How Compliments Can Teach Us About Ourselves: A Path To Knowing Who We Are

A wise and dear friend recently mentioned the idea of creating a list of the top 10 favorite compliments that she had received. I love this idea for so many reasons.

Coming up with your most cherished compliments about yourself can boost your mood, your confidence, and your sense of the positive impact that you have on others. These compliments can serve as momentos of experiences, of connection, of times that made you smile or feel good about yourself, and reminders of how you touch others.

Additionally, the more I think about the concept of savoring our compliments and the positive reinforcement they give us, the more I realize that the compliments that mean something to us say a lot about our values and what we care about.

Taking this a step further, it is not just the compliments we receive but also those that we give that provide information about what is important to us and who we strive to be. The things we admire in others also hold clues to the areas that we might like to develop or see in ourselves.

For example, I have been told that I have a very soothing voice. This has deep meaning to me because, as a psychologist and hypnotherapist, creating a sense of calm, safety, and compassion in a way that is easy to hear is incredibly important. This compliment tells me that perhaps I am effective in my life’s work. The fact that I remember and cite this as something meaningful that was said to me also indicates that I value those qualities that I just described.

Interestingly, when I think about most of the people who I am close to, they all try to create in their lives those same qualities that I identified in the compliment about my voice: calm, safety, and compassion. I have worked hard to build relationships that feel supportive and understanding. Thinking about it through this process helps me to validate that my values are cohesive with the people in my life.

Try this:

Make a list of the top compliments that you have received (it doesn’t have to be 10!). It is emotionally supportive and fun to do this just as an exercise. It will probably brighten your day!
Once you have your list, really think about what values underscore those compliments. Doing so may give you some insight into what matters to you and into why you are more comfortable in certain situations or around certain people.
Make a list of the compliments that you give or might want to give to others.
Think about the values behind those compliments. This might help you to become more aware of what qualities are important to you in your relationships, your work, or socially. It might also help you to understand why certain relationships or situations work or don’t make you feel safe or comfortable.
So if you are wondering about changing your career or about why certain relationships or environments make you happy and others don’t, maybe make a list of compliments that you have received and given. Then think about what those compliments might indicate about what is meaningful to you. These insights could prove helpful and validating in building the most cohesive and support path as you move forward.