Written By: Adam Dince
A little self-disclosure here: I’m horrible at taking compliments. It’s something that has challenged me my entire professional life.
A few years ago, the managing director at an ad agency I worked for stopped by my office and gave me kudos for the results of a project I spearheaded. I think I responded by saying something along the lines of, “Oh, it’s no big deal, really.” What I do clearly remember is him closing the door and responding with, “If you ever reject a compliment like that again, we’re going to have problems.” Since then I’ve gotten better at accepting compliments, but I’m still not comfortable with them.
Why am I so bad at taking compliments? I think it stems from a career-long habit of undervaluing my talents.
Here’s an example. My next door neighbor, Earl, is an amazing photographer. Recently, I helped him develop a website to showcase his work. As I walked Earl through how to maintain his site, a friend of ours, Kurt, watched over our shoulders. When we finished the review, Kurt said, “Wow, that’s amazing! How did you learn to do all of that?” I replied, “Come on, it’s easy. Anyone can do it.” And he responded, “No, that’s why we hire people to do this kind of work. It’s not easy.”
But it’s not just me that undervalues talent. I’m guessing many people do. After years of my Jeep Wrangler soft-top not fitting properly, I decided to take it in to a local auto body shop. In a few minutes, the owner fixed it with a simple hair dryer. When I complimented him on his work, he replied, “No problem, that was easy, man.” and rang me up for $20. I ended up paying him $100 and told him that I wouldn’t allow him to accept anything less. He helped me solve a problem that had been a source of frustration for years.
If I had a penny for every time someone extremely talented told me they felt like a fraud, I’d be a pennyionaire. It’s true! Have you ever thought that about yourself and your talents?
When you’re good at something–what starts out hard, gets easier. Try learning a complicated card trick. You’ll spend months practicing it before you’re ready to perform it flawlessly. However, once you get it down–it’s easy. And after awhile, it’s easy to start taking the complexity of that trick for granted. I know–I’ve practiced slight of hand magic for years. When we feel like something comes naturally, we can begin to lose sight of the value it provides.
My encouragement to you (and myself) in this article, is to stop undervaluing your talents and abilities. Own what you’re gifted with. And don’t discount the value of someone complimenting you on a job well done.