A smiling woman with long, dark hair wearing glasses

As I entered the gym, I was feeling confident about the progress I had made since beginning my series of additional workout sessions. Middle age had swooped in like an unexpected storm, and before I knew it, my past diet and fitness routines weren’t enough to counteract the added weight and newly soft arms that were settling in.

My friend Alice was also looking to up her game. So we set out on a mission to find the once defined muscles that had become hidden behind extra, unwanted skin.

We made the commitment to these additional workouts; however, as every mom of young children knows, more time spent on our physical selves meant less time accomplishing other necessary tasks before school let out. One practice that I began to slack on was reading daily positive affirmations.

My efforts appeared to be worth it, and not only did I begin to notice a change physically but also mentally. Everything about me felt better and looked better. It became obvious to more than just myself. I hadn’t met all my goals, but I was moving in the right direction. Yet, I still found it difficult to acknowledge my improvements.

After meeting in the parking lot and catching up about children, marriage and life on our short walk to the front door, I entered the multipurpose room. Before looking up to notice our trainer, she hurled out a compliment that I wasn’t prepared for nor expecting.

The words “stronger” and “leaner” echoed in the empty room. It caught me off guard. Rather than accept her kind words, I rejected them. I instantly looked at my friend with a bewildered expression and retaliated back with a self-deprecating remark.

But why? Why was it that I felt embarrassed or unworthy to accept the compliment? What is it about acknowledging something good about ourselves? Recognizing my shortcomings was easy, but the good stuff was harder to believe.

Recognizing my shortcomings was easy, but the good stuff was harder to believe.

Before I had the chance to ponder these questions, my trainer, not willing to let the compliment be dismissed, offered some simple, yet stern advice. 

“A simple thank you will do,” she said.

“A simple thank you,” I said again in my head.

That’s it. No explanation. No justification, just thank you. Gratitude for someone noticing something that I put work into. Why was that so hard?

Pulling out of the gym, both exhausted and exhilarated from a hard workout, my trainer’s words repeated in my mind.

“A simple thank you will do.”

She was right. I spent the rest of the ride home pondering why women often make simple compliments, complicated. I knew I wasn’t the only one. I have witnessed the same reaction a million times over when I’ve offered applause for another woman’s achievements. Yet, raising two girls, I didn’t want them to view admiration as something to be ashamed of. I had always been so careful about making sure to emphasize the importance of humility, that I may have blurred the lines a bit. 

Raising two girls, I didn’t want them to view admiration as something to be ashamed of.

I wasn’t allowing myself to feel good, to just say thank you and move on. I decided, in addition to practicing better health through diet and exercise, I also needed to practice self-care by learning to appreciate kind words sent my way. The only way to achieve that was to value the person God created me to be. We are all unique and like no other. It would be unfair to myself to make comparisons to anyone else.

Once I re-established my priorities and started appreciating who I was, I didn’t feel the need to ignore, resist or apologize for accepting kindness toward myself. Saying thank you, without dismissing it later, was easier. I had to exercise giving myself grace.

After a while, I began to notice a difference in myself. My confidence grew and so did my gratitude. I noticed the impact of accepting someone else’s kindness didn’t just affect me. Receiving someone’s words genuinely, made others feel worthy of expressing them. I discovered that gratitude fuels gratitude. 

We are all worthy. Yet, we question it. For me, unworthiness was a matter of unbalanced judgment on my part. It was my insecurities fueling the lie that if I accepted kind words about myself I would be viewed as prideful. No one else felt that way, just me. My trainer was happy for my accomplishments and transformation, as was my friend. I was disrupting the kind words of others by transforming their truths into my lies.

We are all worthy. Yet, we question it.

Feelings of unworthiness can look different for everyone. They can be hard to pinpoint or easy to identify. Yet, regardless of where they stem from, they deceive us equally. It’s easy to forget our intrinsic value and that we were created with a purpose, especially when we see highlight reels of everyone at their best. What we think isn’t always what is so.

I’m grateful that my trainer didn’t ignore my rejection. It was an important lesson even if it felt unnatural at times to say a simple thank you. Most things that cause me discomfort also provide growth. I needed to put the work in, not only for myself and my daughters, but also for other women. In doing so, I can show the immense impact a small “thank you” can have.

Have you ever deflected a compliment? Why do you think compliments can be hard to receive?

Image via Martha Galvan, Darling Issue No. 15

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4 comments

  1. Boy did this resonate with me! My brother-in-law just called me out on this a few months ago. Being humble has always been important to me but I think like you said, sometimes to a fault. Its been a struggle my whole life. Thank you for making me pause and think about this. Self care is so important, I know this, I just need to practice it. Thank you Amy!?

  2. I can absolutely relate to this! I’ve always struggled with accepting compliments and just saying “Thank You”. It’s something I’ve also been addressed about and yet, I still struggle with the acceptance. I love the idea of making it part of my self-care… I will make a conscious effort to say “thank you” and to receive the compliment with grace.

    1. We love that Alicia—accepting the compliment with grace! We are so glad Amy’s words resonated with you.

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