When Accepting a Compliment Is Hard as Someone With Anxiety

I have never liked compliments. When I was younger I’d feel like I was dying inside, stutter a denial and change the subject. When I first started dating my husband he taught me to learn how to accept compliments, and I gained more confidence. However, every now and then when I am given a compliment, I laugh, roll my eyes and say something like, “I know right? What can you do?” But inside I’d still be flushed with shame.

I’ve had anxiety ever since I can remember. I always thought I was just more shy and sensitive than other kids, but when I was finally diagnosed my entire life (all 22 years of it!) just made so much sense. Yet my anxiety led to self-esteem issues, which in time was followed by a negative self-image. I sometimes still struggle to look at myself in the mirror. Because of this, I expect people to think the same as I do. So when someone does pay me a compliment, even my husband, I get confused and uncomfortable.

But not a day goes by where my husband doesn’t tell me that I’m beautiful, or that I’m brave, or that he’s proud of me. These kind words that some people would be glad to hear feel like sandpaper on my skin. My thought process goes:

He just called me beautiful. Really?!

Why does he think that? Is he joking?

How the hell do I respond to that?

I’ll just shrug it off. That’s easier than accepting it.

And I would shrug it off. Because for me, accepting compliments is one of the hardest things I could do.

However, the other night that might have changed for good. My husband usually gets home from work at 10 p.m., so we don’t have much time to spend together before we start struggling to stay awake. He says — his usual words — “You are so beautiful.”

Instead of protesting, as was my reflex, I stopped. This man thinks I’m beautiful, despite everything that we’ve been through and every challenge that’s been thrown our way. He sees my issues, acknowledges them, supports me and still sees the good in me nonetheless.

So I took a moment, smiled and I said, “Thank you,” hugging him. It took so much to say, but I felt a mixture of relief and happiness wash over me, which honestly just made me love him even more than I already do.

I used to get upset when he told me just beautiful. Now he may have helped me see it for myself.

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Unsplash image via Verne Ho

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