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Learn to Take a Compliment

Woman smiling

This “Thanks, Penneys” mentality needs to end…

There’s a great sketch from the about-to-be-everywhere comedian Amy Schumer’s show, Inside Amy Schumer, where a group of women gather at a park corner, trading greetings and compliments. All kind words are dismissed with escalating self-depreciation, “Look at your cute little dress!” exclaims one girl, who just compared her new hair blonde colour to a Golden Retriever’s. “Little! I’m like a size 100 now,” her friend gushes back. “Anyway, I paid like $2 for it. It’s probably made out of old Burger King crowns. I look like a whore locked out of her apartment.”

The back-and-forth continues until a newcomer says “Thank you!” after her new jacket is flattered. A meltdown massacre ensues. For every woman who has ever said “Thanks, Penneys” – this is your life.

The inability of women to accept compliments doesn’t just extend to meekly wearing one’s wardrobe in public; it’s a work issue too. Your colleague says the report you wrote was great – you say it was nothing and probably needed less paragraphs, that the graphs weren’t as good as they could have been. That presentation your desk neighbour says you aced? You were terrified going up there and fluffed your way through the Q & A. The 9-to-5 is an apology roster for women and this script of never-good-enough needs to end.

In Psychology Today Dr. Gina Barreca calls this phenomenon “achievement dysmorphia”. Achievement dysmorphia is when women can’t see their accomplishments as something to be immensely proud of, while feeling a deep sense of unworth. It’s nice to have a name for that feeling, isn’t it? It would be even nicer to have a solution. Dr. Barreca talks about how body dysmorphia leads a woman to feeling so unhappy about her body that she’s convinced she needs to diet and change herself. She points to how companies like Dove even capitalise on and help tackle such insecurities with their Self-Esteem Project and #RealBeauty campaign. While the message of ‘love thyself!’ is one we all should embrace, especially on Mondays, Dove’s mission to mentally hug every woman (while convincing her to buy shower gel) and its message that feeling beautiful is intrinisic to personal happiness can be a bit much.

However, when it comes to tackling ‘achievement dysmorphia’ some brands may be on to a winner. Pantene’s #ShineStrong video from earlier this year depicted women prefacing questions in work with apologies, saying “Sorry!” in situations where they really ought not to – like asking the father of your child to co-parent. Then halfway through, the narrative flipped around to show those employees, mothers and partners in a blaze of ‘Sorry, not sorry”, getting on with their daily lives and no longer making unnecessary excuses. We all should harness the transformative power of YouTube videos to tackle the impotence surrounding compliments. Because we’re worth it, as L’Oréal say.

So this week we’re setting all you Image.ie readers a task – say thank you when someone points out how great you are. Don’t try to talk yourself down, don’t apologise for working. Give the “Thanks, Penneys” mentality the (in fairness, well-priced) boot.

Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun

P.S. Here’s the Amy Schumer clip.

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