Sometimes, A Compliment Can Do More Harm Than Good

It’s easy to notice something different, new or nice about someone, but sometimes, what you are planning on saying should just be left unsaid.

My freshman year of university, I developed an almost instant feeling of inadequacy upon arriving on campus. I had always struggled with my self-esteem and feelings of low self-worth. It was never serious, and eventually I sort of grew out of it and began to notice more positive things about myself. That changed in the fall. I began dreading walking to my classes because I felt like everyone was staring at me and I would even leave for class a few minutes late so there wouldn’t be as many people. I moved out of my residence because my I felt that my roommate was prettier than me, sometimes I wouldn’t leave my room for a whole day because I felt that all my clothes looked bad on me and I stopped going to parties.

I also became obsessed with my eating habits, which in retrospect were perfectly normal to begin with. But I didn’t see it that way, I skipped multiple meals, in fact, I didn’t go to meal hall for the entirety of frosh week. I had simply intended to avoid the cheers and energy of it all, as settling in was proving harder than I thought, and I relished in the quiet time I had in residence for an hour or so but it quickly escalated to something more serious than that – I began to see how long I could go without eating, and then eating very little when I did.

To get to the point, this obsession was unintentionally encouraged by my mother’s comments when she’d pick me up for the weekends– “you look SO skinny!” or “I can’t believe how tiny you’ve gotten!” (I was never big, I played sports and ate normally to begin with, but skinny was definitely a nice word to hear). Of course, she hadn’t meant for those comments to be damaging, but they only encouraged me to keep up with my lack of eating and negative thoughts.

Many times, compliments, though well intentioned can actually be harmful. Telling someone they look “skinny” is a back-handed way of saying, “you aren’t as big as you were before” which can lead to something unhealthy. You never know what people are dealing with (I grew up in a weight obsessed family, which had a very negative effect on my perception of myself) When it comes to compliments it’s best to stick with simple things, compliment someone’s new hairstyle or new blouse but make sure you’re not doing it in an insulting way and stay away from words like skinny, prettier, better and improved.


“I really like what you’ve done with your hair!” or “That hairstyle really suits you!”

Instead of: “It looks so much better than the style you had before!” or “Why didn’t you style your hair like that to begin with?”

I ended up leaving school after the 1st semester as I just wasn’t ready for it (and since being home , I’ve begun to eat normally and feel better about myself) , and yet ,I feel distressed that I don’t get those compliments from my mom or my friends at school anymore and I find myself constantly seeking approval on how I look. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – Shutterstock

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