No. 28

Compliments and Beauty

A week ago, my friend Steph and I met for a picnic in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden, listening to the live jazz music and enjoying the evening. She recently moved in with her boyfriend and we were talking about how hard it is to adjust to new routines when living with people, whether they be significant others, friends, siblings, or strangers. She has also been trying to understand how her boyfriend expresses his love because he doesn’t often compliment her or tell her she’s beautiful. Suddenly, living together, he is there as she gets ready; there’s no mystery, no arriving at the door to find a woman transformed from gym clothes to a great dress for an evening out. But we all like to hear how beautiful we are. We want people to say it.

I realized that no matter how many times a guy says it, it means more to me when I think I’m beautiful or when another woman tells me I look beautiful. Why? The compliment is not a means to an end, but the end itself. If a guy tells me I’m pretty, I don’t entirely believe him; I wonder if he wants something. But when it comes from myself (trust me, I find it really hard to compliment myself) or from a woman, it takes on new meaning.

It seems though that women don’t compliment each other often anymore, as if there were some finite amount of beauty in the world and we’re competing for it. Sometimes it’s just easier to compliment friends and women we know rather than strangers on the street. But can you imagine how much we could rock each other’s days if we went around tossing out compliments to any woman who we thought was really owning her beauty?

I tried it last week, just on the walk from my apartment to my barre studio. I complimented one woman because she had seriously awesome hair, another woman with great style, and a third woman who was pregnant and just had that awesome glow. There were smiles all around.

This may have to become a regular habit.

What do you think? Do you find it hard to compliment yourself? What’s the best compliment from a woman you’ve ever received?

{image via Pinterest, no luck finding original source}

About brandi

Brandi is a digital strategist, website developer, and founder of Alchemy+Aim, a company that helps entrepreneurs and business owners elevate their online presence and enhance their digital experience. Her academic background in theatre, philosophy and physics was the perfect foundation for launching her business, where she’s worked with Brené Brown, Laverne Cox, Judy Smith, and other notable thought leaders since 2013. She is an advocate for using technology in ways that humanize, connect and serve people as well as for asking deeper philosophical questions and teaching others to think more broadly about impact when they create, particularly in STEAM fields.

17 thoughts on “Compliments and Beauty

  1. I definitely don’t compliment myself and I guess the reason being goes for why most people don’t compliment themselves – they can see their own flaws. Aside from the blogging world (i.e. commenting other fashionistas on how amazing their sense of style is), I always try to make others smile. I figured if it’s enough for me to have someone make me smile, it could turn around someone else’s day.

    Compliments are always welcomed by anyone and everyone despite what kind of mood they may be in. The best ones though are usually from the ones that we love and from the ones who we barely know.

  2. Oh there have been so many times when I whisper to myself wow, I really love her top. Or, damn how does she get her curls looking like that?! But I stop myself from actually saying anything to them because I’m shy and don’t want them to think I’m a weirdo. But you’re right, every time I’ve been genuinely complimented by someone random, it feel great! After I get over the initial shock that someone would compliment me.

    Long story short: I need to work on both giving and receiving compliments. Kudos to you for breaking the glass wall and doling them out!

  3. You know, I’d never really thought of it that way, but I always take compliments from women to heart more so than from men. When a woman compliments another woman, she means it. I always like telling other women when I like their shoes or something like that, and asking where they got them is usually something I do too. I think the best compliments I ever get have to do with my hair. :)
    Giving myself compliments is a whole other thing. I need to work on that one.

  4. I love complimenting strangers because they look so happy. The other night, an old lady walked up to me and said, “You’re a ballerina, aren’t you?” I loved that!

    I’m very grateful Mr. Branflake always compliments me and tells me he loves me. I walk in in my sweats and hair in a ponytail and his jaw drops.

  5. Last winter I almost ran over an old lady with my bike, I gave her my best apologetic smile and said sorry, afraid I startled her and that I might get yelled at.
    I didn’t though, as if nothing had happened she exclaimed: “I love your boots!!”
    Made me smile for the rest of the day – and to this day it remains a story I often tell other people, mostly as a reminder to myself of how happy that comment made me, and that I should be more like that old lady :)

  6. I’ve been thinking a lot about this as well. I’m trying to own my own beauty and do the things that make me feel good and beautiful. So far, it’s been doing things like wearing a dress because I always feel pretty in a dress or adorning red lipstick while I’m alone at work because I like the way it looks in the mirror across the room.

    I think women take other compliments from other women more seriously then when they are from men because it’s like our competition is complimenting us. Obvio, I don’t think every women is another women’s competition but we usually look at other women, notice and compare between us and them etc. I think women are women’s biggest critics.

    I’m trying to start a project here in Toronto where I leave notecards or postcards for people to find that have nice things written on them, in attempts to bring a smile to a stranger. It’s a rough start.

