Why is it Hard to Say "Thank You"?

asian woman with her arms in an "x" as if to say "no"

Picture this - you're standing in front of a room of 10 people.  You've just performed something - a song, a monologue - and you're finished.  It's quiet.  You feel vulnerable.  Now every single person in the room who just watched you gives you a compliment and tells you what they admired about your performance.  You are required to say "thank you, I know" after each person speaks.  That's it - that's all you can say.  "Thank you, I KNOW"???  A friend and theatre teacher of mine, Jen Waldman, used this an exercise at times and I have to tell you, when I was the performer - I hated it.  

Every inch of my body would tense.  My toes curled.  My fingers couldn't stay still.  My breath was short.  "I know."  A flood of thoughts came - they were just being nice - saying something because they had to - it wasn't true.  Also, what would these people think of my saying "I know" (even though it was literally what I was directed to do)?  They would think I was conceited - full of myself - that I thought I was talented (heaven forbid).  But with the repetition of having to hear something kind - and true mind you - the repetition of "thank you, I know" became easier and easier.  On maybe  the 6th one I believed it a little bit and the guilt started to ebb.  And every one after that chipped away at my insecurity.  But it was tough.  

I was reminded of this in the movie theatre earlier this month watching "Barbie".  Somewhere near the beginning various Barbies are winning awards for things and being told why they won and one had the response of "thank you - I know".  How wonderful would it be if we believed compliments from a young age?

Shonda Rhimes' book "Year of Yes" blue book with red writing

Shonda Rhimes tells a story in her book "Year of Yes" describing an evening of women in television being honored by Elle Magazine.  According to Shonda, every. single. woman. being honored dismissed the literal facts that were being read about her and the reasons why she was being honored - she'd shake her head, wave her hands in front of her face, looking like she'd like to be anywhere else in the world except that stage.  These were women who changed the landscape of the stories being told on television, the diversity of casts being shown, and had record-breaking numbers of viewers watching their programs - game changing stuff.  And yet.  

Why can't we take a compliment??  What makes it so hard?  

My team and I talked about it last week during a morning meeting after we read the excerpt from Shonda's book.  Our consensus fell into three main areas -

  1. we don't believe it
  2. we may believe it but we only see what else is wrong in the situation and feel the need to point all of that out
  3. we're uncomfortable accepting the compliment because of an assumption the other person could make about us accepting it #headscratcher

Most it revolves around the first one - we don't believe it.  We don't believe it because the way society historically has valued women is when they're selfless, putting themselves last, working themselves to the bone, cooking all the meals, running the household perfectly, raising angel children, maintaining a size 4 figure, having hair and makeup on point at all times, having a fairy tale romance, and nailing it at work in more recent years.  So if even one of those things isn't happening we can feel like we could do better and we're not good enough.  It's exhausting.  

black woman with her hands over her heart looking happy

I think we need to work through all of that BUT a simple first step is this - the next time someone pays you a compliment just say "thank you."  That's it.  You don't have to add in "I know" 😊, but you also don't have to add in anything else.  Thank you - period - the end.  Receive it, sit with it for that moment, and that's it.  The next step would be to believe it 💕.

Let me know how it goes!!  


  • Erin's Faces

    Julia – right?! We need to have a reckoning here! I’m with you – but I’m learning it’s a practice for me – just say thank you and be done. Don’t explain why they’re wrong, don’t explain why I don’t actually deserve that, don’t dismiss it, just say thank you. 💕💕💕

  • Julia D

    Yes, this is SO hard to just accept the words someone is saying about you if they are kind or a compliment. I’ve been tryin to say “Thank You” and stop for a while, but I still have make myself just stop. I have hope that women younger than I am will take this to heart and believe they are worthy of the kind words people speak to them and simply stop at THANK YOU without a inner struggle.

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