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How to receive positive feedback and recognition

January 27, 2020

On the Grammys last night, Billie Eilish won 4 awards, which is an amazing accomplishment, especially for a relative newcomer to the music industry. But what really got my attention was Billie’s reaction to her nominations, as well as her acceptance speech.  This isn’t a criticism of Billie, it’s an example of how many people act, especially women, when receiving awards or recognition. 

As Billie’s name was announced for what turned out to be her fourth Grammy, she was seen mouthing “Don’t be me” and “No”. When she did win, she said in her speech that Ariana Grande “deserved” the award and that she wasn’t going to “waste your time” with a lengthy speech. 

Billie appeared to be hesitant and embarrassed about winning so many awards, deflected the praise to someone else and limited her time in the spotlight by cutting her acceptance speech short. 

Have you ever done a similar thing? Have you ever won an award at work, for example, and been hesitant to step in the spotlight? Did you say that it was “a team effort” and rushed back to your seat as soon as possible? If you have, you’re not alone. Having a hard time accepting a compliment or recognition is something that many of us struggle with. 

In my online course Change Without Pain, I talk about patterns of behavior. Discomfort or the inability to accept a compliment is simply a pattern of behavior that you have the power to change. 

Let’s look at a couple of reasons why it can be challenging to accept recognition and how to make it easier. We’re going to be separating feelings from facts and creating new, positive thoughts and affirming behaviors. 

Negative Thought #1: It’s selfish to be in the spotlight or recognized 

Here we need to separate facts from feelings. You may feel that being in the spotlight is selfish, but what does selfish even mean? Selfish people act in ways that are self-centered, ungrateful and envious of the success of others. 

Think about the last time you got a compliment or were recognized in a public way. Did you feel self-centered, ungrateful or envious? Probably not. The fact is, you’re not acting in a way that’s selfish. 

This type of thinking can come from a lack mentality – there’s not enough to go around. That’s another feeling that isn’t a fact. There is enough to go around, especially when it comes to compliments and people wishing you well. 

There may also be the fear that others will judge us and be envious of our success. We can’t control the feelings or actions of other people. True friends and colleagues who are self-aware and have an abundance mindset will wish us well and want to share in our good fortune. 

If people are jealous, take a tip from Ariana and let it go  – thank u, next! 

Negative Thought #2: If I’m shining, others don’t get the chance to shine

If you win an award, then that means other nominees don’t win that specific award. Does this mean that others don’t get the chance to shine? Let’s use the example of Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande. Does Billie winning the Grammy make Ariana less successful? Will Ariana’s music career suffer as a result? 

The answer is no. Related to point #1, there’s no shortage of fans in the world. Many people can – and do – enjoy listening to both artists. They both received positive publicity as a result of being nominated. Ariana and Billie will likely continue to be nominated for awards in the future, and Ariana may win next time. 

Can you apply this to a situation in your life? Are you nervous when you are shown special recognition or a given a plum assignment at work? 

When it’s your time to shine, remember that recognition is a positive thing for you and for others. By all means, express your gratitude and give credit where credit is due. But be mindful not to diminish your worthiness to be seen and your time in the spotlight. 

Negative Thought #3: I should put myself down when I receive a compliment, so that I don’t seem boastful

This ties in with the first two points in that we may be doing this, often unconsciously, so that we are seen as humble and not ‘big-headed’. This behavior has 2 significant downsides: 

1. It effectively cancels out the compliment that someone is giving you. Imagine that a friend compliments you on your haircut. You respond by saying “Ugh, I had to get bangs to hide the wrinkles on my forehead.” This doesn’t make the other person feel better; in fact, they may feel worse. You’ve denied your friend the opportunity to share in the pleasurable experience of enjoying a new haircut. It also closes the door to any further conversation – your friend may have wanted a referral to your hairdresser or wanted to have a lighthearted conversation about new hairstyles in general. Your friend may regret giving you the compliment in the first place, because it generated a negative response from you. 

2. It reinforces negative self-talk that you may not even be aware of. Making a self-deprecating response  to a compliment demonstrates that you don’t feel worthy of the compliment, that you’re not good enough. Saying that you need to hide your wrinkles, rather than saying you love how your haircut looks,  indicates that you are having negative thoughts about aging and your self-image. Hearing yourself say self-deprecating comments out loud further reinforces the negative thoughts in your mind and strengthens the pattern of negative thinking. 

Make a plan to shift your self-talk to positive affirmations

You don't have to be stuck in the negative self-talk trap! It's easy to make a plan for the next time you receive a compliment or are recognized for an achievement. Practice the following this week: 

Step 1. At least once a day, practice saying the following affirmations out loud (and in a mirror if possible). If this makes you feel uncomfortable, great!

That means that your brain is working hard to create new neural pathways to support positive thinking: 

- I am worthy of recognition

- I am doing the best I can today

- I am a worthwhile person with many talents and abilities

Step 2. Take 15 minutes this week and write out your ‘script’ for accepting a compliment or an accolade.

Here are some tips: 

- A heartfelt ‘thank you’ and a genuine smile are often all that’s needed in response to a compliment. 

- Remember not to diminish your own worth. If you are being recognized for leading a project or initiative, lead with “Thank you”.  Remember to pause and enjoy the positive feelings. Give yourself a moment to take it all in. 

- If you’d like to recognize others, especially in a public forum, you can say something like “Thank you to the team for their hard work and inspiration”. Try to avoid saying things such as “It was a team effort” or “All credit goes to the team”. 

Do any of these situations or examples resonate with you? Let me know in the comments if they do, and if you will try these tips this week. If you’d like more information on getting better with improving your habits and patterns, please contact me or check out my Change Without Pain course. 

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