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The Problem with “You Look Great!”

I have lost a lot of weight since last February, almost 30 pounds.  Because some people asked, I’m going to outline how I changed my eating habits in a separate post that you can read or skip.  I lost the weight because I (1) was scared about my visit to the general practitioner, especially that she might say that I was prediabetic… or diabetic, (2) wasn’t fitting into a lot of my clothes comfortably, and (3) didn’t feel great, especially my joints.

I did not, I just want to point out, lose weight because I didn’t like the way I looked.

I actually thought that I looked pretty smokin’ hot 30-more-pounds ago.  Especially when I wore my beige suede-like pants and my sister’s grey sweater.  I would throw on that outfit and feel beautiful.*

Prior to February, with the exception of Josh and a handful of close family members, people rarely commented on my looks.  Understandable since I’m in my late thirties, not exactly an age that attracts a lot of attention, and I’m not an extraordinary beauty by any definition.  But still, everyone is on the receiving end of some commentary about their looks — either critically or complimentary — at a certain point in their life, and I assumed that point in life had passed for me when the comments on my looks had trickled dry years earlier.  I only missed the idea of people commenting on my looks when I forgot about how many times I’ve been upset by something a person said.  How statements about looks often sound — mostly unintentionally — like backhand compliments making commentary on some other facet of life.

And regardless of all that, it didn’t matter if no one else spoke about how I looked because the only person who mattered is myself and if I felt good about my looks, though — to be completely honest — Josh’s opinion mattered too.  Josh makes me feel beautiful, so in turn, I believed myself beautiful.

Still, I was willing to change how I looked if it also changed my health situation.  Because how I was eating, how I was living, was not very healthy.

Within a few weeks of changing the way I ate, people started commenting on how good I looked, and now, 30 pounds later, the commentary has reached a fever pitch, especially with people who don’t see me very often.  People are constantly telling me that I look fabulous.  They tell me that I’ve gotten so skinny.  That I look amazing.  And I know why they’re saying this — because weight loss is such a huge part of American culture (the focus on your weight, that is) that people believe it is ALWAYS a compliment if you are physically okay (meaning, the weight loss is not a symptom of illness) and losing weight.  They want to point out that they’ve noticed my hard work, since losing weight is hard work, and in the same way they would comment on a new book deal if I physically wore the contract as a dress, they are responding to the physical reminder of an accomplishment.

For the people I have shared the fact that I changed the way I ate — family members, friends, and all of you — it makes sense to comment on my weight, and I don’t feel self-conscious at all.  I told you I was doing this, I obviously stuck to that promise, and you are now commenting that you notice my hard work, and for that, I am grateful.  It feels nice to have an accomplishment recognized, and it is no small accomplishment to completely overhaul 38 years of eating habits.

But there are people who I know don’t read the blog, they aren’t friends or family members, and when they comment on the weight loss, they preface it by asking if I’ve lost weight, as if they’re checking before they continue with their train of thought.  Those people invariably say that I look amazing or fabulous or so skinny, and instead of making me feel good, it makes me wonder how they saw me months ago when I was 30 pounds heavier.  Because I thought I looked beautiful back then, and while it didn’t really matter to me that they said nothing about my looks at the time, the fact that they are commenting now means that they either have been sucked into the weight-loss-is-always-good-and-should-be-recognized myth OR they thought I looked like crap before and I am finally pretty in their eyes.

These are people who have even seen me in the beige-pants-and-grey-sweater ensemble.

It’s sort of like, if they didn’t think to tell me that I was pretty 30 pounds ago, they probably don’t need to tell me that I’m pretty now.  Perhaps we don’t have the sort of relationship where we comment on each other’s physical traits, and that is a good thing then to continue to that vein and not comment on each other’s weight.  Because the flip side is that I could put on all of that weight again — it is just so easy to do — and what will I think that they’re thinking when I’m 30 pounds heavier again?  That I’m not pretty anymore?  That my looks are fine, but not worth mentioning?

