Why Compliments Directed at Others Aren’t Criticisms Directed at You

There seems to be a tendency within us to perceive third-party compliments directed at our competitors to be personal attacks directed against us. Whether you want to call it envy or a mechanism of survival, taking personal offense to compliments which have nothing to do with us can be a bad social habit to possess. 

We perceive the recognition sent toward those we consider ourselves to be better than as unjust.

For example, if you perceive yourself to be a charismatic individual, compliments directed at how charismatic your friend is during social gatherings can feel painful to you. Your identity would anchor on your perception of being more charismatic than the rest. You can thereby set out to prove that identity right in the face of others receiving recognition for the same thing. 

This article is written to motivate you to observe these feelings within you without allowing them to spark unnecessary actions or commentary. Specifically, this is written to warn you against attempting to step into the shining spotlight that was cast on someone else. 


Voluntary Publication of Your Sensitivities 

In bearing witness to someone receiving the compliments you think should be directed your way, you’ll feel a desperate desire to reel them in for yourself. 

As the spotlight is cast on the person being complimented, you can find yourself attempting to place yourself in it. Remember though, that spotlight tends to illuminate your insecurities when it’s not meant for you. 

If the conversation is about an individual who is not physically present, you can observe yourself wanting to downplay the accomplishments / skills which are being complimented. Other times, you may subtly want to insert yourself into the conversation. 


“Yeah John does very well during stakeholder meetings, trust me I know how hard it is to be likeable as well as to the point during these. I’ve had to prepare for hours the night before meetings like that, and that work often goes unnoticed.” 


You will voluntarily disclose the insecurities you hold if you make attempts to make an otherwise positive, complimentary, conversation about yourself. 

Remember, only someone else should make you the subject of a complimentary conversation. If you do so yourself, it will be evident to all around just how much you’re attempting to socially gain from that fact. 

Since such social dynamics happen in the psychological realm, they’re difficult to visualize. You should therefore try to remember the chocolate and the pickle: 

The Chocolate and the Pickle

Your intentions to place yourself in the spotlight (either by discrediting others or by propping yourself up) are akin to switching out a piece of chocolate for a pickle as others try to take a bite. 

Even though there’s inherently nothing wrong with the pickle, the people around you do not expect to take a bite of it at that moment in time. The shock factor of forcing yourself into their psychological bite will almost always result in a reaction of disgust

They’re there to indulge on the topic of someone else’s skills / performance / etc. Do not try surprising their appetite for that by forcing your pickle down their throat. 

Voluntary Publication of Perceived Competition 

The people complimenting others do not know that you may perceive those they’re complimenting as competitors. 

There is an even more important point to remember about your act of taking offense in the face of others receiving compliments. We seldom get offended at others’ receiving compliments if we don’t perceive ourselves to compete with them in the thing they’re being complimented about. 

Your Shapely Glutes 

If you’ve focused on improving the size and shape of your glutes at the gym, for instance, you will feel a desire to be noticed when others’ glutes are complimented. 

If you don’t think much about that portion of your body however, compliments about others’ shapely behinds will not give birth to envious discomfort within you. You will not feel as if your own glutes have been overlooked. You will thereby not be personally offended at your workout progress not being recognized by others. 

The publication of those you find yourself in competition with is sensitive information to give up for various reasons. 

People around you will have information on who you deem your competitors to be. By knowing those we compete against in various aspects of life, people will, at the very least, know how to push our competitive buttons. They’d be able to cause us pain in the form of eliciting jealousy. They’d begin comparing us to those we compete against and perhaps involuntarily grouping us with / against those people inside their perception. 

Be careful in exposing who you secretly compete against in life. 

Be calculated in analyzing how knowledge of your secret competition against someone will affect the social dynamics around you. Your competitors may begin picking at your weaknesses. They may ramp up the competition into realms you didn’t want to enter. 

Others may begin taking sides; talking behind your back about the domain you compete in, and can inadvertently add on more stress to your existence. 

Try to not expose your desire for the presence of your competitors’ mediocre results. 

An essential way of doing that is to not take compliments they receive from others as personal attacks.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.