Fitness Friday: False Modesty

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to take a compliment?

You probably know by now that I like a good exercise class.  My favourite used to be an advanced step aerobics class until they replaced it with a new class 😦

The instructor would start the class by saying that while it might seem hard at first, you would get used to it, and it would be easier. A typical response was “No, it’s always hard”.  A few friends and I would stand at the front, and when new people joined they would be encouraged stand behind us so they had someone other than the instructor to copy.  Regulars and new people would say that we were good.  But it was typical to reply “No, I’m not that good, I mess up loads”.

Our comments were meant well, just modesty about abilities.  However, my concern was how that would influence other people.

Modesty: the quality of not talking about or not trying to make people notice your abilities and achievements”

False modesty: behaviour in which a person pretends to have a low opinion of their own abilities or achievements”

I don’t think it was false modesty in the sense that people ‘pretended’ to have a low opinion of themselves, I think you forget how hard it is at the beginning and don’t realise how good you’ve gotten.  I’ve seen how off-putting it can be to new-comers thought.  I think we need to be able to recognise and own our strengths and achievements.


I think part of the reason people find it hard to accept a compliment is for fear of coming across as arrogant – It would appear that arrogance and modesty are polar opposites, however, the dictionary definition of arrogance

1. offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.
Recognising a job well done, or a natural ability does not make you arrogant.
My Grampy used to say
“Accept it with grace”

I’ve enrolled on a course at work to do with assertiveness, and confidence building, especially for women.

Here is what they say about accepting compliments:

” We live in a culture where compliments are regarded with great suspicion. Giving them and receiving them is difficult, as people may either think that you’re ‘crawling’ to them or that you have an ulterior motive…

To receive a compliment – keep it short and don’t push it away or run yourself down.  You may also want to say how you feel.


‘You made a really good job of that piece of work.’

Passive: Oh it wasn’t particularly difficult – John did most of it anyway.
Aggressive:(sarcastic) Oh you noticed did you?
Assertive: Thanks, I was pleased with it too.

(From Springboard women’s development workbook, pgs 183-184. Published by Hawthorn Press)

Lets start to ‘own’ our achievements, and accept compliments.

Do you find it easy or hard to give and receive compliments?

Any compliments you’ve received that stick in your mind?  Let’s share the love and focus on the positive 🙂


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