Anxiety When Receiving Praise

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I would like to know how to stop feeling anxious when receiving praise. When I was growing up, praise I got was deflected by my mom, and then when it was just the two of us later, she’d snap at me and tell me I was conceited and trying to get everyone’s attention. She’s passed away since, but I still get huge waves of anxiety if I get noticed for anything positive. Strangely, since her death, more and more, I feel my life closing in around me with a certain sense of personal paralysis. It’s very difficult to put myself out there in the world and do the things I know I can do. The anxiety is so severe that I’ve chosen work as a pet sitter and house cleaner so I can feel safely under the radar and work alone. There’s nothing wrong with my line of work, but I recognize that my motivations are based on this anxiety, and that’s not healthy. Do you have any protocols or advice for helping me to circumvent this issue? Thanks!

A: Thank you for writing this. Praise can be a double-edged sword when you have received praise without criticism. What I recommend is a type of “praise inoculation.”

In the same way the introduction to a small amount of a virus can build up antibodies, you may have to take praise in small doses until you can tolerate it. The same is true for acvcepting positive feedback of any kind. Here are my recommendations:

  1. When you receive a complement or praise simply say “thank you.”
  2. Take the time to savor the feedback. This means allowing yourself to acknowledge it has been received without diminishing or putting it down.
  3. Start a positive portfolio. When you get letters of recognition or positive feedback keep a journal of it. Write it down and put it in the folder. This includes any awards, commendations, and acknowledgments you’ve received in the past. A positive portfolio gives you an opportunity to review your past accomplishments and allow yourself, little by little, to get used to receiving positive feedback.

By consciously acknowledging what’s good, you build up a tolerance for praise. You are opening up a pathway for your psyche to accept the support, kindness, and gratitude others have for you.The anxiety should diminish over time.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Aug 2014

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2014). Anxiety When Receiving Praise. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/08/13/anxiety-when-receiving-praise/