Why I can’t handle compliments or praise?

Home Welcome to the ADDitude Forums For Adults Why I can’t handle compliments or praise?

Viewing 3 reply threads
  • Author
    • #91122

      Why I can’t handle compliments or praise?

      When someone says I’m funny – I can’t help but remember times when my jokes fell flat, were awkward, or earned me concerned looks from those around me.
      When someone says I’m generous – I can’t help but remember moments when I didn’t stop to help someone, like the time I didn’t stop to give $5 to a fella that probably needed it.
      When someone calls me a good friend – I can’t help but remember all the times I’ve failed them or forgot a promise.
      When someone says I’m thoughtful – I can’t help but think about how self-centered I can be.
      When someone says I’m smart – I can’t help but think about the times I felt like an idiot, made poor choices, or realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did about a topic.
      When someone says I’m kind – I can’t help but remember times when I was petty or even cruel.
      When someone says I’m friendly – I can’t help but remember the times when all I wanted to do was go home and imitate a mushroom growing in a gloomy corner, or times when I’ve been so nervous I can’t can hardly stand to be in my own skin. I can’t help but remember how hard it is for me to make a new friend, or even remember how.
      When someone calls me creative – I can’t help but remember failed projects, forgotten inspirations, or help comparing my work to the quality of others and finding it lacking.
      When someone says I’m loving – I can’t help but remember times when I’ve hurt those closest to me.

      I understand how all of this relates to my ADHD and anxiety issues, but that knowledge doesn’t make it much easier to deal with. It’s not necessarily that I feel “inferior” to other people so much as either I feel undeserving of praise or I simply can’t help but remember times when I wasn’t a good example of that praise.

      Whenever I am asked to list some good things about myself, I always draw up a blank which then stresses me out. I always end up thinking “they say I’m” rather than just thinking “I am”. I know we are always our own worst critics, but it’s still a bit distressing. When asked “Who are you?” (as a person), I can’t think of any answers. Does this happen to any of you?

    • #91131


      It prevents you from realizing that good and bad aren’t always binary. For example, good song writer will write several bad songs between each good one. That’s what makes them a good song writer.

      • #92322

        JBoom – Oh I totally get that my issues with (imperfect) perfectionism definitely feeds into it… imperfect in that I’d love to call it perfectionism except it’s more like a desperate attempt at perfectionism with varied results… But it goes a bit beyond that as well. I’ve been in such a funk of “who am I” that I really just can’t tell, so I freeze up and think of failures instead of successes… you have a very good point though… good and bad, and by extension perhaps “success” and “failure” aren’t binary but more like a spectrum and subject to point of view.

        Red – I already do that. I’m not shy about offering heartfelt praise to OTHERS for big things and little things alike. So I suppose I can say one positive quality I have is that I genuinely try to see the best in others and express those opinions as sincerely and openly as I can. The problem is, I can’t see how any of those nice things pertain to me personally. I can see it in others easily enough, I just can’t see it in myself.

        the Dancer – I do thank people, or at least the best I can while struggling with embarrassment and discomfort. Perhaps I’m just one of those people who can’t just accept a compliment? my mind is always so hyperactive, that it just zooms to something and that something tends to be a negative example rather than a positive one. Perhaps that’s the “perfectionism” mentioned by JBoom rearing it’s ugly head? Either way, it’s definitely a personal point of insecurity… I usually feel like I don’t deserve the praise and zip to a memory of exactly why I wouldn’t deserve it… perhaps what you and others have suggested here is correct in that I need to work on adjusting my behavior… instead of giving in to the knee-jerk reaction of “No, actually I suck and here is why” I need to work on thinking “no wait, maybe I *don’t* suck and focus on what they are telling me and understanding why they are offering the praise in the first place.

        I know no one is perfect and I don’t expect that of myself or others… when someone else makes a mistake, I’m often the first to tell them they are only human, to learn from what happened, and step forward into a more positive direction. The problem is practicing what I preach. 😛 When I wrote this, I was in a pretty dysphoric funk. I’m still feeling that way a bit, but after writing all of that and sharing it, it helped me to really look at what I was feeling and try to understand what was going on in my own head-space.

    • #91380
      the dancer

      I have similar thoughts when someone gives me praise.

      For me there were a few issues going on: how I see my ‘self’ and my brain not caring too much about praise – its always focused on solving puzzles ‘what is not working – how do I find a workaround?’

      In regards to the brain bypassing praise, I would stop and say ‘thank you’ and acknowledge how someone perceived me. After practicing this for awhile I began to notice a pattern: how I was able to connect with others and I identified those traits as strengths. This is common practice for self reflection; it can go a lot deeper — break it down and see how each part plays out (in context to a given situation) becoming aware of one’s self and honoring others, leads to something more than you might expect. I still struggle with the praise but after doing the work to figure it out, I accept that my brain will rush to solve the issue and it is not a reflection of how I see myself. Meaning I dont read more into it than what it is. (Anxiety is freed with an objective answer)

      I suggest the next time this comes up, stop, take a moment to thank the person, notice how you feel and go from there: ask yourself questions, why do i feel this way? (This helped me work through my perception of self)

      Why do you think you don’t deserve the praise (why do you need to remember a past moment and let it take away from something good in the present – self punishment?), in a given moment, if you had a positive affect on someone? Being cruel to someone in one instance doesn’t stamp out your ability to be kind – our lives and relationships are fluid. How we turnaround (make amends) an act of cruelty means more than the act itself. Once the cruelty has stopped, the amending experience is what remains: the affect this has on the people involved takes its own course and must be respected (we are not responsible for other peoples feelings; ‘take care of your side of the street’)

      The question about ‘who one is’ distressed me for many years (how does one describe infinite possibility in a few words?) then I came up with a way to answer that question. I would recall the last 48 hours – who did I connect with? How did these people respond to me? what is something I did for myself? – The information from these questions shaped my answer; short and simple.

      The best way I could sum up this ‘who am i’ question is with a story about a man who wanted my attention (with the history of pick-up lines festering the situation and the need to break a barrier of familiarity). He approaches me in a wildly lit environment, both of us entranced by the show and in my ear he tells me, ‘everyone lies’ – the clarity and brevity of his tell caught my attention; it was everything and nothing, brilliant – i was engaged.


    • #91799

      I just read something about offering genuine praise to others. It’s a great idea. Something as small as “Gee, you made me the best cuppa today” to “I love what you’re wearing, it really suits you”. So maybe practice dishing out some genuine positivity and feel how nice it feels to give, to appreciate how nice it feels to receive?

Viewing 3 reply threads

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.