Accepting a compliment gracefully has always been hard for me. I don’t remember getting many as a kid. My parents were very loving and supportive, but compliments just weren’t a thing we really did in my family. By high school, I’d believe my closest friends when they gushed over my hair or outfit, but I tended to brush off kudos from anyone else. I just didn’t think they really meant them. That is, until I met Aaron my senior year of high school.
The power of being seen through loving eyes
When Aaron and I started dating, he showered me with compliments, praising not just my looks but also my talents, personality, and mind. At first, I thought he was too good to be true. (Spoiler alert: He wasn’t, and we’ve been married for 34 years!) But overall, I was hesitant to believe all the kind things he was saying. At the time, there were a lot of conflicting messages in my life. My parents wanted me to be successful but not too successful, so they told me to keep my expectations low. I didn’t have much outside support. And one of my teachers even told me I shouldn’t bother thinking about college because I would never amount to anything. I might have believed that person if it weren’t for Aaron.
In case you were wondering, these are the best compliments anyone can receive.
Compliments can be lifesaving
Aaron saw something else in me and encouraged me to apply to college. His compliments changed my life: He told me I was a good person and smart, and on some level, I started to internalize it. He helped me see a totally different side of myself, and I liked being that girl! It turned out he was right: I was accepted to college, got a scholarship, and got my degree in Special Education. He was my cheerleader through the whole thing, and even then, when I tried to thank him, he gave all the credit back to me, praising my hard work.
I still had work to do
Still, while I felt safe with Aaron, I felt awkward and uncomfortable accepting compliments from anyone else. I had a lot of reasons, many of them ingrained from my family. I didn’t want to be seen as prideful or full of myself. I didn’t want others to think that I thought I was better than them. I didn’t want to stand out and open myself up to criticism. I questioned the giver’s sincerity and wondered if they had an ulterior motive. Ultimately, though, I didn’t like compliments because I still felt undeserving of praise. I didn’t think I was worth it.
Finding something I was good at made all the difference
Courtesy Kris Olsen
Then I found running. I’d found something I was really passionate about, and I was good at it! My real turning point came after being selected to run a half-marathon in Germany in 2012. After the race, I remember seeing all the runners at the finish line, high-fiving and congratulating each other—and happily accepting the accolades.
One of the booths at the end of the race offered to personalize finishers’ medals for a small fee, and I decided to have mine engraved with my name and time. I’d run my fastest half-marathon ever, and I wanted to memorialize it. I’d earned it! The feeling that I had, holding that medal with my name on it and hearing everyone congratulate me and tell me how well I’d done, was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. It was so powerful and I couldn’t deny that feeling of accomplishment, so when someone complimented me, I just said, “Thank you!”
Giving compliments is my job now
Back home in Ohio, I knew I wanted everyone to have that same experience of feeling special and celebrated, so I decided to start a business, Finish Line Engravers + Kudoz, doing medal engraving at races. I’ve essentially made a business of giving out compliments and praising others, and I love it. And the beautiful thing about compliments is that you can’t give them out without getting some back. Now it’s a joy for me to both give and accept all kinds of compliments. I love seeing the happiness when I commend someone else—and I love seeing the joy when they see that their compliment lifted me up, too.
The best gift
Compliments aren’t about pride; they’re about sharing. A compliment is a gift from another person. We wouldn’t brush off or question a gift—or hand it back to the giver without even opening it—so why would we do that with a verbal gift? These days, when someone gives me a compliment, I just smile and say, “Thank you!” just like I would if they’d given me a present, because that’s exactly what it is.
Not sure where to start? Try one of these 52 little compliments guaranteed to get a smile.