When someone offers you an unexpected compliment or a gift (with no strings attached), how do you receive it? How we respond to a compliment or a gift, in any form, speaks volumes about how we view ourselves--our self-esteem--our worthiness or our deservingness.

Let us begin with a simple compliment. When someone tells you how nice you look, or that they really like what you are wearing, do you make excuses for yourself or try to minimize the compliment in any way? Here is an example of what I mean:

Friend: You look so nice today; I love your outfit--is it new?

You: I really just threw myself together and the outfit is old--something I found in my closet. I am surprised I can still wear it. Now, I really like what you are wearing

Your friend was sincere and giving you a gift by validating your appearance. You however, did not feel worthy of the validation and in essence, killed the compliment by making light of it and then rushing to find something to return the compliment to the friend. You could say that you stole the gift of giving away from your friend.

When I worked in the outpatient behavioral health unit of a hospital, I did an exercise with my group to boost their self-esteem and to break the bad habit of killing the compliment. Their assignment (during their lunch break) was to tap other group members on the shoulder and say, "The beauty I see in you is . . . (fill in the blanks with a compliment). The recipient of the compliment says, "Thank you"--nothing more, nothing less.

After a full hour of giving and receiving compliments, the group returned from lunch feeling good about themselves and each other.

It is always easier for us to give rather than receive. Giving makes us feel good. It allows us to contribute, in some way, to the well-being of those individuals whom we like and love. Receiving, however is not so easy for most of us. We may feel embarrassed by the compliment, or feel unworthy of receiving a larger, unexpected gift.

When we negate a gift--in any form, we deprive ourselves of the gift, but also deprive the gift giver of feeling good about making the decision to give to us! I am sure the majority of you reading this blog never considered the feelings of the "giver" in such a way.

Here is another example on a much larger scale: Recently my husband (a very gifted web master, among other talents) offered the gift of a customized web site to someone who had helped us search for property before our move to the East coast. For many reasons, we decided to rent for a while instead of buying. Nevertheless, we still wanted to offer a gift as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for all his effort on our behalf. This man did not have a personalized web site. He was only included in his company web page.

Imagine our surprise when he turned down the gift! His comment was, "Why would I want a personal web page?" Wow! We never saw that one coming!

Now, as a psychologist, I could wonder if the man was being passive-aggressive because we did not buy a house from him; or I could take it personally and wonder if the gift was not what he considered equal to his services. However, my intuition tells me that is was just too hard for him to receive a service offered to him when he was the one that always offered his services to others, by shuttling clients from one property to another. In other words, he loved to give, and to be of service--but felt unworthy to receive. My husband and I felt hurt and a little rejected after the refusal. After all, it deprived us of giving back to someone we genuinely liked.

The next time someone offers you a compliment or gift with no strings attached, just say thank you--maybe adding that you appreciate the gesture of kindness. Your chance to give back to some else will be right around the corner.

© Copyright 2011 Dr. Janolyn F. Moore, PhD. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Before relocating to North Carolina in 2011, Dr. Janolyn Moore owned and served as co-director of the Golden Branch Wellness Center in Woodland Hills, California. Her Golden Energy technique of healing grew from her interest and years of research of mind/body correlations to disease and healing. The result, Golden Energy, accomplishes all of the aspects needed to promote a total holistic healing experience. Subtle energy work combined with psychology, imagery, and hypnotherapy assist in removing physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual blocks to the healing process. Her approach enables her patients to experience better health and well-being, increased success in all aspects of life, and to experience better and more fulfilling relationships.

Dr. Moore's integrative practice augments traditional Western medicine and psychological approaches to accelerate the healing process. It helps improve the quality of life for those who experience physical illness, chronic pain, or emotional or mental problems.

Dr. Moore served as a staff member for ten years at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in California. She facilitated group psychological counseling for both the in-patient and out-patient Behavioral Health unit. She served as a member of the hospital's Integrative Medicine team and taught classes in hypnosis, guided imagery, mind/body heath, and a holistic approach to managing menopause for the Healing Arts program. As well, she facilitated cancer support groups and provided counseling for patients in the Oncology unit.

In 2004, Dr. Moore was voted best hypnosis professional for the greater Los Angeles area by the readers of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Dr. Moore is an accomplished teacher, published writer, public speaker and seminar leader. She teaches her holistic approach to healing to medical and mental health practitioners throughout the country.

Dr. Moore's clientele extends throughout North America and Europe. As well as combined energy sessions, she offers integrative mind/body counseling, hypno-imagery, and expressive arts therapy. Phone sessions are available and very popular. Each session is 1/12 to 2 hours in length and is recorded in either an MP3 or CD format for the patient so that they may continue to experience the benefits of the session at any time.

Dr. Moore holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology, with an emphasis in Depth Psychology, from Pacifica Graduate Institute, in Carpinteria, California. Additionally, she holds a BA and MA in speech communications. She is a certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and studied Oriental medicine at Samra University.

Dr. Moore is available for private sessions, public speaking engagements, or seminars. To contact her for more information or to request a session, please use the email request form found on the Golden Energy web site.