We need more compliments in the world.
"Tay what are you talking about??? I compliment people on the daily!"
Okay, fine, let me rephrase.
We need more meaningful compliments in the world.
Yes, we are all experts at giving out these type of compliments:
I LOVE your Jacket.
Oh my gosh, your body is rockin'.
K, Cutest shoes ever!
Your hair is beautiful.
You're soooo pretty.
It's not that those are bad things to say, but I think we could tone it down on the superficial compliments just a tad and put a little more effort into compliments that actually mean something.
Let's dissect this a little.
Why do we give out so many appearance based compliments? From my experience, I think we do it for three reasons:
1) We really do like what we're seeing.
2) We like to make the people we care about feel good about themselves.
3) Superficial compliments are so dang easy to give out.
Here's the problem though-
We live in a time where self-objectification has become a national epidemic.
Self-objectification occurs when people begin to see themselves and treat themselves more as an object rather than a human being. Not only are they this way with themselves, but they also begin to see others as objects too. It's like we're all just figurines on display and our sole purpose is to be looked at and enjoyed. I really like how the book "Self-Objectification in Women" puts it:
"Women [and even men] have come to view themselves through the lens of an external observer, habitually monitoring their own appearance whether in public or private settings."
The book also goes on to talk about the consequences of this and among them are:
So if you haven't figured it out yet, self-objectification is nothing good, and sadly, our nation has fallen victim to it.
Learning all of this is what has caused me to feel indifferent about appearance focused compliments. Again, it's not they're awful and I'm not saying you shouldn't ever give them out, I just think they instill this subconscious message that we are what we look like, and that's just not true. Appearance is the least important aspect of a human being, so lets stop putting so much emphasis on it and maybe we can start to see ourselves as more.
If you think about it, we were conditioned for self-objectification at a very young age. Little girls are constantly being told how pretty they look, how cute their outfit is, how beautiful their eyes are etc. It's true though! little girls are adorable and its hard not to shower them with such compliments, but maybe we can condition them to be more than an object. More than a figurine. Maybe we should outweigh the appearance compliments with more important things. I realize this can be hard to do, but it just takes some awareness and a little practice. Here are a few examples:
You are so creative!
I love your beautiful voice.
You have a talent for making people laugh.
Thank you for being so obedient.
When your happy, it makes me happy :)
It's so fun to watch you play with your brothers and sisters.
I'd like to tell you about an experience I recently had. I was out to dinner with my friend and we were siting next to a family who had a little girl (around 5-years-old) and a little boy (around 3-years-old). Now I know I'm going against what I've been preaching when I say this but this little girl and her little brother were ADORABLE. Honestly. I couldn't stop staring at them. But anyway, at one point they both wandered near our table. I love little kids with a passion so I naturally struck up a conversation with them. I was asking them a range of questions and they were giving out the most comical answers, as most little kids do. Before they walked away, I wanted so badly to tell this little girl how amazing her blue eyes were, but just before the words slipped out, I remembered my feelings on the whole compliment thing. Instead, I paused for a minute to think about something else I loved about her that was separate from her looks. It was then that I noticed she had been holding her little brothers had through out our entire conversation and I realized that how she was treating her little brother was far more remarkable than her eyes. I decided to direct my compliment accordingly. I hope she can grow up knowing people notice more about than her beautiful looks.
I want to share one one more personal story.
So I've found myself being really depressed these past few weeks and I'm constantly feeling like I'm not good enough. Luckily, for me, I have the most supportive cheer team, family, and friends who constantly remind me that I AM GOOD ENOUGH. But everyone has a different technique when doing this. There are those who know I struggle with an eating disorder so they tell me how beautiful I am, and how great I look etc. I know they are being genuine and I definitely appreciate that they care enough to say anything at all, but I can tell you that when life gets hard, I don't remember those things. When Satan is trying to tempt me to act out on eating disorder behavior, remembering that so-and-so told me I have an amazing body doesn't give me strength or motivation to be strong. No. I find strength to overcome my trials when someone sends me a text and tells me they are grateful to have me in their life. I find strength when my coach tells me that I am valued on my team and he can tell that the girls really look up to me. I find strength when a woman at church writes me a note and tells me that she always looks forward to my sunday school lessons. I find strength when someone notices my hard work. I find strength when a friend informs me that my vulnerability has inspired them. Those are the compliments that keep me going. Those are the compliments that remind me I am more than a figurine.
Am I saying we we need to do away with compliments? No! not at all. Let's just start giving out DIFFERENT compliments. Try to see past a person's appearance and look for other things that are beautiful about them. Notice how they treat others. Notice their humor. Notice their attitude. Notice what sets them apart. Can you still tell them they look beautiful? of course, but maybe try to make it less frequent. It's hard to do at first but I've been practicing it for a while and it has changed my life. I've found that I am less judgmental of others and I truly have begun to see what real beauty looks like, and I'll let you in on a secret.. it has nothing to do with what our eyes are showing us.