In my case, compliments are equally hard to take. As soon as someone gives me a compliment, I feel like a spotlight is on me and I'm overcome with apprehension. What did they say? Do they mean it? Are they just being polite? How much enthusiasm should I show here?
For many years, I smiled and said, "Thank you," or "Oh, that's so nice of you." But after a while, that sounds less genuine. I've been designing quality work for 15 years. Pleasant surprise doesn't seem like the right response.
I'd rather react with confidence, "Yes, thank you, I agree," or "That's one of my strengths, actually." My fear is that such replies sound too arrogant. How do I react with appropriate confidence and delight without sounding absurd? It's a surprisingly tight line to walk.
I draw mandalas to work on understanding certain topics. For a couple of months now, I've wanted to draw one in complementary colors that somehow shows what compliments feel like. I started this project not knowing I was working on it. With all my daydreaming, I hadn't actually thought about the content of it. Each unfolding layer surprised me. At different stages of working through this piece, I felt a wide range of strong emotions—peace, sadness, anxiety, fear, despair, excitement.
Graciously receiving compliments is complicated—part spotlight, part control, part etiquette, part deliberation, part applause, part encore. It's a dance I may never master, but maybe this study brings me a little closer.