I am really not sure what the answer is.  On one hand, compliments make a person feel good.  On the other hand, compliments can apparently make a person question the unspoken words behind the statement.  Which is not to say that people shouldn’t give compliments, but rather that this is what goes through my head sometimes when a non-family member/friend/all of you comment on my weight.

How do you feel when people tell you that you look amazing after a change?  Am I the only one who feels this way?

* I’m aware that saying I thought I looked beautiful makes me vain (and in this Internet world, practically invites people to tell you that you’re actually ugly).  And while I doubt that I will ever be asked to pose for the cover of Sports Illustrated nor win a pageant (or even have some creepy art teacher ask me if I want to be a nude model for his class), I think I have moments, when I smile, where I look pretty by my standards.  And I would like to teach my daughter not to fall into the trap of continuously berating her features and instead accept them, finding beauty in their familiarity.  And that starts by projecting a happiness with my own looks, even as I contemplate giving in to colouring my hair.


1 JustHeather { 10.01.12 at 8:17 am }

I completely get what your saying and have thought the same thing on occasion. What gets me even more is when people tell me how fabulous I look and insist I’ve lost weight, when I haven’t and tell them so (and some even question my knowledge of my own weight).

I try to feel comfortable with my own looks and weight, but I don’t always succeed. Thankfully those ugly and fat days are not so many and generally coincide with hormones.

2 Manapan { 10.01.12 at 8:22 am }

I always feel the same way. “Oh, I like your hair like that!” <– What, so the way I normally wear it makes me look terrible?

I feel weird saying it but you're just plain pretty, Mel. You'd look good at any weight. And I'm pretty sure you have less gray hair than I do even though I'm 10 years younger. 🙂

3 No Baby Ruth { 10.01.12 at 8:35 am }

I think that people make these comments because they assume that you’ve made a change because you wanted to. So, in acknowledging that change they’re trying to acknowledge your effort. Also, I think it’s only natural to comment on something new because it draws your attention. I do understand that feeling of, “Well, what was I before? Chopped liver?” But I don’t think that’s really what’s happening here.

Of course, there does exist the possibility that someone has lost weight because of illness or stress or something and we, as a culture obsessed with being skinny, automatically assume that it’s a good thing… But what really is the solution? Don’t make comments at all? I think I prefer the compliments…

4 Rebecca D { 10.01.12 at 8:40 am }

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, as I have just undergone WLS (sleeve gastrectomy). How do I deal with the weight loss comments, do I have to tell every man and his dog what I have done and am I deceitful otherwise? Losing weight is this pinnacle in peoples minds and I don’t know how to approach it. Consider me in the hitherland on this one.

5 Jenny { 10.01.12 at 9:03 am }

I’ve had these thoughts, too, and I’ve never felt entirely comfortable when people have complimented me on my weight loss. The reason is that both major weight loss events in my life were because of illness.

I’ve dealt with depression since I was a teenager. In my most severe episodes, I found it almost impossible to care for myself, and that included eating. Of course I lost a lot of weight. It was very strange to have people tell me how wonderful I looked when I’d never felt more miserable in my life. I would think, “Do I need to be unhappy to look good? Is that the trade-off?” I never really knew how to respond to the compliments.

6 Mud Hut Mama { 10.01.12 at 9:49 am }

I think it’s wonderful that you can look in the mirror today and see a beautiful woman and that you could look in the mirror 30 pounds heavier and see a beautiful woman. It’s not vanity it’s self acceptance and self appreciation and I wish every woman could say the same about herself. There is too much pressure in our culture to be thin and the idea that thin = beauty but I do think most of the compliments people give when they see someone has lost weight are more an acknowledgement of how much hard work goes into changing eating and exercising habits. I would try to accept the compliment as an acknowledgment of the hard work you’ve put in and not as an unspoken attack on the way you looked 30 pounds ago. As an aside where I live fat is beautiful (and a sign of wealth). When you loose weight people take pity on you assuming you are sick and when you gain weight everyone comments on it. It’s been difficult for me to learn to say thank you when someone comments, “why Jody you are looking soooo fat.”

