When They Go Fishing for Compliments, I Resist the Bait

Photo by EDWW day_dae - http://flic.kr/p/72X6Zt - For illustration only

Reader’s Question

First, thanks for reading my question and for the great service you provide to others. This is the only site I know like this and I can’t wait to read your answer.

I have a question about emotional security. I have noticed lately that I have a hard time praising others, especially when they “fish” for compliments or praise. I will generally give them a compliment or two, but when they stress the same accomplishment over and over again and try to get me to acknowledge it, I get annoyed and won’t do it.

I am wondering if this is a sign of emotional insecurity or lack of self-esteem on my part. I feel I should be more willing to uplift others, especially those who feel it necessary fish for compliments. Why do I have such a hard time recognizing them without it feeling so unnatural and begrudging?

Psychologist’s Reply

The likelihood is that the person fishing for the compliments is actually the one struggling with insecurity or impaired self-esteem. Such insecurity can be the result of personality factors, but it can also be a sign of someone’s insecurity with respect to their relationship with you. They might not get a sense of genuine regard from you and might engage in covert acts designed to manipulate you into affording them some recognition. So, the real issue may be whether you have a tendency to associate with folks whose level of self-esteem lags behind yours or whether you have a deficient sense of regard for others that becomes apparent to them at some level in your relations with them.

In the end, “fishing” for affirmation is a no-win game. Those who are needy never seem to get enough validation from others, and getting affirmation from someone you’ve had to psychologically beat over the head for a compliment is ultimately not very satisfying. Similarly, being in a relationship in which neither party is really very sure of how much they are regarded and approved of by the other is destined for eventual failure. The best course: be genuine in your regard for yourself and others. Offer compliments sincerely and freely. Accept compliments graciously. Avoid “fishing” and beware when someone else is setting the “bait.”

Please read our Important Disclaimer.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. Originally published by on and last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

Ask the Psychologist provides direct access to qualified clinical psychologists ready to answer your questions. It is overseen by the same international advisory board of distinguished academic faculty and mental health professionals — with decades of clinical and research experience in the US, UK and Europe — that delivers CounsellingResource.com, providing peer-reviewed mental health information you can trust. Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. CounsellingResource.com is accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation.

Copyright © 2021.