Artists: How to Accept Compliments

Do you find yourself feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed when someone gives you a compliment on your artwork? You’re definitely not alone. Graciously accepting compliments is not something that comes naturally to most people.

Instead of simply saying thank you, it’s tempting to try to downplay your achievements, point out the flaws in your work, reply back with a compliment of your own, or to find some other way of deflecting the original compliment.

Learning to accept compliments instead of deflecting them can actually be quite beneficial to you as an artist. For one thing, it can help you battle your inner critic. It’s only natural to focus on perceived flaws and weaknesses when you look at your own work. After all, you are intimately familiar with every dot, line or brush stroke that went into each piece you create. You also have a sense of whether or not the finished piece lives up to the original vision you had in mind while you were creating it.

When someone views your art for the first time, however, they see it with fresh eyes that aren’t burdened with those details and expectations. As a result, they are able to focus on the good instead of the bad.

When someone compliments you on a piece, it is an opportunity to shift your perspective. You can brush away the nagging voice of the inner critic, and instead see your work as it appears to untainted eyes. When you graciously accept a compliment, you directly contradict your inner critic. This in turn can build your confidence as an artist, allowing you to overcome self-doubt and take new risks with your art.

Deflecting a compliment, on the other hand, is not being modest. Instead, it is downplaying your skills and talents, and reinforcing the idea that you aren’t good enough.

If you struggle with accepting compliments as an artists, here are some simple tips that can help:

  • Understand how you typically react to compliments. Start paying attention to what you say when someone compliments your work. Do you point out the flaws? Do you respond by complimenting them in return? Do you brush it off like creating the piece was no big deal? Once you understand your go-to behavior, you can work on modifying it.
  • Start practicing accepting compliments. Accepting compliments doesn’t have to be difficult. A simple “thank you” is usually enough. There is no need to try to justify your work, explain your process, point out flaws or answer with a compliment in return. If you do feel the need to say more, try adding something like, “Thank you. This piece has a lot of personal meaning for me. I’m glad it also resonates with you,” or, “This piece was a lot of fun to create. I’m so happy that you like it.”
  • Avoid insulting the other person. When someone gives you a compliment and you contradict it, it implies that you don’t respect their opinion. Likewise, when someone gives you a compliment and you instantly reply back with a compliment in return, it can seem disingenuous, like you are only complimenting them because they complimented you. Accepting the compliment graciously, on the other hand, tells the person that you trust their judgment and that respect their opinion.
  • Practice giving compliments. Giving compliments allows you to see things from the other side of the equation. Pay attention to how people react when you give them a compliment. Take note of which reactions make you feel great about your compliment, and which make you feel uncomfortable or slighted. Use this information to determine how best to respond to future compliments that you receive.

Accepting compliments graciously is something I definitely struggle with as an artist. If you are like me, hopefully these tips will help you become better at it. If you have any comments or other ideas I’d love to hear from you — please feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks!





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2 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for that article! I personally struggle a lot with receiving compliments and now that I am singing more and creating music it can be hard to know how to really deal with compliments. Your article helped!!

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