7 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 10.01.12 at 10:08 am }

You should definitely colour your hair. It’s a lot of fun. And show us the results! But (I hasten to amend) only if you’re going to find it fun like I do.

This reminds me of the lady who told me I was doing a great job with my son and then went on to complain about all the kids she saw out there with crappy parents (whilst I think, um, yeah, that scenario was us yesterday… and that was us last week…). Sometimes you need to know when to stop talking.

There’s got to be a way to acknowledge the weight loss. The safest I can think of is to ask for the person’s opinion rather than giving your own. This is like my parents saying, “What do *you* think of your report card?” every time I brought one home. It’s not perfect. It’s irritating, and you question whether you’re getting a genuine opinion from them when it finally appears. Or you could just acknowledge neutrally that the person looks different, that you’ve noticed. Which sounds kind of stiff and disinterested.

You know, I think you have to tread carefully and limit the hyperbole here. And I think on the other side the person needs to have a filter that hears good intentions from other’s words. But if nobody said anything it would be like they don’t really notice what you look like ever, so it is tricky.

8 anon reader { 10.01.12 at 10:11 am }

i have recently gone thruthe exact same thing- same wieght loss, same comments. no one commented on how i looked before, so it is my assumption that they thought either i was 1)too fat then, or 2)just looked ‘meh’. now, after losing the weight, i worry about putting it back on… it is a daily struggle. the worst is knowing that people will notice me getting fatter again. they won’t say ‘omg! you’ve put on so much weight!’, but they will probably think it. that sucks.

i have no idea what to think about it… i generally ignore the ‘you look great’ compliments, because i don’t want it to ba an issue or conversation piece. i am at my goal weight, and use how i feel in my clothes as a gauge to the way i feel and maintaining the goal. i wish people wouldn’t say anything.

plus, the weight loss and gain and loss and gain is totally related to IVF meds, IF, stillbirths, m/c’s, depression, etc. it is a very touchy subject for me, and when people say ‘you look great!’, it is a real subliminal trigger for me.

if you figure out some magic way of dealing with this, let me know 🙂

9 amanda { 10.01.12 at 10:30 am }

I totally understand where you are coming from. Another problem with ‘you look great’ is that if weight loss is attributed to a low self-esteem and done in not so healthy ways, it negatively reinforces unhealthy weight-loss habits and leads to more destructive behaviour. Living with an anorexic most of my life (mother) I have learned triggers that affect people who struggle with eating disorders. Many times, the affirming comments of weight-loss actually perpetuate the disorder (or at least until the person becomes sickly looking). Commenting on teen weight-loss is one of the worse things people can do for this very reason!

10 It Is What It Is { 10.01.12 at 10:45 am }

Having lost almost 50 pounds prior to getting pregnant, I definitely understand how people react to one’s weight loss (which, is often more dramatic than WE think it is, especially to those that don’t see us often). And, usually, with weight loss, other things improve as well like our posture, skin/hair/nails, wardrobe choices).

I never saw compliments on my weight loss as being relative (they think I look good now but like a slovenly pig before). I just think that transformation, of any kind (hair color/cut, weight loss, etc) catches people’s attention and the compliment is a verbal reaction to their knee being jerked.

My issue with being complimented (because I still had 20 pounds to lose) was that it made me complacent. I eased off the weight loss pedal because, hey, I look pretty good now! It sabotaged my efforts big time, a trap I will not fall into when I go to lose this pregnancy weight.

So, try not to be so hard on them…how they view the newly packaged you is NOT an indictment on how they think you looked prior. Its a noticing that you look different packaged in a compliment.

11 Susan Jett { 10.01.12 at 12:12 pm }

If someone works to change something very visible about themselves, people assume that it’s a change they really wanted to make and that it would be rude NOT to comment on it.

So rather than taking a compliment on your figure to mean “you looked awful before, thank goodness you’re thin now!” I’d try to take it in the manner in which it was most likely intended: “You look different, which means this change must be important to you and you’ve probably been working hard to accomplish it. So I should let you know that I notice, because I do care about you and I pay attention to the things that are important in your life!”

