Compliments. Can They be Toxic Without Even Realizing It?

Adulting

“OMG you look so good.”

“You are amazing!! So proud of you.”

“Girl, you look better than ever. So happy for you.”

“Give me your secret!”

“WOW, you look great!”

“Good for you for taking care of yourself and sticking to this journey. So inspirational.”

I’ve seen these comments or comments similar under so many weight loss transformation pictures, even some of my own. It feels so damn good to transform your body. I know, because I’ve done it. It’s so incredible to see someone’s weight loss and it’s hard not to praise the crap out of them, because you know they most likely went through hell to get to where they are now.

I truly would not have thought anymore about this topic a year ago. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind that there may be an underlying issue here. I have recently started to follow women on social media of all shapes and sizes, specifically body positive influencers like Mik Zazon. This is done intentionally to broaden my understanding of women and to break free from the social construct that we are put in as young girls. We are taught and shown that image is everything. Even if your parents showered you with compliments (mine did) and let you be who you wanted to be (mine did), it’s extremely difficult for us not to compare ourselves to the thousands of images we see daily of skinnier and prettier women splashed all over social media and Netflix. How can a few compliments from our parents or spouse combat that? They can’t, they truly can’t.

“Okay, Taryn. That is no secret. It is hard to feel beautiful in today’s society, but what’s that got to do with complimenting someone’s weight loss?”

Is has EVERYTHING to do with it. How many of us have looked at women who have gained weight and thought to ourselves, “Gosh, she let herself go. That’s too bad. How sad for her. I wonder if she’s okay?” Quite honestly, I’ve thought these things before. Now, how many of us have looked at women who have lost weight and thought to ourselves, “I wonder if she’s okay? I wonder if this weight loss was due to anxiety or depression? I wonder if she was feeling so shitty about herself because of society that the only way to be happy was weight loss? I wonder if she loves herself more now?”

The answer is no. We don’t think these things. We praise her. We are so proud of her. She is killin’ it! We want to be like her and she is now worthy of praise because she’s a skinnier (and better) version of herself. Before, all we saw was weight and we felt bad for her. So this is the BIG question that I want to pose to myself and all of us…Did her weight loss change all that was good about her on the inside? Is she now magically mentally more capable and/or smarter? Does she not have a million more qualitites to praise other than her appearance?

An example from my own life…

I struggle with anxiety and when I have anxiety I don’t have an appetite. I also swear that the anxiety butterflies in my chest and stomach (currently flying around as I type this) burn my calories for me. When I first had a big weight gain it was so embarassing. I was drinking way too much. I wasn’t working out. My mental health was in a horrible state. BUT, when I lost 10-15 pounds, everyone praised me for it. That initial weight loss was all due to a bad break up. I couldn’t eat and my axiety was through the roof. I also was still drinking too much. My mental health once again not great. But who cares right? Because I was skinnier, so I was better.

Flash forward a couple more years during the hardest time of my life, dealing with my mentally abusive ex. I once again dropped 10 pounds and I was THIN! My mental health…the worst it had been. I was drinking occasionally but not as often, because I was honestly scared too. I didn’t know what I’d do to myself or him if I got drunk. I needed to be clear headed in case I needed to call the police etc… but I remember saying “well, my lifes in shambles, but as least I’m skinny.” I remember feeling so sexy, but you guys I was broken and shattered.

I has been working out during this time and started to understand that going to the gym or praciticing yoga was a great way to cope. I still continue that to this day. It’s way more mental for me than physical. I am in the best place mentally I have ever been although some days, not really. Let’s just say I am in the place where I am starting to understand myself. I’m starting to understand that life’s hard just means I’m doing life right. Thank you Glennon Doyle (If you haven’t read her book Untamed, you need to). I’m human and it’s okay to be mad, sad, happy, disappointed, anxious, angry etc…it feels good to accept all that I am.

That being said, I am also in a very good place physically and trust me, everyone notices and everyone compliments. In fact, the first thing some famly members say to me when they see me is comments about my weight loss, because once again, I’m skinnier so I’m better. There’s more to be proud of, because look how good she looks! Guess what, I still have crippling anxiety that beats through my chest day in and day out. I still don’t have an appetite and have to force food down my throat sometimes. I am not better! I am still struggling, especially during these COVID-19 times when the future of my business and our wedding is unknown.

But anyways, the whole point I’m trying to make is that YOU are still worthy of love and praise and all the good things no matter what size pants you wear. YOU are not your weight! YOU are not fat, you have fat, which is perfectly normal! YOU have a beautiful wise mind and caring spirit. No matter how much your weight fluctuates, no one can take that away from you! The reverse is true too, if you are an ugly person, no amount of weight loss will heal the resentment and anger you feel towards others.

I do have a disclaimer though….my mental health and feeling confident on the outside does have a direct correlation to how I am doing on the inside. I’m also in no way saying that we should stop complimenting people’s weight loss completely. Compliments are an amazing motivator and quite frankly, they just feel fricken good! I’m still navigating how I want to move forward with my compliments on appearance. It’s tough and I don’t have all the answers. I genuinly appreciate compliments, of course, but I can’t help feel that if I gain weight will I be undeserving of them? Will I be unworthy of praise? Will people think I’ve let myself go?

We just need to be mindful of the ways in which we compliment. I think as a society, especially raising kids, we should compliment the person on who they are not always on how they look. Examples:

“Wow, you are incredibly resilient.”

“You have the most caring and loving heart.”

“You walk into a room, and it lights up.”

“I am a better person because of you.”

“You challenge me and teach me so many things. You are a blessing in my life.”

“You are an amazing human.”

This is a tough topic! I love feeling pretty and I love looking good to be quite honest. I personally feel better about myself when I’m toned, tanned, and working out. I believe in the power of moving your body. But there’s a difference between being skinny and being healthy. I always strive for health and whatever the result is physically, then it is what it is. This topic is also triggering and I apologize if I triggered you in any way. If you are stuggling with your relationship to food. I see you. If you are starving yourself to fit into that swimsuit. I see you. If you are obsessively worried about gaining weight. I see you. If you know that you’ll never look like the models and you can’t accept it. I see you. If you’re terrified of gaining weight. I see you.

Biggest thing I hope to do, is to at least start conversations about this. To pretend this dichotomy in our society doesn’t exist is ridiculous. Let’s keep talking about it! I hope to gain more insight on this by talking with more women. I hope one day I don’t have to rely on people’s compliments about my physical appearance to feel good about myself. I hope one day, I will believe I’m worthy all on my own.

Much love,

T

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