How to Accept Compliments if You Suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder

social anxiety disorder - hi five
social anxiety disorder - hi five

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

About Matt 37 Articles
Matt suffered from social phobia throughout his teenage years right up to his mid twenties. It wasn't until visiting a doctor for help to treat his anxiety that he finally discovered he suffered from the condition. He then set about learning everything he could about it and how to overcome it. This led to him creating this website to share the strategies that helped him in the hope they would help other people.


  1. You nailed it right on the head…It is hard to take compliments when you have social anxiety, for some reason we automatically turn them into negatives…We need to learn to take these compliments and be comfortable with them because people are giving them to us for a reason…Thanks for the post

  2. I have GAD with Slight SAD and the other day My mom got me an opportunity to talk and ask some questions to some performers I look up to at an amusement park. I was so incredibly nervous about talking to them about Auditioning for the park’s shows and my anxiety was going through the roof. One of the actors who had seen both me and my mom there on multiple occasions told me that he thought I was really pretty. Now I know this is not a big deal, I said thank you and said you’re welcome and we went our separate ways. He was polite and that’s all that matters. But my Brain (My anxiety) Made me on edge all day and I kept replaying it over and over again in my head bc I personally don’t think I’m pretty…and I felt guilty taking a compliment from a guy who wasn’t my boyfriend. I keep telling myself that its stupid way to think and I can take compliments all I want from whoever I please. It’s not like He asked me out or anything like that, I just don’t understand Like little things Like that make me Anxious…

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