Why Do I Feel the Need To Tell People How Cheap Something I'm Wearing Is When They Compliment It?

Apparently just saying thanks isn't enough.
Publish date:
September 30, 2013
jewelry, confidence, budget fashion

See that really pretty, sparkly ring in my photo? I love that ring. I wear it almost every day. Lots of other people love my ring too because I get more compliments on it than anything else currently in my wardrobe.

I was at brunch with my friend Lilah a couple weeks ago and she grabbed my hand as soon as we sat down and told me how beautiful it was. Now, Lilah used to be a fine jewelry editor at high fashion mags like W and ELLE. She knows her stuff and she definitely thought it was vintage and very fancy.

My response probably should have been something like, "Thanks!!!! I know, I love it, too."

Alas, this is not what happened. Instead I launched into the same rambling story I do every single time someone tells me they like it. It goes a little something like this: "It's totally Stella & Dot and so not expensive. My sister-in-law's sister in Indianapolis has these Stella & Dot parties -- you know they're like Tupperware parties but with jewelry and wine -- that my mom goes to and I always pick out a couple of things for her to buy for me. I mean I think it's like $20." (It's actually $39 and you can still buy it here.)

I obviously (and truly subconsciously) must think this self-effacing behavior makes me come off as a nicer, more modest person who doesn't overspend on things, which is really stupid when you think about it. I'm certainly no better a person for wearing this $39 ring (that my mom paid for) than I would be if it were expensive. What do I think I'm accomplishing and why can't I just say "thank you"? Why do I have to add an asterisk to this cute little ring?

I notice that so many of my lady friends are equally incapable of just simply taking a compliment about their looks, their clothes, their hard work on a project (always tending to downplay and give credit to others), and I have to wonder if it's all wrapped up in the need to be liked that so many women struggle with professionally and personally.

Emily always tells people who compliment her hair that she has a weave so that "they don't just think my hair is really pretty."

And Jane's got her own version: She says when someone compliments a designer item she's wearing, her response is usually something like, "I've had it forever," or, "I've worn it death" -- as in, "I'm not so rich that I can buy Prada to wear once or anything like that and I'm no better than you so please like me!"

As Liz Lemon would say, "What the what?" Why do I have this need to downplay my style (or rather what I spend on it)? I work hard for my money and should feel proud to spend it or not spend it as I see fit. Why must I shy away from compliments and diminish my accomplishments? I don't know any men who do that.

In "Lean In," Sheryl Sandberg talks a lot about likeability: “Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.” Really, when I can't take a compliment, I'm leaning out. And I hate that, but at least I'm now aware of it.

So if you run into me on the street and I'm wearing my ring or my hair looks super pretty, hopefully I'll just say "Thank you so much!!!!"

What's your take on the whole likeability issue? Did I totally just overanalyze the hell out of my ring? Probably. But I always say that I like when fashion makes me think.