Confidence building is a tricky thing for Aussie freelancers to master. Part of the reason for this gap is that we suck at accepting compliments. It’s so Australian to lean towards “not bad” when asked how you are. Or “doing OK” when asked about your business. And in turn, we often downplay the good aspects about us, and the things others admire.

In short, it’s hard to accept compliments when it’s not our natural state of being. And we often don’t.

What we fail to recognise is that if we cannot accept a positive assessment of ourselves through the eyes of others, we won’t have much luck creating one within our head, either.

We have to change that.

Seeing when we do well – and internalising it- is super important. Taking the opportunities to learn from our mistakes and failures is great. But it’s nothing if we don’t balance out our view of ourselves by accepting the compliments, too.

You are not an egomaniac for appreciating what you do well. You are not a skite for sharing your skills. You are not bad, evil or an attention hog when you have your abilities recognised.

You are a confident, self-assured person who is good at helping people.

Besides, people that never see their worth and deflect all the positive are draining. It has a viral spill on to those around you that make them feel awkward and uncomfortable. You may even infect them with your self-doubt. It might become too hard to be around you in certain circumstances. Building confidence can’t happen in an environment where you pick up on this level of discomfort in the people around you. Not when you feel subconsciously like hard bloody work.

Imagine having to avoid liking someone because the drama it involves is too hard to deal with. What a missed opportunity!

How do we dismiss compliments? 

When building confidence in real terms, you have to look at the ways you diminish your ability to accept positive feedback.

Here are some of the ways freelancers duck reasonable compliments:
Ø Denying them– often with cynicism or downplaying them.

Ø Arguing the toss- trying to disprove the validity of the compliment by finding evidence against it.

Ø Narrowing the context – by saying there is nothing extraordinary about us and that anyone could do what you’ve done.

Ø Putting yourself down– this is super common in Australia. We take the mickey or piss out of ourselves in a joking fashion as a means to deflect the compliment.

Ø Transferring the accolade– you are but a cog in a wheel of magnificence, and a small one at that.

Ø Ignoring it– not acknowledging the compliment, skirting past it and moving on.

Ø Fishing – continually seeking to validate the original compliment with more and more evidence.

Ø Diminishing it– you question the value in the compliment. Or assume the person giving the compliment is misguided. Which, if  you think about it, it’s a bit mean to the person being kind!

Ø Assuming insincerity – the compliment is directly challenged. Or the knowledge of the complimenter is discredited.

If you think about it, Australians use humour to challenge the kind words others bestow on us. Building confidence is difficult because of our culturally entrenched Tall Poppy Syndrome.

When we continue to push back on compliments, we perpetuate a culture where it’s not OK to have pride in the work you do. It also means we end up swimming in self-doubt. Our approach to compliments deter others.  People become more and more reluctant to reach out and say kind things. It confirms the belief we suck.

It also reaffirms negative things like Imposter Syndrome and perfectionism. It may trigger depression, anxiety, shame, and low self-esteem. It may even feed narcissism. In short, we’re helping the bad stuff kick our arse! Why?

Remember- a compliment is admiration and love from another person. Often a person we love and admire in return. Let it be what it is.

How do you start having a healthy relationship with compliments? 

Like any confidence building activity, breaking the habit of dismissing compliments takes a combination of awareness in how it comes out in our behaviour and taking a mental moment to challenge it.

Here are a few ways to do just that:
· Resist the urge to respond straight away

· Smile and say thank you

· Share a nice phrase in response such as “thank you for noticing” or “it means a lot that you appreciate what I do”

· Pause for a moment to internalise the gesture for what it is without reacting to the emotions within. Identify the feelings to work on later

· Direct the conversation into examining the work with a question. E.g. “what was it that you liked about what I did/said” or “do you usually like <topic>?”

· Take the now and acknowledge the future. It’s OK to say something like “I would like to refine the work more for future, but I am glad you can see its present value”

· Practise giving your own compliments. By seeing the genuine connection between what you like about others, it becomes easier to see the link when others do it too

Take the journey one step at a time.

Make a commitment to notice how you take compliments and try applying some of the suggestions above. Let us know how you go!

Want more confidence building advice? Check out our blog or join the party in the Freelance Jungle community.  


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