And sometimes we use verbal shorthand “you look great!” to mean, “that’s wonderful that you are taking such good care of yourself!” but I do not think the phrase is intended to convey anything but good wishes and that your friends would be horrified if they thought they had hurt your feelings by complimenting you!

I know I’ve certainly used the phrase “You look great!” when seeing a very pregnant friend–not because she looked terrible pre-pregnancy!–but because she was so obviously healthy/happy with how she felt/looked. It had nothing to do with any weight gained/lost & EVERYTHING to do with how ecstatic she was to be where & who she was. My saying, “You look great!” was meant as an acknowledgement of her hard work getting to where she was, as well as of her current happiness.

Could this be a similar thing?

12 EC { 10.01.12 at 12:27 pm }

I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s necessarily true that someone who compliments another person on perceived weight loss means that person has either been sucked into the weight-loss-is-always-good-and-should-be-recognized myth, or that they thought the person looked bad before the weight loss. I think it’s usually that people are trying to be supportive, since weight loss or other major lifestyle changes take a lot of effort. I work with a woman that I see a few times a year who has worked so hard to be healthier and has just lost 100 lbs. I would feel sort of bad not complimenting her, because it’s such a major accomplishment and is a result of a ton of willpower. 30 lbs would be a noticeable amount of weight, and I would guess that people just want to acknowledge it. I think people are just more likely to comment on change.

13 Tiara { 10.01.12 at 1:26 pm }

I have recently changed my eating & exercise lifestyle in an effort to be more healthy & weightloss is of course a side benefit. I am curious to read what you are doing. I think some people, when they notice you’ve lost weight comment as a way to encourage your progress since the ideal in our society is to be skinny but it makes me cringe when I’m losing weight just as a by-product of living a healthier lifestyle as I was happy with myself before the change, physically anyway. To receive these compliments makes me feel almost like they value me more now that I weigh less.

14 Shelli { 10.01.12 at 1:44 pm }

I am going through this too, having lost 50 pounds since February. The comments I get now are more in the vain of… “oh you look so great” but in my head I hear “you look happier” instead of thinking of weight and pants size per se.

Indeed, I think it gives an opportunity for those I am close to to relish with me in something positive, more so because I’ve had a rough span of years where there wasn’t much to brag about.

Congrats on your accomplishment, Mel. It is very hard fought, I know.

15 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.01.12 at 2:32 pm }

I like it when people notice a change. It means they’re paying attention. To meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

You have always been beautiful in my eyes.

16 EmHart { 10.01.12 at 3:45 pm }

I think this is a very interesting discussion, I have a very good friend who had a massive nervous breakdown which included bulimia, suicide attempts and self harm. During the time that she went down hill but before we knew she had a problem she put many photos on facebook of her shrinking frame. I had always known her as a larger girl, and something about the rapid weightloss worried me, but what was unbelievable was the amount of people who praised every slimmer photo. There was so much ‘wow, you look amazing’ and I just kept thinking, no, she looks ill. It worries me that someone in that situation was getting so much encouragement because of our cultural norms, to continue getting more ill.

17 Ann Z { 10.01.12 at 4:16 pm }

I lost 40 pounds way back in 2003, and I remember having the same thoughts. It was nice to hear I looked good, I guess, but it also just felt unpleasant, did all these people think I had previously looked bad? One person even looked at my wedding pictures, when I’d been 40 pounds heavier and asked if I was planning to retake the pictures (!!?!?!). I must have looked extremely shocked because he immediately apologized.

And good for you for working on the weightloss – that’s freaking hard work! I’m trying to get back to my earlier weight again (for health reasons, but also for vanity reasons) and I’m reminded of just how hard it is.

