Receiving Compliments – When childhood conditioning makes it difficult

Receiving Compliments – When childhood conditioning makes it difficult

Nikita Dudani

Project Manager, Corporate Interventions, Maanas The Inside Story


While growing up, I have learnt many things about myself, my family, the world and society. These things differed from what my brother learned growing up, because our genders were different.

Childhood Conditioning

I was taught to hold back my opinions, especially when they had the power to provoke the set conditions of society about how a girl should be. In my growing years, it was made loud and clear that, I should either stay away from boys; or, if I befriend them, I should know my limits; as I am too naïve to understand the true intentions of the boy(s)!

It was made explicitly clear to me that cooking is my responsibility. Ensuring that all meals are hot and all members, especially the male members, are well-fed, was SOLELY my responsibility; to such an extent that, I even had to lay the plates for them. (I am not sure till date, why this rule was enforced on me as I don’t remember any of them being handicapped!!!)

Talking about rules, I was supposed to come home by 8 o’clock in the evening. If I was going to be late, I would have to be accompanied by my brother or father or any male cousin. I shouldn’t be wearing sleeveless dresses; or, any clothes that are revealing, because I could possibly attract the other gender. Who would be the one to blame, if that happened? Can you take a guess?

Not to forget that, if something went wrong, it would take years to prove my innocence. I’m pretty sure, seeing the recent events in the country, it wouldn’t be hard to guess, as to what I am talking about.

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Interestingly, this list was taught to me by others, more than my parents. I don’t say that my parents didn’t ask me to be cautious about certain things, but they were subtle about it. Others such as my teachers, classmates, friends, neighbours, uncles and aunts certainly weren’t!

The list of do’s and don’ts is endless; but this article isn’t about cribbing or venting. Nah, I am past that!

The idea, of giving you the background, is to share how childhood conditioning affected me in the long run; which may be true for most of the women out there!

Impact on Self Esteem

I, therefore, grew up with low self esteem and low self confidence. I felt and was, like a frog in a well, who just knew how to go to school from home and back. I felt unattractive, unwanted, unloved, uncared and a liability. If anyone would talk to me or tried to befriend me, I would put them on a pedestal and feel forever indebted to them for doing so.

I would to do anything and everything to make them stay in my life, as I was working from the fear of losing them. I would do that to an extent that, I would unnecessarily stretch myself for petty things; or even let them take me for granted.

Yet, they would leave me, because they were never attached to me in the first place. They were just used to my doing things for them.

All this just added on to my lack of self confidence and self esteem.

That’s just one layer. The other layer that unconsciously formed underneath this, was my aversion towards receiving!

Resistance to Receive and Accepting compliments

Receiving any kind of compliments that would come my way – whether it was people acknowledging my skills or talents, giving me compliments on my achievements, praising me for the way I dressed or looked, or giving me love – I would outrightly reject them.

I was so averse to receiving, that I would unconsciously not register what was being said to me. Even if I was forced to listen, I would think that they don’t know me and hence, they are just being cordial.

This had become an easy habit because I wasn’t taught to receive; I was only taught to give!  

I wasn’t actually taught to feel good about myself. All I was taught was that if I demand praises or receive them, then I am a vain person. I am selfish hence, I look for compliments. If I get dressed up, it is because I want to seek “attention” .

And so it was, right upto my college days, that I feared getting dressed up; as I believed (in those days) that doing so would be asking for undue attention.

Receiving compliments continues to be difficult

I still face issues with receiving compliments and praises for the ‘hard work’ I do. No matter how much work I do, I feel that it isn’t enough.  When my colleagues or seniors applaud me, I immediately reject it, by telling myself that, I don’t deserve this applause.

Believe me; it is still a vicious circle. The more I try to break it, the more I find myself diving deep into it. My problem of receiving is stopping me from growing, because no matter what I do, I never let it sink in. I  still keep operating from old patterns of feeling unworthy/undeserving of love and care; and from believing that I am unattractive.

The work to get out of this, is still in progress. Now, when I have understood that the earlier feelings – of being unworthy/undeserving of love and care and that I’m unattractive – were nothing but conditions that I’d grown up with, I realize that I need to free myself from these conditions and let my inner self feel the freedom.

I don’t hold any grudge against anyone. I now know what I have to do to come out from this conditioning and free my inner self. I now understand that giving isn’t complete without receiving; and nor is receiving complete without giving.

What can one do to come out from this vicious cycle?

For those, who believe they have faced similar conditioning, here are some suggestions

1) Therapy – Personally, psychotherapy has helped me come out of it as these patterns were old and so natural that I needed an objective view to understand what is happening to me.

2) Questioning – question everything that isn’t settling well with you. For example; if someone compliments you and you don’t register it; or, have difficulty accepting that ‘you can be good’ or the mere fact that someone is appreciating you; it is a sign that there is something amiss and probably, you can check it within yourself.

3) Believe Others – When you do not trust yourself to be worthy of receiving love or care, go with others’ belief and faith that you are worthy!

4) Self Worth Acceptance – Last but not the least, you ARE worthy! You ARE loved! Each person born on this earth deserve love and care. Hence, it shouldn’t be any different for you.

So, wake up and shake out of the past conditioning. Accept your goodness, Love yourself and enjoy the compliments that come your way!


This article has an adapted version of the original written by the author at From the Brewery of Life


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Indira Rao
4 years ago

What a lovely and honest portrayal! These feelings are generally an unintended consequence of family and society in India and in many Asian and middle eastern cultures of others “protecting” us women, rather than teaching us to protect and stand up for ourselves. It is only with strong role models in everyday life (not just movies) and active engagement that we are now starting to see changes, and I am hopeful. You are definitely on the right path, Nikita!

Nikita Dudani
Nikita Dudani
4 years ago
Reply to  Indira Rao

Thank You…
It is a high time, we should change the way things have been