I Feel More Comfortable With Criticism than Compliments

I feel uncomfortable when people pay me compliments. I don’t even particularly like it when people wish me “happy birthday” – or anything like that. I find this all a bit strange given that I engage in a fair bit of self promotion. Compliments are a wasted on me. I either ignore them completely or I quickly change the subject. When people criticize me though, I can be like a dog with bone.

Discomfort with Compliments as Low Self Esteem

If I was playing the amateur psychologist I would suggest that my aversion to compliments is due to low self esteem. I wouldn’t be able to agree with my own diagnosis though. I don’t believe that I suffer from low self esteem – I used to. It is also not that I usually think the compliment is wrong. It is more that I just don’t like to be the certain of attention like that. I don’t remember compliments but a criticism will bang around in my head for days.

I’m sure that my discomfort with compliments says something important about me, but I don’t know what that is. I suspect like other areas in my life the answer will become clearer to me in the future.

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10 thoughts on “I Feel More Comfortable With Criticism than Compliments

  1. Hi Paul. Interesting and thought provoking post. I tend to be similar in not being very comfortable with compliments. I think its for a number of reasons, some unhealthy, and others not necessarily bad. In the latter category, I think I am just somewhat modest and shy as a person. Many people are like this, so no shame in that.

    On the more unhealthier side, I do know that some of my resistance to compliments has to do with being overly cynical – Like I am afraid that the compliment may be an attempt at manipulation, patronizing, or just plain bullshit. It gets back to an earlier theme you have touched on before, which is our overall attitude towards life and what it brings us. I’ve noticed that when I am in a bad mood, I might interpret a compliment (something one would think would help raise our spirits) in a negative way.

    Anyway, just a thought. I do think that being aware of our moods and thinking, and how our thinking impacts our moods, is very helpful. So, thanks for continuing to post these types of ruminations (and yes, this is a “real” compliment). 🙂

    1. Thanks Tan, maybe cynicism is part of it. I’m not sure. I agree that being aware of my mood is important. One important thing that I’ve also realised is that my dreams can influence my mood for the next day. It really is possible for me to get out of the wrong side of the bed because of a dream. I think most of us fail to appreciate how much are sleeping life can impact our waking life.

  2. I’m like that with compliments and criticism too. What interests me at the moment is identifying the inner “voices”, or facets of my psyche that are causing this, and starting a dialog with them to look at the reasons behind it all. You must be familiar with the idea that you are not your thoughts from meditation, but the thoughts do come from parts of you, and you can identify and talk and negotiate with those parts.

    That probably sounds about as clear as mud. I’m dealing with addiction at the moment, and the idea is from a book called “Breaking the Cycle” by George N Collins. Worth a look, even if you just read the summary on Amazon.

    5 days sober today. I read your book and your blog some months ago, and it’s been a big part of getting me here. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Faffin, it is good to hear that I’m not alone in this. I am familiar with the idea that I’m not my thoughts, and I agree that we can negotiate with them up until a point. For the last few years of my drinking I was able to do this using mindfulness as a means to question my cravings. It did work fairly well. The thing that finally helped me break away from addiction was to embrace a new thought rather than trying to negotiate with the negative ones. I made the decision that no matter what happened I’d never drink again. This is a non-negotiable part of my thinking now. It meant that I no longer had to deal with the negative thoughts that were driving me to drink.

      1. I got a similar idea (I think) about embracing new thoughts off the guy who is counseling me. Rather than say no to drinking, look at the positive things you are saying yes to by not drinking, as it is far easier to say yes to yourself than no.

        You can’t negotiate with a thought, but according to the guy who wrote the book I mentioned, It’s possible, and very effective, to imagine the part of your personality the thought came from, and talk with it.

        1. What you are saying does make sense Faffin. I definitely agree with your therapist about how it is better to try to do something positive rather than give up something negative. Giving up implies deprivation and this is definitely not what recovery is about. I’m a big fan of lucid dreaming/astral travel. Most people believe that at least some of the dream characters are parts of our personality. So yeah, I can see how taking with these aspects of my personality might be useful.

  3. Just listening to “Channeling your own Bible” now. Only about half way through it. Perhaps the “bad thinking” you identify could be as helpful as the “good thinking”, if you engage with it and see where it’s coming from. That’s what I want to do. I’ve only just scratched the surface though.

    1. Hi Faffin, I think I get what you are saying. The problem is that I have engaged with the bad thinking extensively. It was what allowed me to remain stuck in alcohol addiction for almost two decades.

      1. Sorry “engage” is the wrong word. I meant examine the “bad thinking” and engage in a dialog with the part of your personality it comes from. It seems like an odd idea, but apparently it works.

        This review of the book I talked about gives a much clearer explanation than I can: Customer Review by Bobby the ex-Wanker

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