone was taking the time to give a compliment, they meant it, and that all anyone needed to say in response was a quick 'thank you very much', then move on. At the very least, I figured everyone did the "Wait, what? What'd they mean?" check after they'd said thank you. I didn't realize people got shocked enough for the news to look into it (Is the Today Show news? It's kind of like news, right?).
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Re: Why Women Can't Take Compliments

Post by Christoph on Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:32 pm

Personally, I take compliments quite well so long as they're grounded in reality (for instance, if somebody tries to tell me that I'm really athletic, I'll just reply "no, I'm just good at sword fighting to it seems that way sometimes). Amusingly, I'm also quite good at making women take the compliments I give them. It probably stems from being a psychology major. If a girl who I know has good self-esteem tries to act all meek and modest, I'll just say, "Your fake humility fools no one, so just take the bloody compliment. Razz" )

As for women with low self-esteem, it gets a little more complicated. If they are the whiny type who complains about themselves incessantly ("i'm so ugly/fat/stupid!"), then I might, in my impatience and intolerance toward such things, feel inclined to verbally agree with them until they get mad enough at me to defend their ego. And then I win anyway, because it makes them start feeling more confident about themselves through pure rage. Twisted Evil OR, I might just say, for example, "If you're unhappy about your weight, do something about it. Eat a healthier diet and exercise and all that jazz." That never seems to go over well.

In closing, this perceived issue of women being unable to take compliments stems from the tendency of many people, especially men (who are often afraid of disagreeing with or angering a girl they like or otherwise care about), to finesse with their words and, to speak very plainly, pussy foot around instead of saying, "No, hush. You ARE pretty/smart/fit, and you damn well know it. Stop denying my compliments in a futile attempt to squeeze more compliments out of me." Because, in my experience, many women refuse to take compliments in order to force the other person to give them more compliments.

As an aside, I think that people in general give empty or insincere compliments far too often. This likely contributes to women (and sometimes men) simply not believing that the person complimenting them actually means it. In my case, I give compliments less often than most, so others know that I actually mean them.

And that's my horribly muddled, incoherent and incomprehensible ramble.

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Re: Why Women Can't Take Compliments

Post by Guest on Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:03 pm

Is it really only an issue with women? I know that there are women who can take compliments, and I for one am a man who cannot take compliments. Perhaps it is because I am anti-social and prefer little to no verbal interaction with people... But even within my family I can't really take compliments. I think it just stems from being noticed. I prefer to remain in the background. A lot of that has to do with how I was raised as well. So, perhaps because of unusual circumstances, I just stand out in this respect in the male population. However, I find it hard to believe that I am the only one.

So, my point is, I do not think that this is primarily a women's issue, though it may be more widespread among the females.

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Re: Why Women Can't Take Compliments

Post by Dreamless Days on Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:21 pm

Personally I have a horrible self esteem, and I pretty much never take a compliment. Like, on the outside I will usually say "Thanks" or something, but on the inside I convince myself that while the person GIVING the compliment might be sincere, they are wrong about what they are saying. However, there have been cases where someone will give me a compliment and I flat out refuse to accept it, and tell them that they're wrong to their face. This may appear rude but it's because I genuinely believe otherwise.

Let's take for example, the fact that I write a shit load of poetry (Something I truly love to do). Back in high school, I had one or two of my poems published in some random book (It was without my permission I might add). Since then my family continually tells me to send in my "work" to get it published, but I refuse to because in my eyes they look horrible. The fact that my work HAS been published shames me, because I honestly believe it brought the book down due to not being good poetry.

Well, that kind of mentality is spread through out everything I do and am. Like, I hate my body, I hate everything I do, I am sickened by what I think are "good ideas" and the like, but I still try to push myself into doing them. So basically, while I more or less hate myself in every way and form, there is apparently still a part inside of me that is trying to make me believe otherwise. This is easily seen when I try to compliment myself (little does everyone else know that these compliments are soon quashed by my superior self esteem problem before I can believe myself, haha).

So all in all, YES, I personally have trouble taking compliments. Not to mention being a Male, so ha, we all be having this problem. XD

(And now for a little bit of humor to distract you from the depressing statements above.)

My female friend (We'll call her KJ) has trouble letting ME give compliments to others. Seriously.

A few years ago, I was at my friends 18th party. Now, after a very long night, we all decided to go back to his place to chill before we all went home. While we were at his place two of his family came over to chat with him and the rest of us. Now, I knew one of them was his mother, and thought the other to be his aunt. While there were talking I heard him say "Okay Nan.", referring to the woman I thought was his aunt. I choked midway through a drink and exclaimed "Wait, you're his Nan!? You look young enough to be his Aunt!". Straight after this, KJ turned to me and slapped me. All because I said his Nan looked young.
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