real life

GUEST POST: why can’t you take a compliment?

Time for some light relief. Blogger, mother, lover, gambler (I made the gambler part up although you never know….) Kerri Sackville wrote this post which I SO relate to. She writes……

“I enjoy giving compliments. Firstly, it makes me feel good. Secondly, it makes the other person feel good. Thirdly, I read somewhere that giving compliments is an excellent way to Win Friends and Influence People, so it’s a win-win situation for all. 

The problem is, no-one wants to accept my compliments these days.

It’s Compliment Rebuttal Syndrome, and it’s almost exclusively the province of women. Compliment a man on his appearance – even if he’s unwashed, unshaven and his gut is hanging over his pants – and he’ll respond with, “Yeah, I’ve been working out, wanna feel my pecs?”

Compliment a woman on her appearance, and she’ll expertly lob the praise away. It’s like a sport.

“Wow!” I say enthusiastically. “You’re looking great! You’ve lost weight and your new haircut is gorgeous!”

“Oh, God no,” comes the reply. “I’ve gained 17 kilos since I saw you last and my hair is a disaster!”

I understand Compliment Rebuttal because I’m a perpetrator as well as a victim. I’ve knocked back the occasional compliment in my time (and would knock back more if they were more forthcoming). Its ironic because we women crave compliments. So why do we rebut them when they come our way?

Well, the first and most obvious answer is that we don’t believe we deserve compliments. There are times, for example, when I know I look slim on the outside, but have actually disguised ten kilos of fat by cleverly folding my stomach roll into my jeans. In a situation like this, it is vital to swiftly and smoothly deflect all praise. If I accept a compliment, I will draw attention to my stomach, and risk being outed as a fraud.

Then, of course, there is simple modesty. On those rare occasions when everything comes together – good hair day, nice outfit, managed not to smudge the mascara – it would be the height of arrogance to admit I’m looking good. So, if someone throws a compliment my way, I conscientiously throw up my hands to protest. The last thing I’d want to do is appear conceited.

On other occasions, Compliment Rebuttal is compassionate in nature. The reasoning goes like this: If I accept a compliment for, say, my lovely unlined brow, then I am highlighting by comparison the deeply furrowed brow of my Complimenter. The considerate thing to do is to vehemently reject the praise, thus reassuring the Complimenter that I am just as hideously wrinkled as them.

Compliment Rebuttal can also be very competitive. By accepting a compliment, I am admitting to the Complimenter that I am, indeed, as attractive as they think I am. And by doing that, I run the risk that the Complimenter will rise up and meet my standards. They may go on a diet, start working out, buy some new clothes, or get a really great haircut – and if everyone did that, well, I just wouldn’t look as special anymore. Better to pretend I’m not looking good and lull them into a false sense of security. That way they’ll keep on eating and wearing crap clothes, and never get slim and attractive like me.

Still, despite the tremendous difficulties involved, I think I’m going to keep on complimenting. It may be a thankless task, but I’m a generous, selfless, gracious kind of girl.

But if you tell me I am, I’ll deny it with every fibre of my being.

You can read Kerri’s blog here or follow her on Twitter here.


I am crap at receiving compliments, excellent at giving them. I am always fascinated by people (as Kerri says, almost always men) who can sit serenely, without arrogance or vanity and just graciously accept compliments and praise. And say THANKS AND THEN MOVE ON.

Not me. I am one of those people who will greet a compliment with an immediate deflection that involves drawing attention to something negative.

Like, someone will say “I love your dress” and I will say “Oh, look at this baby vomit stain right here!” and they will say “……”

Can you take a compliment?


When you have a competitive friend

When a friendship turns toxic

Love her, hate her partner

The day I asked work experience to buy me a banana

Here’s a reality check for work experience students

Getting angry at work is bad for your career

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