  7. What a timely post! I just finished reading a similar examination over at:

    I mainly compliment using words and damn often, but I think a lot of people compliment more through actions. The trick, for me, is to spot the actions that are compliments. Example: A friend asks to borrow a particular dress of yours. Why? Because they like your dress and because it looked good on you! Maybe ask your friend to observe ways her boyfriend compliments her in other ways, maybe he plays with her hair or something!

    The best compliment I’ve received was “Hope is pretty and nice, the bitch!”

    What an amazing compliment!

  8. This is a good reminder! I make a point of complimenting my friends as often as I remember – and being amazing, beautiful people they always deserve it. I don’t really compliment myself per se, but I do put effort into my appearance and I usually make myself appreciate the result.

    I think if you’re talking about ‘beauty’ compliments they mean different things coming from men versus women. Women I think compliment more from admiration, men perhaps from awe? I don’t thin most men call their girlfriends beautiful just as a means to an end though :)

  9. I absolutely love complimenting women and sometimes I get shy but I usually get what I want to say out. It doesn’t matter who the person is, if I like them or don’t, if I am close with them or just walking down the street and see them. I usually make an effort. I find that it’s very important. We don’t compliment each other nearly enough, We battle for the attention of men (or other women if we’re into that) and so woman to woman compliments are fewer and father between. It makes me sad.
    I use to be one of those women that said “oh i just hang out with mostly guys because I get along with them better…”
    Then I read a book by the title of Catfight that was recommended to me by this awesome, awesome woman I had a class with and wish I never lost contact with, and it talked about how we say these kinds of things and we often separate ourselves from our own, calling the others crazy and emotional and using the same negative terms that guys do.
    It made me really question my thoughts towards women. I love women. I love my female friends, I find them very necessary in my life, and, (for the most part hehehe), I know they aren’t just hanging out with me to get in my pants. If we embraced each other a little more, and decided we didn’t like certain people because of different traits, not gender, then maybe we would all be a little better off, maybe the thin wars or the backhanded compliments wouldn’t be as prevalent.

    I went off on this one didn’t I? Sheesh, I have a lot to say about this. Anywho, I am with you on the compliments from women.

    But… I do want my partner to let me know he thinks I’m pretty. It feels very empty and confusing when you don’t hear that kind of thing. It makes ME (and this might not be all women) wonder why he’s there if he doesn’t think it. Or maybe it just makes me question it. I feel like as a male, if you are getting the goods (and all that entails), then let your lady know you think the world of her. It means so much more than any bought thing.

  10. I get so shy! I don’t know why. Literally, at least five times a day, I encounter another woman with fabulous hair/style/spunk/whatever and feel the urge to offer a sincere compliment. I usually chicken out and maybe just offer a smile and a nod. Need to stop doing that and speak up. Sheesh.

  11. Yes, I do think people need reminders about their good qualities, particularly those that they don’t think people notice. It’s kind and also can make someone’s day. That’s gonna be a September resolution of mine – be kind and compliment people :)

  12. I believe in compliments; I believe it does great things for the complimenter, and the complimentee, but it also just spreads good vibes out there. I just ran to Olive’s for lunch and complimented a girl there in a really cute dress. But, I’ve noticed, I tend to compliment strangers on specific things – outfit, shoes, hair, nails, eye make-up – rather than general beauty. I have no problem telling my friends they look gorgeous, but stopping a random woman on the street with “You look beautiful” feels a bit awkward to me. I would worry that the unusualness of such an encounter would detract from the compliment. On the other hand, unless we give compliments like that regularly, they’ll continue to be unusual.

    I give compliments to guys, too, but it’s sort of the same phenomenon you describe about getting compliments from guys, only in reverse. Sometimes I worry a guy will think I’m interested when really I’m just being friendly.

    In any case, compliment away, I say! In a day and age when so much of our communication is technology-driven, compliments are a great way to make a real human connection.

  13. i need to do this more. compliments can build bridges and provide openings to conversations. so needed. p.s. i also need to become a better receiver of compliments.

  14. I’ve also been trying to compliment people more, just by noticing them, really. It is always so much nicer to be noticed by a stranger.

  15. First of all, I am spellbound by your photographs of Scotland hun! I am SO happy you had an amazing time & can’t wait to hear all about it in person! Secondly….you know I LOVE to compliment people. I KNOW how it makes someone’s day, and though I sometimes feel shy about it, I think about how much it means to me and usually get it out. There should be more of that. It gives us all confidence. It is a small gift to give someone. I love it!

  16. This is all so true. I will definitely make an effort to compliment people more often. I think I also need to practice accepting compliments! I get all embarrassed and weird whne it really should be empowering. Like you said, I also need to work on giving myself compliments. Love this post.

  17. YES. I love this. Beauty is not a zero-sum game.

    I think what’s awkward about complimenting women is how taken aback they can become by it – sometimes they refuse to receive the compliment! We should be able to gracefully receive compliments just as much as we give them. How often do you say “I love your [fill in the blank]” to receive a rebuttal that contradicts your compliment?

    Love this post, Brandi. What a great reminder to share the love.

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