18 Another Dreamer { 10.01.12 at 4:20 pm }

I understand where you’re coming from about the comments. I do kind of feel that way too from time to time, but for me I just ignore them. I get a lot of encouragement and praise from people telling me what a good job I’m doing, or how inspiring my weight loss is. I do accept the compliments on my appearance too, because I think I look a lot better now too… don’t get me wrong, I liked myself at 250lbs but I am very pleased with how I look now too. Shopping is easier, and I feel more confident overall. That is such a small part of it though. Being able to walk 5 miles now at the zoo like it’s nothing is amazing, considering that when I started out I was in bad shape by the end.

I’ve lost almost 60lbs now, and I do get the comment “Oh wow, you look great!” a lot. I accept the compliments because if I’m honest with myself, it was the photos of me at 250lbs, the way I felt uncomfortable and overburdened in my own skin, that made me realize just how obese I’d actually become. I loved myself then, yes, but I wasn’t happy with what I’d allowed to happen to myself. I lost weight for a lot of reasons, I wasn’t healthy, my asthma was awful, I had trouble finding clothes, I knew that I needed to make some major changes, and I wanted to be more comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t lose weight to please anyone else. I know that my family and my husband’s family were concerned with my weight- my mom and sister specifically made no secret over their concerns. And that hurt. I know that my sister was coming from a good place, but I didn’t need them telling me I was fat- I do own mirrors. Those comments were the ones that made me uncomfortable, and made me hate myself more. The compliments sometimes come off as shallow, but I know they’re mostly just happy that I’m healthier and our society doesn’t program us to say that.

We are appearance driven. I get made fun of for my weight, by total strangers, so in a way it’s nice to balance out the insults with some positive reinforcement.

I think I’m rambling now. Anyway, congratulations on the weight loss. It really isn’t easy, but being healthier is such a wonderful thing.

19 a { 10.01.12 at 4:47 pm }

Because I am tactless and rude, whenever people tell me how nice I look, I say “Oh, yes – as compared to how awful I normally look!” They love it. :/ (This happens a couple times a year, because I either choose to dress nicely when I go to work, or when I go to court and have to dress professionally. Most days, I’m in jeans and a t-shirt.)

I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years recently. She had lost quite a bit of weight – but I didn’ t want to mention it, because I thought she looked a little bit sickly. When we went out to lunch and were talking about the office “Biggest Loser” competition, I clued in to the fact that she had lost weight on purpose…and then I told her that I thought she looked…really skinny.

20 a { 10.01.12 at 4:47 pm }

Congrats on tangible results from all your hard work, by the way!

21 Esperanza { 10.01.12 at 5:09 pm }

I knew before I read this, from the title alone, what this post was going to be about. As someone who struggled for a long time with weight and eating disorders, I’ve noticed exactly what you’re talking about and it is for that reason–that feeling of wondering what people thought of me when I wasn’t skinny because they just made such a fuss about me now being skinny–that I never mention people’s weight loss. Instead I take random opportunities to tell people they look nice, like if they do their hair special or wear a cute outfit or have matching accessories or something. I just refuse to comment on weight loss because I do feel it’s back handed and I won’t be a part of that vicious cycle of self-esteem being associated with weight. But most people are all over that kind of thing like white on rice.

22 Sharon { 10.01.12 at 5:34 pm }

There are some people who look good both with and without an extra 30 lbs. I can think of a few women I’ve known over the years who I thought looked perfectly lovely at their (higher-than-desired) weights who then dropped 30 lbs and looked good at the lower weight also.

When I complimented them on their weight loss, I don’t think it ever would’ve occurred to me that they might construe my comments as a statement about their having *not* looked good before. My comments were aimed more at noticing and acknowledging their achievement in having lost the weight, because I know from firsthand experience that any significant weight loss takes a lot of work and sacrifice.

Interesting post.

23 clare { 10.01.12 at 5:36 pm }

there is nothing vain in my book about owning that you are beautiful! Pre and post I have no doubt that you were gorgeous.

Lately I’ve been feeling those same words as a back handed compliment (after months of italians asking me of I was pregnant and/or asking if I lost weight). It is funny, several times I clearly am (a) happier and (b) carrying more pounds, and yet the go to reaction to seeing me happier is to ask if I’ve lost weight ?!?!?!?!?!

