One of my Facebook friends posted about her intentional weight loss. Someone commented saying “You’re looking so great! Congratulations, keep working at it. And did I mention that you’re looking great!?”
I immediately fast forwarded to five years from now when there is a 95% chance that she will have re-gained the weight. Then what is she to take from all of these compliments for her now former body size and shape? How will she feel? Also, “keep working at it” seems to say “what you’ve done is not good enough”. Yikes.
I have had friends and blog readers who’ve lost weight because they were sick, or stressed, who’ve said that this kind of compliment makes them cringe. They couldn’t help but wonder how the person thought that they looked like before. And it made it awkward when they regained the weight.
I recently saw someone I know who had lost a huge amount of weight in a very short time. She looked gaunt and her color was off. I thought that perhaps she had been sick but I didn’t want to assume anything so I just asked how she was doing. It turns out she lost the weight on purpose and is super happy with the results. That’s absolutely her right, my goal is to compliment her in a way that will be supportive whether or not she keeps the weight off. So when she said “I’ve been losing weight, don’t I look great!” I went with “You’ve always been beautiful, I’m glad that you are happy.”
So compliments can be a minefield. But they’re also awesome. So what’s a girl to do?
Come up with a compliment guide, that’s what:
No Body Comparisons
Bodies are beautiful all the time. Some people’s body size changes because they want it to, some people’s size changes because of extraneous, even undesired, circumstances. Either way, it’s impossible to tell people that they look better without telling them that they looked worse, and that’s no good. So, don’t do it. Try this:
- You’ve always been beautiful and I’m glad that you are happy.
- You are beautiful at every size
No backhanded compliments
This should be a “no duh” kind of thing but you’d be surprised. A compliment should never include:
- “For a” as in “You’re really athletic for a fat girl”
- “I guess” as in “That dress is great I guess”
- “such, but” as in “You have such a pretty face, but you need to do something about your weight.”
- “brave” as in “You’re so brave to wear a sleeveless shirt”.
Drop the “for a” and “I guess”. Drop “such”, “but” and everything after, consider adding an adjective.
- That dress is great.
- You have a very pretty face.
Any mention of “brave” that is not followed by “for fighting off those wild animals” is a bad call. Try “You look great in that shirt.”
Ah, that’s better.
No putting yourself down as part of a compliment
- You look great, I wish I had legs like that
- wow, great job, I could never press that much weight
- I love your hair, I could never pull that look off
It ruins the compliment the person feels like they have to make you feel better at the end of it. Just drop the part about you:
- You look great.
- Wow, great job.
- I love your hair.
So go forth and compliment fearlessly!