In a previous post I discussed how to respond to criticism objectively, and in a realistic manner so it wont upset you. This time I’m going to focus on the flip side of the coin, and discuss why compliments should be accepted graciously as a gift, rather than shrunk away from if you’re socially anxious.
The problem with social anxiety, and the low self esteem that can accompany it, is that you tend to view the world through a gloom tinted pair of spectacles. In other words, you tend to only see the negative, unhappy side of things, and discount the bright, positive events in life.
It’s seeing the world through a gloomy filter that makes criticism so painful because you over exaggerate its importance, whilst compliments can feel uncomfortable because they seem so far from how you view yourself or the world around you.
Being praised can also make you feel the focus of attention and embarrassed, when realistically the reverse should be the case.
Dismissing compliments is a thinking error
If you’re socially anxious the tendency is to try and brush off compliments before they have a chance to penetrate the gloomy clouds that follow you around. If somebody was to praise your appearance or your cooking you’re likely to think they were ‘just being nice’, and discount the possibility of them being genuine.
You’ll probably also dismiss the gesture by remarking ‘Oh, this old thing’ when people comment on your clothes, or ‘Oh, I don’t think I was that much help’ when you’ve just been praised for running to your neighbour’s aid.
The problem with pouring water other of people’s shows of appreciation is that, rather than appear like you’re just being modest, you’ll make them feel as though their gift of praise has been rejected, and they’ll be put off offering it again in the future.
Discounting the positives in both you and other people is one of the most destructive habits of social anxiety. It’s inaccurate, unhelpful and just wrong, so learn to start recognising it as a thinking error when it occurs and kick it off the playing field.
Accept compliments as a gift
When somebody compliments you and you feel like dismissing it remind yourself that it’s a thinking error brought about by your low self esteem, when in fact praise should be seen as an opportunity to seize on the positives about you and the people around you.
It’s a gift someone has awarded you because of your positive attributes, and should be accepted as such.
Instead of discounting compliments, because they don’t fit the unhelpful, inaccurate view you see through gloom tinged spectacles, use praise as an opportunity to adjust your belief system.
So the next time somebody compliments you on your appearance or behaviour remember that it’s a gift, so thank them and use it to bolster your positive beliefs in both yourself and the people around you.
Learning how to overcome social phobia and accept compliments can be achieved through cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of psychotherapy developed to help people who are socially anxious recognise their inaccurate, negative thoughts and replace them with more helpful, positive ones.
Picture courtesy of John Althouse Cohen