I really hear you on your comment about looking great. I know there are times where those words pop out of my mouth — particularly when someone is just glowing and content and proud of themselves and bopping along to their own internal beat!

I try to remember that perceived beauty is strongly influenced by how you carry yourself and smile and treat people and make people feel in your presences not just curves and bumps and scale numbers… but I wish here people compliment me on looking healthy and happy, because that captures the effort and progress so much more than my current weight (which is much more influence by things outside of my control like my current hormonal state or whether I’ve just had recovered from food poisoning!)

24 Pam/Wordgirl { 10.01.12 at 6:01 pm }

I remember a Pam Houston article once — or maybe story — about how people received her when she was 30lbs thinner — how she was visible — and previously had been invisible — I think we’re all brainwashed by this culture — I know I am — I have a terrible relationship with my own body image — and I’m terrified to be raising a daughter — did you see the article in Jezebel about Lady Gaga’s weight? Maybe I’ll just cut and paste it here — because it speaks to the uneasy relationship this culture has with women and their weight:

Just a reminder: Women can never win. And these headlines, about her weight gain? They do not stem from concern for her well-being. We all know what this is: Rampant fat phobia. Fat intolerance. It’s become quite common and acceptable to point a finger and declare someone “fat” or award them the “worst beach body” as if some stranger’s flesh is personally affecting you, impacting the quality of your life, WHICH IT IS NOT. Folks can’t claim it’s about her health, because she is healthy. The only gripe anyone can possibly have about Gaga’s body is that they don’t like the way it looks, that somehow because it’s fuller, it is no longer hot, and therefore no longer fuckable, and as we all know, that’s what a pop star — nay, a woman — has to be in this culture to be relevant. The thin, zero body fat, narrow-hipped, long-legged, cellulite-free body type that we see in commercials, on huge billboard ad campaigns and in glossy magazines is the ideal, and anyone who deviates from the ideal is fair game. Of course, that ideal is not only unattainable and unhealthy for most of the female population to attempt to achieve, it’s emotionally unhealthy, because its relentless ubiquity cements in the minds of the public one narrow standard of beauty. We all learn that thin = beautiful while internalizing that not thin = not beautiful. Which is toro caca. Every body is gorgeous and amazing in its own way, and hers is lithe, strong, functioning and able to dance for hours in platform heels.

And this kind of shit:

It looks like Lady Gaga has — um, how shall we put this — had one too many calorie-infused drinks!

Does not help. Her calorie intake is none of our business, and beside the point. Yet these “news” items use “fat” as a barb, an insult, something to be ashamed of. Lady Gaga is a 26-year-old college drop out-turned businesswoman who’s clawed her way onto Forbes lists and earned $52 million last year. Her weight fluctuations are irrelevant, inconsequential, and indicative of the horrible way our culture still has serious issues with women. Women are not individuals but public property; objects to be critiqued, judged, weighed, measured and inspected. Sad, sad, sad. The attention paid to and intolerance of weight gain says little about Gaga and much about our own sick psyches and misplaced priorities. When this is “news,” we have lost all perspective in terms of what is meaningful, of what a woman, a human is about and has to offer.


Because, in a round-about way — I think this is what you’re sitting with – the feeling that in all of the praise from unexpected (perhaps) places about your “thin-ness” — perhaps shines a light on some unspoken attitude that had been held of any of us when we had been 30lbs heavier that no one voiced …

I’ve loved you for years Mel and have no idea what your shape is — when I see your words all I think of is your lovely smile/eyes — that said — it IS quite an accomplishment.



