Sometimes Modest Isn't Hottest
by Thao Nguyen
As I was writing my article about being jealous of my friends’ fabulousness, I received feedback and compliments from Polarity’s amazing editors. One of them, Alisha (go read her article!), is a friend I’ve known almost my whole life, and someone I admire and respect very much. She told me that one of her favorite things about me is that I always look like I’m about to burst into laughter or start giggling, and that made me stunning. My initial reactions were to cringe, laugh, and then adamantly deny everything she said.
Despite my insistence that she was wrong, her words made me feel warm and happy on the inside. It was great to hear her compliment, especially since it was based on a sincere observation and not just an offhand comment. Alisha’s compliment showed me that she really does see me and that she genuinely believed what she was saying. There was nothing facetious about it. However, even though I was internally more than flattered to receive a compliment from a friend I greatly respect, I couldn’t bring myself to verbally accept it.
You might think, “So what? I totally do that too, I just want to come off as modest instead of conceited.” I thought the same thing. But when I really considered why I always ward off compliments, I saw that I wasn’t really being modest; I was doubting my own value and achievements. Denying compliments, whether they’re about my appearance or my accomplishments, has become my go-to for detracting attention from myself. Years of beating myself up when I looked in the mirror and comparing myself to my friends convinced me that I wasn’t worthy of praise. The truth is, these actions made it almost impossible for me to be truly assertive or confident. Rejecting any compliments I received over the years has not made me more humble; it has only reinforced my insecurities and lowered my self-respect.
Moreover, I was showing Alisha and all the other people who have paid me sincere compliments that I didn’t really trust their judgment. By being so quick to deny their words all the time, I was inadvertently downplaying their opinion and failing to show appreciation. Repeatedly rejecting compliments also means it becomes less and less likely that people will ever compliment you again, which in turn will lead to an even lower self-confidence. It’s a vicious cycle of rejection.
To break away from this bad habit, I’ve taken it upon myself to accept compliments more often. Of course, there’s a part of me that’s afraid that I may come off as conceited, but also another part that knows that accepting compliments with grace will improve my self-esteem in the long run.
Despite this fear, from here onward, I plan to receive compliments with more positivity. I’ve decided to love myself enough to say “thank you, that’s so nice of you to say” when I agree with what is being said. False humility hasn’t done me any favors, it’s only turned me into a doormat; it’s time that I start showing the confidence I always encourage and admire in others. I also urge anyone else who has a rebuttal for every compliment to consider doing the same. We could all use a little more self-love and confidence!