‘Wow! You’re amazing.

I couldn’t have done what you’ve done.

You’ve done an incredible job!

How fantastic!’

How do you react to someone’s effusive praise?

Do you shrug it off, hardly noticing what they’ve said, unable to believe what they see in you, suspect that they’re simply being polite, or do you smile, enjoy the moment and say a comfortable, ‘thank you’?

Whilst a certain amount of humility is fine and stops us from becoming over-confident, it’s also important to be able to acknowledge our strengths, capabilities and expertise in specific areas. It’s good to allow others to appreciate us and also for us to accept that some of the things that we tackle with relative comfort and ease may be found by others to be scary and overwhelming.

Often there are things about ourselves that we don’t even think about or rate. Our natural aptitudes in areas that we’re especially good at, which we take for granted in an almost dismissive way. ‘Anyone can do that, it’s nothing’, we may say.

That mindset may have been reinforced by family members, teachers, religious mentors, who felt strongly that humility and not accepting praise or recognition was to be encouraged. Modesty and self-deprecation were regarded as admirable traits and anything else was seen as vain, arrogant, big-headed and unattractive.

Consequently, we may have learned to hold back and not be too firm in our views, chosen to avoid any healthy discussion and debate, not wanting to attract too much attention. With comments like, ‘people like us’, ‘who do we think we are’, ringing in our ears how could we hold such views, be so confident, dare to stand up for what we think or believe in! When others are automatically seen as better, brighter, cleverer, worthier and more entitled we become more inclined to stay where we are and be grateful for what we have.

We may have even learned to modify our beliefs, dress sense and opinions, toned down anything that may have been interpreted as loud or over the top for fear of rejection or ridicule, fearful of attracting any criticism. This apprehension may even have manifested as uncertainty and impacted on our normal friendliness and exuberance, as we hesitated at appearing brash or over the top.

But, even if some of our skills have been acquired with apparent ease, that doesn’t diminish them. Someone who is good with numbers, a natural homemaker, a great organiser or has a natural way with people has talents that many others would envy and be thrilled to have mastered.

Others may well look at us and see the end result, the calm ability to cope, the person who sorts out problems, all the while delivering a good outcome. And yet, even as they’re admiring our skills and abilities, we’re only able to see ourselves as simply getting by and unworthy of such recognition.

– In a work scenario, colleagues may view us as a coach or supervisor, someone who’s proficient in a certain skill set, always happy to train others to good levels of competency and proficiency. Whilst we may be blase about our level of ability, we may be seen as an expert in our field and be highly regarded as such. We may dismiss such respect, we’ve been doing this for a long time, but equally, it’s a level of expertise that’s required hard work to maintain. Appreciate the appreciation!

– Socially we may admire others who are richer, more attractive or worldly-wise but, whilst we’re doing that, they may well be looking at our worthy characteristics, find them appealing and compelling. They may love our values, covet our simpler lifestyle, our sense of humour, intelligence and company. They see us through their lens, untainted by our doubts and insecurities.

– And what if someone in the family is an academic, on track to become a rising star, and you’re not! Do you see yourself as a failure, less accomplished because you’re not going to university or pursuing a professional career? But others may genuinely envy you your sporting prowess, your artistic abilities, your relaxed approach to life and your natural flair in areas where they have no special talents. There’s a need for the whole range of skills, and each have their place in a rounded society.

Accepting positive praise, remarks and attention can be difficult as we wonder if it’s genuine and sincere. Can we really believe that people think complimentarily about us, say such amazing things about us! Yes, self-deprecation in small doses is fine, even attractive at times. But learning to be confident and comfortable with praise, recognition and positive feedback is also attractive. A smile as we say ‘thank you’ is often all that’s required.

Susan Leigh, counsellor, hypnotherapist and relationship counsellor.