PS thanks for the mention in the recent round-up — I’ll try not to let three months go by again…

25 Christa Singleton { 10.01.12 at 6:55 pm }

I had the same thing happen to me once. I decided to dye my hair blond. Like platinum blond. It wasn’t a good look for me. But I still wore my hair that way for over a year until I decided it was time to go back to being a brunette. The instant I came back to work with dark locks people were simply beside themselves with joy, complimenting the way I look now and how “natural” my color looks. Only after a few weeks of this did my closest co-workers admit that they thought my blond hair color looked like total shit. But no one mentioned it to me back then! It left me feeling a little pissed off about it, not to mention hurt that they wouldn’t point out that I looked atrocious with bleach blond hair. Now that I’m 200+ pounds, I do often wonder if my current co-workers look at me with distaste and think “I wish she’d drop, like, 50 pounds”

26 Wolfers { 10.01.12 at 7:15 pm }

I had been over-sensitive since the hysterectomy last February- to the point that when folks tell me “you had lost weight!”, I think “I had lost more than that..and you only see the weight?” Y’all know…?
And with an ex friend struggling with her eating disorder, it had helped me become aware of how society view women’s weight/appearance, so I take compliments with a grain of salt..

27 KeAnne { 10.01.12 at 8:04 pm }

I think it says something about how warped we as a society have become about compliments when every one we receive is suspicious. I feel it too. I’m fortunate that my height allows me to carry my extra pounds a bit more easily than if I were shorter, but all I can think of is my effortlessly size 6 self from high school and wonder if that’s when I was perceived as my most attractive. If I lose some weight, I’ll receive those comments too & I’ll conclude that yeah, I was as flabby & huge as I thought.

And then there are the compliments from those you wish wouldn’t say anything at all. I have a coworker who commented last time I lost weight & I HATE he noticed. Ugh

28 A Passage to Baby { 10.01.12 at 10:30 pm }

You are overthinking it. People see a change and they feel rude if they don’t publically acknowledge it. We want to be champions for each other.
But I think most of the time, a lot of us overthink or don’t know how to accept a compliment.

29 Justine { 10.02.12 at 12:51 am }

I’ve had people tell me I’m rude for not being grateful about compliments, for the same reason: not exactly suspicion about them, but sensitivity.

My friend who had the heart transplant just commented to me the other day how many people say that *he* looks great, and he is feeling sensitive about that compliment, too … he said, “do people have to almost die in order for someone to say nice things about them?” He was kidding, but it was sarcasm with an element of truth-telling.

30 Anna { 10.02.12 at 5:02 am }

Thanks for this, an interesting issue for me too. I hope that you are feeling healthier and well done on achieving the change that you wanted to achieve (can you tell that I really don’t want to say the wrong thing? 🙂

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about when people fail to comment/compliment you on obvious changes, haircuts, clothes, etc. The central point was that it can be hurtful when people do not comment on a change that you know they have noticed. I know that this is not the same thing but it drew my attention to the complexity of social rules around compliments, which is a subject I will be thinking about even more after reading this.

I’m not aware of ever having commented on somebody’s weight, under the guise of how ‘good’ they look but I will be more sensitive to the possibility now.x

31 serenity { 10.02.12 at 8:49 am }

You ARE beautiful. And I love that you were able to see that before you changed your habits. That’s rare, IMO.

When I lost my weight a couple of years ago and got compliments, I felt really good that my hard work was noticeable. But I also absolutely HATED the way I had looked before losing weight. Even now, body acceptance does not come easily to me.

32 Corey Feldman { 10.02.12 at 12:08 pm }

I can’t say I am ever bothered by it – haircut, weight change, whatever. I like to assume good intentions and I take compliments in that way.

33 Aisha { 10.02.12 at 4:22 pm }

I lost about 24 pounds and while I loved the praise and compliments it did leave me cold when ppl couldn’t stop gushing with comments like “finally you must be happy” and “oh my gosh can you ever believe you were the way you were” it leaves me feeling like I was previously a beast

34 deathstar { 10.02.12 at 5:01 pm }

Oh yeah, when I lost weight, I was suddenly visible, people couldn’t stop gushing about how great I looked – somehow I was more SUCCESSFUL!!! A BETTER PERSON! I felt incredibly uncomfortable with it all. Not that I don’t love compliments but like you, I was like wow, was I a beast and a loser before?! I’m pretty sure that nothing else could change in my life, but if I lost 30 lbs or more, I would be back in the “fuckable” category and therefore worthy of attention.

