How to take on board compliments to raise your self-esteem


I regularly search on PubMed, a research paper database, for various search terms relating to hypnosis, therapy, and mental health. Just to see what pops up. I have found some truly interesting studies by doing this, many of which have informed my hypnotherapy practice.

That is how I came across a technique that I’m going to share with you in this post that helps you to more readily take on board a compliment that someone has paid you.

When we have low self-esteem, it can be very difficult to accept a compliment. Have you ever experienced someone complimenting you on your jumper and finding yourself saying “What, this old thing?!” or shrugging “It’s nothing special” or something similar. You downplay it. You explain it away. Dismiss it.

Maybe you’ve learnt to say “thank you” now when someone compliments you, however, you still don’t believe what they said. Perhaps you think they are just saying it to please you or don’t know you well enough to comment. You downplay it. You explain it away. Dismiss it.

People with low self-esteem are the ones who would benefit from compliments the most, but ironically are the ones who find it hardest to allow that to happen.

Whether you accept a compliment or not at the time of receiving them, I’m going to teach you how you can learn to take them on board and feel good about them. First off, think about a time when someone complimented you. It doesn’t matter what the compliment was, who it was made by, or even how long ago it was. Then write down your answers to the following steps. The more detailed you can be the better.

  1. Make note of a few keywords that help you to identify that memory of being complimented.

  2. Describe the compliment in detail, including exactly what that person said, when it was, where you were, what you were doing, etc.

  3. How far away did the compliment feel?

  4. How much did you attribute the compliment to something about the person or situation?

  5. Explain why that person admired you.

  6. Describe what hearing this person’s admiration meant to you.

  7. How secure, valuable and proud did the compliment make you feel?

  8. Describe its significance for your relationship with this person.

Reflecting on the experience of recalling that compliment in this way, write down your answers to the following questions.

  1. How happy did you feel when you recalled the compliment?

  2. How far away does the compliment feel now?

  3. How much do you attribute the compliment to something about the person or situation now?

  4. How do you feel about yourself right now, at this moment in time?

This technique was used in a research study to help people with low self-esteem benefit from the compliments paid to them by their romantic partners. As a result of carrying out the technique, they experienced an increase in state self-esteem, a sense of relationship security, and had more positive evaluations of both themselves and their relationship.

Whilst the technique was used specifically on compliments paid by the participant’s romantic partners, this can be used on any compliment that you might receive from anyone.

Give it a go! It’s a great one-off exercise to carry out but you might also benefit from doing it whenever you receive a compliment, do develop your ‘compliment-accepting muscles’.


  • Marigold, D. C., Holmes, J. G., & Ross, M. (2007). More than words: Reframing compliments from romantic partners fosters security in low self-esteem individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(2), 232–248.