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Why Receiving Compliments Can Be Disastrous to Success

Compliments can leave a huge impact on our lives and are a powerful component in our social well-being. Whether they are given by your boss, a friend, your parents, or even a stranger, they give you a feeling of being valued and appreciated.

Some might take it for granted but if compliments are given right, these may put you into a good mood and a more positive perspective about the future because it will affect the way you see and appreciate yourself, the effort you put into your work, and the motivation that will drive you to push yourself towards your goal. 

In fact, researchers found out that the effect on someone’s brain functionality when they receive social rewards such as compliments is similar to receiving monetary rewards. In addition, compliments can be a reinforcement in a way that the person whom you give your compliments to is more likely to repeat the same positive behavior.

But is it also possible that these compliments can be disastrous or even a hindrance to our success?

Yes, it is possible because when compliments become excessive, this might lead to an expectation to receive compliments for all work that we do, and when the time comes that fewer people are paying attention to us, it might make us lose our original motivation and momentum to succeed.

”It takes both sun and rain for a flower to grow.” 

–Marek Kośniowski

To achieve success, one important component that we need to consider is how things are viewed outside our perception, and the feedback we get from other people. The compliment may look like a major source of motivation since it is a positive judgment that boosts our self-esteem and develops our self-worth but healthy and constructive criticisms are also needed because it encourages growth and improvement.

To get the results that we want, we should balance how we are affected by these criticisms. They may not be what we want to hear but can help us to improve and just simply appreciate compliments but don’t let that be the main focus to succeed.

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Receiving compliments may look like it is always a positive thing because we want to know that we did a good thing and we are important, right?

However, that’s not always the case. As much as we want to receive positive feedback from other people, sooner or later our growth may become stagnant because we see ourselves doing well enough therefore we cannot see what more we can improve. In addition, compliments may not be helpful because of their true intention, alongside with how we interpret them or how we feel about them.

Insincere compliments

Whether you have a background in psychology or not, it is quite easy to differentiate what is a genuine gesture from the insincere. You would know from how they speak or the nonverbal cues that they are projecting to the vagueness of these insincere compliments. 

Simple and subtle nonverbal behavior that contradicts the value of the compliment makes it unhelpful because not only that it will question the authenticity of the intention but also these will leave you questioning yourself whether you really did a good job or people are just sugar-coating their opinion just to make you feel good. 

These insincere compliments examples are vague and shallow compliments that lack substance are unhelpful. By contrast, the more specific and constructive a compliment is (in regards to the person’s personality or character), the more it is believable and can have a positive impact on the receiver’s motivation to succeed because it simply shows that someone is looking out for our best interest.

Low self-esteem

I remember back in college when I got a perfect score on our trigonometry class. Knowing that I’m not good at math, the compliments made me uncomfortable even though I knew I worked hard on that exam.

This situation relates to a research study that shows how people who have low self-esteem are less likely to accept compliments and may devalue these positive judgments. If you think you are not good enough, it is hard to accept compliments from other people because it contradicts your perception of your capabilities. As a result, you might be blinded by your low self-esteem and won’t appreciate the success that you already have.

It may be a long process of adjustment since this will only be improved when we work on how we should see and appreciate ourselves. Later in this article, we’ll explain how you can accept compliments graciously because compliments are inevitable, and it means that we are improving and we should have more self-esteem.

Resistance to compliments

We can’t deny that compliments can make us feel good whether it is as simple as our new haircut, weight loss, presentation, or the general progress as we work on ourselves towards the success that we want to achieve. But, quite often we may feel awkwardness to compliments, because it may feel too much. This in turn changes the way we respond to them and may just choose to not accept them at all.

It’s typical that we come up with a response like ”Maybe I just got lucky” or “Yeah, it still needs improvement though” because sometimes no matter how good and appreciative a compliment maybe, it is contradicted by the way we feel about it that blocks us from seeing the good within ourselves and what we have accomplished. This becomes unhelpful when we resist or refuse to graciously accept them.

“No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” 

–Alfred North Whitehead

No matter how hard it is to take a compliment, we can always work on it by not overthinking the intention and whether we deserve it or not. Just appreciating the moment that we felt when we are being valued by others is enough.

Many people downplay compliments that they receive because of how they see themselves. It is common to either accept, deflect, or reject these because it contradicts their belief system. But, consider that we cannot control others if they choose to judge us with a compliment especially when people can easily notice changes from our behavior, mindset, and our overall wellness.

Keep it short and simple 

Whether you’re still uncomfortable with the compliment given to you or not, by saying “thank you” shows your recognition to the value of the compliment and the person who gave it. It humbly projects your confidence and the awareness that the effort you exert comes up with a good result.

Don’t argue

Sometimes we feel that saying thank you isn’t enough and we feel the urge to argue that others could have done it as well, or that it is not a big deal because you could have done better. This may convey a message to the giver of the compliment that you’re ungrateful, you underestimate yourself, or you’re subtly boasting (humblebrag). If you’re not satisfied with just saying “thank you”, you can make use of the compliment as a conversation starter to inspire and motivate others.

Sincerely accept genuine compliments

“Action speaks louder than your words” is a popular saying that applies in showing sincerity. If your body language isn’t aligned with what you are saying, you might send a negative message. Few examples are, arms crossed in front of your chest can demonstrate that you disagree, a slumped posture can show that you’re lacking energy or disinterest, and raising one brow can express doubt or skepticism and superior attitude (however take this with a grain of salt, not all body language or pose is absolute… use context).

Instead, look at someone directly in the eye, lean in, nod, and smile. This simple gesture is a combination of interest in the conversation, trust to that person, being attentive, and agreeing to the compliment.

Ask if there is something to be improved

There’s nothing wrong with asking for feedback. In fact, without receiving feedback our growth may become stunted. Receiving constant and excessive compliments may result in thinking that you’re always right but by listening and acting on honest opinions will tell you what you’re doing well and what can be improved.

Humans are naturally social creatures, that is why judgment from others–whether it is positive or negative– will have an impact on us. And as we continuously seek success in life, it is important to be open-minded to these judgments and learn how to balance and filter compliments and criticisms all the same. Because at the end of the day, too much of any one thing is detrimental to you. Without time out for true introspection, too much sugarcoating will inflate your ego, and too much tough love can lower your self-esteem.

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him.” 

–David Brinkley

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Tommy P.
Tommy P.

My very first thought when I became aware of my very own consciousness in this earthly world was... "whoa... why are we here? what's the meaning or purpose to life?" I was never able to shake these questions... So come join me on my podcast of rants on many different topics that will assist you in seeing things through a rose-colored lens and on living a life of well-being.

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