Runners should learn to accept compliments paid by others, writes Susan Lacke.

Last weekend, I was at a local race cheering on my friends. After one friend sped across the finish line, I high-fived her and told her she was a badass.

“Yeah, right,” was her reply. With an eye roll, she added, “I sucked, and you know it.”

Minutes later, I saw another friend:

“Nice time! You’re getting faster!”

“Not fast enough. I still need to shave off another 10 seconds per mile.”

And so it went, all morning long:

“I like your kit!”

“It makes me look so fat.”

“You did great out there!”

“You must have mistaken me for someone else. I did horribly.”

“I can tell you’ve been working on your running form! You’re like a gazelle now!”

“You’re just saying that. I look like crap.”

Every single compliment I gave that day was immediately destroyed, like a marksman shooting clay pigeons: Someone got a new PR? That was just luck. A podium finish? All the fast people stayed at home, obviously. Looking lean and mean? Shush, that’s a lie.

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Why has this deflection become the norm? Must we be so quick to minimize when someone recognizes our hard work? What good comes of the insult reflex?

Please know that I am striking my computer keys with excessive force as I write this:


If your boss handed you a $1,000 bonus check for a job well done, would you rip it up in front of her face?

If your grandmother spent weeks knitting you a sweater, would you yell at her: “Grandma, you know purple does not work with my complexion!”

If the cute guy you’ve been dating gave you flowers, would you kick in him in the crotch and run away?

Probably not. Yet every time you shoot down accolades, you’re doing those very things. A compliment is a gift, too. Treat it like one.

You may not think that finishing a 5K is a big deal, but to someone else, it is. You may look in the mirror and see nothing but cellulite, but another pair of eyes only sees the strong legs of a runner. When someone sincerely points out something positive, they are building you up. Why are you tearing yourself down?

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Think of compliments as one of those absurdly huge Publisher’s Clearinghouse checks. Take that sucker right to the Confidence Bank and make a deposit. Don’t tear it up. Maybe one day, after enough deposits, you’ll finally realize that you earned every single one of those kudos.

If you’re going to destroy anything, make it the list of faults you’ve rehashed so many times. Shred the self-deprecating attitude. And stop it right now with the insult reflex, you hear? STOP IT.

The next time someone pays you a compliment, absorb the moment. Look him or her in the eye, say a genuine “thank you,” and smile like you deserve it.

Because you do.

About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke