Psychology of Dismissing Compliments and what that has to do with Weight Loss

“You are looking really good today!”

Your gut starts to twist and you start to sweat. Someone has just given you a compliment. You know you need to say something in response, but suddenly it feels like you can’t think clearly. You try to muster up a smile but your lips feel like they have been heavily botoxed and your cheek muscles seem paralysed. You manage something that resembles a smile, but you are very aware that you are showing far too many teeth (your lip seems to be somehow stuck) and your left eye might be twitching. You mumble some kind of response: “Uh… well, you know… still a long way to go,” or “Well there is good lighting in here,” and then proceed to make a quick getaway. You engage your mega-strength force field, like a space-ship in a sci-fi movie, and the compliment bounces right off you. You then send out your mini compliment destroying fighter jets, just to make sure the compliment is completely obliterated. When you have had time to recover, and unhook your lip from your teeth, you may think one of three things (or all three):

  1. What does that person want?
  2. Why are they lying to me? 
  3. I wish this was true! How did they know that I can’t get it right?

 

It is hard to believe that receiving a compliment can incite such distrust for your fellow human, but also feel so traumatic. I have it on good authority that receiving a compliment is meant to make you feel warm and toasty inside, not set off the mini compliment destroyer fighter jets with the instructions: “take no prisoners!” You need to reserve your mini fighter jets for other things, like destroying toxic messages about weight from social media. 

If you struggle to take a compliment (whether it is about your body or who you are) and can relate to how awkward it can feel, it may mean that you score highly on the can’t take a compliment o-meter. Unfortunately, in this case, a high score is not something to be happy about. A high score usually reflects some difficulties with self-esteem, self-image and, most importantly, self-worth. 

This is important stuff because if you are serious about improving your health and developing a better relationship with food, you will need to take a look at your own sense of self-worth. Starting a new keto or banting lifestyle is just the first part of getting some control over eating, but for sustainable change, you need to look inward. 

Self-worth is something inherent to all of us. It is independent of our qualities and achievements and remains constant no matter how we are feeling on a particular day. Healthy self-worth is knowing that you are a valuable and worthy person. Let me put this in a different way: you are a valuable and worthy person no matter what weight you are or what your body looks like (I know, this is a tough one to accept). 

Self-worth is something that should remain constant, kind of like how your heart keeps beating no matter what other million things are happening in your body. You can be in a deep sleep, where the cat walking on your face won’t even wake you, and your heart will be steadily pumping along.

Unfortunately, we are exposed to such a pervasive critical external voice (social media, big food companies, advertising, movies, diet culture… the list goes on) about how our bodies should look and what defines being worthy that we can take on that external voice as our own voice. We can remind ourselves that we are not good enough and that we are not worthy and this leads to a poor sense of self-worth — and that something dodgy must be going on if someone gives us a compliment. 

It is hard to accept that someone thinks positively of you, if you only think negatively about yourself. We call this negative self-talk. It is a sad state of affairs, however there are ways to work on and develop your self-worth so that you can feel valuable and worthy no matter what happens.

First, it is important to surround yourself with people who can hold onto that self-worth for you (like looking after your pet rabbit until you have a big enough garden) and keep you accountable and feeling supported. Friends and family can help with this, but sometimes professional support or group support is a solid starting point. These are experts in the business of self-worth and they already know that you are worthy and will help you figure out how to feel it for yourself. 

Joining the RMR Coaching Program or Hero Group Support Group can be the way to go; they can have some objectivity and help you notice when you are enabling the mega-strength force-field and mini destroyer fighter jets. Just being part of a community of people, who may share similar struggles, is already a good start in improving that inner voice.  You will see that in the weekly RMR Eating Psychology, Mindset and Dietitian Workshops, you will all be learning to harness that voice together

Another good place to start is with affirmations. If you cannot take a compliment, it probably means you have not complemented yourself for a while and using affirmations is pretty much doing just that. Affirmations are “I” statements that you tell yourself every day. Here is an example:

  • I am worthy of love
  • I am good enough
  • I deserve to look after myself and be healthy
  • I believe I can do *insert whatever challenge you may be facing* 

 

Slowly the external critical voice will get drowned out, and your healthier inner voice will take over. Not too long after that, taking a compliment will feel like a very different experience – maybe even something that feels warm and toasty. It does take some time and practice, but it is definitely achievable. In the meantime, I challenge you to take a compliment. Next time it happens, take a deep breath, disable the mega-strength force-field and just simply say: “Thank you”. If your lip still gets stuck on your teeth, well screw it, you are still worthy anyway.