Compliment Me

Posted on April 11, 2012

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I still remember every comment I received about my looks between the ages of 11-17.  I know I’m not alone.

My friend and I recently got our hair cut together, and as we considered how short to cut it, one of us remembered aloud, “Well, someone once told me I’m not thin enough for really short hair.” We both laughed… but we didn’t cut our hair too short, just in case.

Some of our worst insecurities about our appearance may be the result of an offhanded remark more than a decade ago.  It’s a nightmare, and it’s sick.  We all agree that it’s not okay, and so we try to help the girls in our life.

We see the little girls who are navigating the halls of middle school and we flinch, remembering how we felt about our bodies at that age.

“Wow, you are BEAUTIFUL!” we tell them.

We have trouble warming up to a shy, insecure high schooler at youth group.

“I like your boots!” we tell these strange girls when we meet them.

We sit at a coffeeshop as our friends tell us about a person who deeply hurt them.

“Whatever, she’s probably just jealous.  And anyways, you’re drop dead gorgeous!”

Complimenting one another on our looks is the equivalent of seeing a house that is sinking into quicksand, your girl sitting on the roof as it sinks, and throwing her planks of wood so she can try to build another house.

We may each picture someone different sitting on that roof.  It might be your wife, your girlfriend, your daughter, your best friend.  For me, it’s my sister Rose.  She’s the one who has inspired me to second guess the entire building-a-house-on-quicksand thing because I don’t want her to survive—I want her to thrive.

The problem with our societal body image is not the result of a few offhand remarks from cruel boys or catty girls about our bodies/appearance.  It’s the basic assumption that as women, our entire value is wrapped up in how others think we look.  By giving mainly appearance-based compliments, we’re participating in such a society.  We’re teaching young girls, girls who are still gathering information about how life works, that the most important thing about them is how pretty their boots are, or how nice their hair looks, and especially, how beautiful they are.

Often, we give body image talks that focus on convincing girls that they are beautiful.  But no girl that you’re teaching that to is going to be the most beautiful girl in the world (even if they were, they wouldn’t know it because they’d be seeing pictures of Photoshopped women and plastic bodies all their lives).  If their self-esteem is rooted in believing that they are amazingly beautiful, their self-esteem is going to be rocked every single day.  A simple pimple or puffy face would throw their value awry.

Think of your girl.  You tell her she’s beautiful all the time, right?  Explain to her what you mean by that. And please, compliment her.  Where do you believe that her true value lies?

Start today.  Whoever you thought of earlier in the post is the person that you should compliment right now, this afternoon, and empower them to be confidently embodied women who are convinced of their inestimable value.

Let’s work together to take the hands of the girls in our life and pull them out of the quicksand, and help them build a house on solid ground.

I’ll start.  Why don’t you add on, in the comments below?

…the rest is between us sisters 🙂

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Posted in: Seriously