Can you take a compliment?

What happens if someone says you did a great job?

Do you bask in their admiration? Or do you redden with embarrassment?

Do you mumble and shuffle while inside you are rationalizing away their acclaim?

Do you suspect their motives?

Do you question their taste?


Praise is a gift. Will you accept it with grace?

Or are you more comfortable with criticism?

26 thoughts on “Can you take a compliment?

    1. The photo is one I took at MOMA last week. It’s of a piece by Robert Gober.
      My point in showing it is to point out stuff that can trip you up. Like pieces of art. Or severed limbs. Or comments on your blog. That sorta thing.


  1. Receiving a compliment is a difficult exercise, and have often failed to endow the presenter, with the gift returned, of satisfaction and warmth.

    Until I realized this special contract or bond, I may have denied many smiles that would have made someone’s day. Understanding and exercising empathy and honest modesty is a beautiful exchange, that only human beings can make.

    As for the image – I can live with it, and often find myself “all feet in”. Good lesson of restraint.


  2. I’m notorious for always deflecting any compliment with a self-deprecating witticism. It drives people berserk. One of the things I am trying to do through blogging actually is to accept compliments with good grace and no snark.


  3. My long time experience with praise is a feeling if unworthiness. Which is so counter productive for someone who wishes to have people like what they do. I’m working on it.


  4. More food for thought and conversation. As in a lot of things, it is what we do with it. Good to remember what we are up to when we respond or not respond. Just finished reading Mary Catherine Bateson;s,”Peripheral Visions -Learning along the way” which reinforces a lot of what you are about Danny.


  5. The best compliment I hear is “your almost an artist”. It comes in sideways but I’ll take it. Love the photo. Sometimes I’m not all in or there.


  6. Since being in Sketchbook Skool and I draw and post nearly daily I receive praise nearly every day too! I LOVE it! It inspires me to draw more. It builds my confidence in what I’m doing! I get it in person now too when I share my art journals with friends and family. I bask in it!

    I love the new look of your blog header, Danny! Very bold! Very YOU!

    I’ll be very careful not to trip over that leg!


  7. One way I think about how other’s see my art is to realize that I am often too close to what I am sketching or painting. Others come on it freshly and can often see strong points I may miss as I deal with details. I try not to reject/deflect goodness that comes my way. The Zen part of the world see the open hand as an important idea: as I am flowing out goodness to others, looking for goodness in others, my hand is open to receive from others. I can also function this way with my own art….I find that the sketch that seemed not to “work one day” often looks great with fresh eyes the next day! Yes, “Thank you”, simply said ,helps.


  8. It has taken me a long time to gratefully just say thank you without needing to point out the “obvious” flaws or mistakes that I made that they could not have noticed. Anything to neutralize the praise. Now it is enough to accept the praise and be grateful for it.
    Aloha, Kate


  9. I was told years ago, by some much younger artists, to ” just say ‘thank you!’ ” I found it the very best advice I ever got!


  10. “Rationalizating away ” … And more comfortable with criticism.
    This is me.
    What is the wright way? What is your way?

    Like your blog way of raising a question/debate without really saying your opinion .


  11. I used to get uncomfortable and deflect compliments with some kind of humble sounding reply. I still get a little uncomfortable, but I have learned to just smile and say “Thank You.” It makes both the giver and the receiver of the compliment feel better.

    And as far as criticism goes, it depends on the criticizer and on what they have to say. Constructive criticism can be difficult to swallow, but is usually helpful when evaluated with an open mind. Criticism that’s meant to be hurtful can sting, but is much easier to brush off or ignore.


  12. This is a great lesson to learn early in life….In the mid-70’s, I attended a lecture by a popular Boston priest and he raised this very issue with the audience. He went on to say by denying the compliment we actually create a scene where it’s NOW more work for the person (giving the compliment) to do it AGAIN and in more detail. He suggested to us that the people who deny a compliment are more vain or self-centered, because they really want more attention. He also reminded us to give a grateful smile along with our thank-you.


  13. Having worked as a designer for many years, I am used to having my creativity and design solutions judged. What I have finally learned is not to put too much credence on what people say whether they think I’m God’s gift or total crap. It can all turn on a dime so I try to stay in the center and be content in knowing I did my very best.


  14. This past summer for the first time I had the experience of being present while people were seeing my work for the first time. It was an art fair in our local town. I have shown stuff online for years and in person to people who know me, but this was new. And something really interesting happened.
    You could immediately tell who liked my work and who didn’t and I loved it when they liked it or just were curious and asked questions, but I didn’t really care all that much when they didn’t. Tastes differ, nothing is for everyone. I don’t like all the art I see, why should they?

    If someone doesn’t like my art, there’s not much I can do about that, because it is MY art, MY way of doing things. I can hardly change it so it will be THEIR art, you know? I still have tons to learn, but I do stand behind my own work. I was almost surprised about that.

    But…what I had a really hard time with was when someone innocently implied that I didn’t make this work myself. That just happened once, but I was pretty up the wall about it. So to make a long story short: you may think whatever you want of my art, but don’t you dare imply it is not mine! 😉


  15. I enjoy compliments…but I don’t want to appear “proud” so I humbly say “Thank you” and move on. Which brings me to question why I struggle with allowing myself to feel proud of myself. I think it has a lot to do with a somewhat Puritan upbringing. Being “proud” of myself somehow seems sinful…which is ridiculous! The Lord gave me this talent, doesn’t he want me to use it and be pleased with that? It’s silly really.
    I’ve recently acquired a new job. I’m a librarian at a middle school. No one I work with knew I was artistic at all. Last week I gave two small pieces of art to my library assistants as Christmas gifts. It felt good to reveal my talent to them. They were amazed and complimented me. I was proud of myself.


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