Advice · Friendship

I’m Uncomfortable With Praise

This might be sort of a weird complaint but I often get comments from friends on social media to posts about my activities with my family or things I am doing with what I consider to be unsolicited praise of the “you’re the best mom” or “is there anything you can’t do” nature. I know that the intention is good but it makes me super uncomfortable. I post things to keep in touch or share information not to get praise or provoke comparisons. I am also not trying to create some false impression of myself that suggests that my life is perfect. I am not sure how to respond to them without seeming like an ungrateful jerk. Any advice?

I can see how that might make you feel uncomfortable! I know that a lot of people (women especially) feel awkward about receiving compliments. Society encourages women to deflect praise and downplay what we do, and then tries to shame or punish us if we flout those norms and share something that is likely to result in some accolades. Doing something that might elicit praise contravenes expectations and can create a fear that others will think one is trying to get praise even though that’s not goal, which can lead to discomfort (or even shame) in some people.

That can then induce people to start second guessing everything they want to post, out of concern about what others will think, when the goal was simply to just share a slice of life or provide some information that might be useful to others with shared interests. That said, people are going to offer compliments sometimes! But most people can’t simply turn off feelings of discomfort, so let’s talk this through together.

If the comments are coming from close friends, consider looking at them as you would if they responded that way in person. They’re not praising you for the sake of praising — they’re reacting to something that they think is awesome. If they leave an opening, you can always respond with suggestions of how they can join you next time, or do something similar in their neighborhoods. (But I’d reserve this response for close friends only; others might take some offense). Yes, you might feel just as much discomfort if they complimented you in person, but it feels magnified on social media because, well it is. But the sentiment behind it is the same (your friends are supporting and uplifting you), so perhaps try to focus on that, not the public aspect of it.

If the comments are coming from people you don’t know well but who engage occasionally, I suggest viewing them as attempts to interact and let you know that they’re still out there. Occasionally I’ll see something pop up from a friend I’m not super close to or haven’t spoken to in awhile, and I’ll make a point to comment. It’s not that I think they’re in need of or searching for praise; it’s more of a check-in, like “I see what you’re up to, and that is cool. Thanks for sharing!”

There are also, however, likely some people who feel guilt or shame when they see you (and others) doing positive things. These people may be put off by others who are public about the good they are doing in their lives. They might not even realize they are doing it — they just see ‘someone doing something awesome’ and overreact by heaping praise. That way, they think they’ve done their part, or somehow atoned for not doing the same things themselves. I can’t say if any of the compliments you receive are from folks like that, but even if they are, those are their issues, not yours.

Honestly, as long as you aren’t suggesting everyone live their lives exactly like you do, and aren’t finishing each post with “If I can find the time, so can you!” then I think you’re doing just fine.

Also, I’m not sure how you respond, but if there isn’t an obvious opening, you don’t need to comment back on every statement on your posts. You can simply like or love the comment and move on. I know Facebook and other sites open themselves up for conversation, and some people excel at that use, but for many people a single back and forth (you post, they comment without including a question) is enough. And if for some reason they expect a response to “Wow, great job, you’re the best mom ever!”, then that’s on them. Maybe you are the best mom ever. Whatever. “Thank you” (or in this case, an equivalent emoji) is a completely fine response.

With all that said, if the praise still makes you feel uncomfortable and you can’t re-frame that discomfort using any of my suggestions above, and some of it is coming from friends you feel comfortable saying this to, consider sharing your concerns outside of social media. Next time you’re together or on the phone (people still use the phone, right?), be open about how their “you’re so amazing” comments actually make you feel kind of odd, and that you appreciate the sentiment but it’s not necessary.

Another thing I thought I’d mention: if you don’t already share a balance of inspiring actions and challenging moments (though I’m guessing you do, given your point about not trying to create a false impression), I’d suggest that might be one way for people to know that you’re just sharing your life, not looking for praise. That doesn’t mean you have to dramatize small inconveniences or keep a running tally of the ups and downs in your life; just consider if the reality you present is the reality you experience. If it is, then more power to you.

Even with that said, remember: this is your social media. You get to curate it how you see fit. If what you want to share causes others to think you’re a great parent, then that’s fantastic. How others choose to react to it is up to them.

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