35 Astral { 10.03.12 at 10:14 am }

Good for you Mel!! I think some people say you look great to acknowledge that you did lots of hard work to make yourself better. And others will think you look way better or hotter. It depends on who it’s coming from. Personally if you lose/tone for yourself that’s all that matters. I am just at that point where I don’t care that much what people think. I used to hang on people’s words/criticisms of me. It made me feel like crap. I have lots more in my life to worry about than what people think. And remember this–when people say something negative about your looks or job or whatever, it means that they aren’t happy with themselves or their life. Kudos to you Mel!!! I hope your joints are feeling better 🙂

36 jodifur { 10.03.12 at 10:58 am }

I always thought you were pretty.

That being said, I haven’t seen you in a while, (too long if you ask me) and I’m pretty sure I would comment, because that is just me. It bothers me when I change something about myself and people don’t notice. So I always try to say something nice about someone, (shoes, hair, weight, etc.)

37 Stephanie { 10.03.12 at 12:37 pm }

When people genuinely tell me I look amazing after an intentional change that I have made, I think “Great, people are recognizing that I have accomplished my goal. I wanted to look better. I apparently do look better. Thumbs up, me.” I spent a long time being angry about the fact that I had to care about my appearance or hair or weight. Then I got busy and tired and older and realized that what I didn’t care about was caring about my appearance. I don’t spend a fortune on myself, but I bought good foundation and I wear it because hey, it *does* actually make my nice skin look a touch nicer. And that’s ok. At the end of the day, I am a woman unchanged at the core of me, with slightly nicer skin. I cut myself a slack that would have seemed traitorous in my 20s and early 30s. At 37? Foundation, and the application thereof, seems rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Same with the 15 pounds. Same with the updated haircut. Same with the lip tint that I think, frankly, I could have done without because it dries my lips and makes me uncomfortable. I comment because I notice attention paid to details now in a way that I may not have in the past. And I appreciate these comments in turn because I am, for once, not threatened or irritated by their utterance.

38 orodemniades { 10.04.12 at 10:55 pm }

I rarely get comments like that, so I am inclined to believe that the commentor is lying through their teeth and what they really want is for me to do something. I am, of course,a death fatty, so compliments on how I look are nonexistent unless they’re on how fat I am.

Would I like to be called pretty? I think I could have stood to hear this when I was very much younger, when I was 9-10-11, but my Mom wasn’t that kind of person (though she certainly had issues with how I looked later on, and pulled no punches as to my attractiveness, or lack thereof [as in “Nope, no man’s gonna want ya”]). As I said above, though, I don’t believe anyone who tells me I look nice, because I don’t. I am not attractive, or pretty, or any of those things women are supposed to be. Of course, I’m not white, either, which gives a double whammy, because the unwritten rule is that if you can’t be white, you can at least be attractive.

I do my best to ignore how I look, but it’s a hard thing to do once you leave the house.

39 orodemniades { 10.04.12 at 11:00 pm }

Oh, and for the record, I never compliment people on their weight loss, though I do acknowledge that weight loss has happened. Because I don’t think weight loss is something to be celebrated. Getting a degree is something to be celebrated, like getting married (or divorced!), buying your first car or house, getting into college – those are much finer achievements, things that are true accomplishments.

40 S.I.F. { 10.05.12 at 4:26 pm }

Going backwards here, but I relate to this SO much. I have lost about 20 pounds over the course of the last 2 years (so very slowly, and in a very healthy way as far as I’m concerned) and the “you’re so skinny!” compliments really rub me the wrong way. I know they come from a place of good, but it is just uncomfortable. I never set out to lose weight, I set out to be healthy. And I don’t want to be “skinny”. That isn’t a compliment to me. It feels almost like a dig, even though I know it isn’t.

Truth be told… I’m just not sure comments on a persons body are ever appropriate unless you are truly close to that person.

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