Pay attention to the types of compliments you hear people give each other during the day. How many of them are based on appearance? Like “I love your hair” and “Is that a new skirt?” and “You look so skinny!”
The first time I lost weight, I got a lot of compliments. I got them from people I barely knew, barely spoke to. A distant co-worker from another department. The elderly crossing guard I pass by on my daily walk to train every day even pulled me aside. It seemed like everyone was invested in how good I looked. I felt good, walked taller. Felt more confident, more beautiful. At the same time, I felt conspicuous, self-conscious, a little embarrassed. My body felt exposed, on display.
It made me nervous too. My new body was a precarious thing. I didn’t feel like it belonged to me entirely. It didn’t feel real. Then when I gained back the weight back, I wanted to hide. I felt ashamed, like I’d let people down. Like I was a fraud, a failure.
The second time I lost the weight, I wanted to do it in secret. I wore baggy clothes in bigger sizes for as long as I could. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the compliments. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, and I didn’t want my “failure” to be one for public consumption. Then I became emboldened and embraced it. The rush of compliments came. But people got used to my weight loss and the compliments stopped. I had some personal problems, I didn’t feel good about myself. I did a lot of emotional eating. I went out drinking a lot. The weight came back.
Now I’m trying to find a place that’s realistic. I’m focused on my health. I had knee problems and I had trouble walking. I wrote about it here. I care about how look, but more about how I feel. I’m 40 now. The last time I lost the weight I was doing it for appearances sake, to meet a guy. I was 30. Now I have a great husband who loves me regardless of my size. That helps a lot.
I’m working myself from the inside out. I’m trying to feel good about myself in ways that have nothing to do with my weight. I’m trying to make myself believe that no matter where I wind up this time, body-wise, that I like myself for reasons that having nothing to do with my reflection in the mirror.
Which brings me back to the whole compliments thing. I realize that the compliments that I’ve gotten, that have really stuck with me, are those that have nothing to do with my appearance. Instead, they’re about things that I do well, things I’ve done that people have appreciated, qualities I have that people admire. These are things that I own, that are part of me. I turn to these compliments when I’m feeling bad. They help me realize the good in myself and my worth.
Our self-esteem shouldn’t be attached to what others think of us. I’m definitely not advocating that. And I’m not looking to other people to validate myself. I know it needs to come from within.
But if we can help each other along the path to self-acceptance, why not? People need people.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t compliment each other on appearances. I do think we should recognize beauty in all its forms, rather than based on body size. There is so much beauty in this world. And that beauty isn’t who is the thinnest. I want women of all shapes and sizes to realize they are beautiful.
But compliments based on appearances alone can feel superficial.
Delve below the surface. Take a look at the people around you and realize what makes them unique and special. As people, not based on what they look like. Then take the time to tell them. It will make their day. And they’ll remember what you said when they need a boost. A few sincere, well-spoken words can go a long way.