Next Level-Self: Accepting a Compliment

Bonjour mes amies! On the first of my “Next-Level” series, I shared that my “next-level self” will learn to take a compliment and not feel the need to counter said compliment with a flaw that I’ve internalized over the years.

Example. When I’m complimented on my locs, versus telling the kind person who extended the compliment, “Thank you so much,” I will counter their kindness with something along the lines of “Oh, you wouldn’t say that if you saw how matted and tangled the middle is.”

As I’m in my “Next-Level” era, I have been forced to unlearn so many unhealthy behaviors. Judging by the responses that I received via this Instagram post, I know that I am not alone. So why do so many people have issues accepting a compliment?

Many factors can account for this behavior; family dynamics, self-esteem, and social norms.

A higher being.

In my case, I grew up in an extremely modest home. We weren’t supposed to say certain things such as “I’m proud of myself” or “I did such a great job.” Because I was taught that I alone could not do anything without the blessings of a higher power.

This subconsciously embedded into my child brain and followed me until we’ll, today. Whenever someone compliments me, I feel compelled to pass the credit on to someone else.

“Wow, how do you produce content for multiple platforms daily, edit content, engage with your online community, run a business, homeschool a special needs teen, raise a toddler, go for long walks, be a wife, travel, and…(the list truly can go on forever)?” Versus sharing the extremely early mornings, unwavering dedication and discipline, I typically attribute my budding success to “having an amazing support system”, “the grace of God” or my personal fave “the stars just aligned.”

While those components do contribute, it would all be for nothing if I did not put in extremely hard work.

Self-esteem and justification

Self-esteem also plays into why many people are unable to take a compliment. Without going into too much detail, I’ve always straddled the line of questioning my esteem. Now that I’ve done beaucoup self-work, I understand that many of my esteem queries were never mine to own.

I’ve been this height (5’9/152cm) since I was in the eighth grade. I was also very thin, i.e., not a curve in sight, and frankly socially awkward. I preferred art history and language learning as opposed to the things low-income “at-risk” teenage girls were supposed to be interested in.

“That’s so weird” or “Black people don’t do that” were typical phrases I often heard. I felt insecure for not having an interest in being in the “in” crowd. So when I went to school at a PIW (predominately white institution) and eventually studied in Milan, I never felt comfortable owning the hard work I put into place to get there (loads of Advance Placement courses and summer art programs.)

When the few classmates I shared my upbringing with would say things such as, “You are an inspiration; I don’t see how you changed your narrative,” I would often attribute my being there to the kindness of (insert organization or professor) as if I had no parts in the reality I had created.

Plainly put, I DIDN’T think I deserved to be there.

This blog could go on forever because as I write this post, I continue to think about additional reasons why it’s hard to accept a compliment and examples of how I respond.

What have I done to unlearn this habit? 

Depending on the environment, I will reply, “Thank you,” and add, “I’m trying hard not to deflect your kindness, but accepting compliments isn’t easy for me.”

Responding as such has led to having very in-depth conversations with people I may have never felt I had anything in common with.

I now tell myself on a daily basis that I am worthy and I am deserving. I deserve the good things that happen in my life; I deserve to believe and receive the kind words that others say to me.

This has not been an easy “Next-Level Self” project because I didn’t get to the point of “no compliments being accepted” overnight. As I learn and unlearn many behaviors, I continue to extend myself grace during this process.

When I catch myself responding with what I perceive as a flaw, I pause and smile. When I don’t catch myself, I accept that I’m on a journey and missteps are a part of the journey.

I do hope that mes amies join me on the “Next-Level Self” journey, as this will undoubtedly be a series.

Maintenant, I must ask, are you able to accept a compliment without deflecting?

Ciao for now 💋

I’m testing this segment out. Via Instagram and Youtube, I share my shopping finds and wishlists. I thought I’d give a “Style Corner” finds a trail run here as well. Below you will find my most recent purchase.

Style Corner: Denim Trench.

After enjoying an inexpensive denim duster for quite some time, I have made the leap and invested in a piece I hope will be a wardrobe win! Details below.

Click here for trench


  1. Anonymous

    this is Gold ! I am going to think about this for the rest of the day

  2. Sherie Durand Tazewell

    Thank you Jessie, I’m going to work on My Next Level Self

  3. Deborah


    This was so rich and honest. I think many of us have, or currently struggle with this condition. Very interesting point you noted that I never connected….the religious upbringing. Wow!
    I have some age on me (67) and I too have come to the realization that it’s okay to simply say “thank you.” It means my efforts, changes or accomplishments are being recognized. It took some time, but oh how liberating to make that shift.

    Great read!

  4. Erin H

    Beautifully said. I struggle to feel compliments as deeply as I have felt insults or indifference. I love learning about you! You are an amazing woman and I am so enjoying the lessons and life experience you are sharing. Taking pieces of your journey and stitching it with my own, weaving in your wisdom and my thoughts. Keep at it, you are a natural. 💗

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