What’s the Right Way to Compliment Someone’s Body?

Claire Fountain
by Claire Fountain
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What’s the Right Way to Compliment Someone’s Body?

I’m going to get straight to the point and share a truth with you: Beauty and appearance are actually some of the least important things about us, even if society likes to tell us — every day — that image and appearance are the key to a “better life” and happiness.

THE TROUBLE WITH APPEARANCE-BASED COMPLIMENTS

We are bombarded with this superficial message, and it’s easy to fall into a place where giving an appearance-based compliment seems like a sweet thing to do. Some of us might even relish these compliments, as we too believe they are valuable.

When I think of compliments, I think most of them are from a well-meaning place. We are trying to affirm someone and/or be kind. Unfortunately, the actual effect is that compliments about a woman’s body make her more conscious of her body and increase feelings of self-objectification and body monitoring. A fixation on appearance also moves toward placing a person into the “object” category. To make us more conscious of our bodies reinforces the idea that bodies are more important than the people who inhabit them.

EVEN WITH GOOD INTENTIONS

I have never liked campaigns aimed at telling all women (especially those marginalized by mainstream expectations) that they are beautiful. What if women didn’t have to be beautiful? By commenting on appearance (“being beautiful”), we are again conditioning women that appearance is the most important thing.

THE BETTER COMPLIMENTS

There is a time and a place for appearance- or body-based compliments (such as a friend’s new haircut they are excited about), but we have to break our instant focus on such externals.

However, affirming our peers, friends and strangers needs to go past physical attributes. Compliments can be genuine, thoughtful and have absolutely nothing to do with someone’s body. Individuals’ relationships with their bodies are complex enough.

Here are some quick tips for when we want to give compliments that help to elevate women (or anyone) as a whole:

  • Focus on abilities and what a body can do, not what it looks like.
  • Stay grounded around qualities and characteristics. Think of what qualities you would like to be noticed by those around you. Is it being kind? Strong? Smart? Determined? Calm, powerful, inspiring, insightful, thoughtful, curious, patient, etc., etc. The list could go on, but these intangibles are worthy of compliments.
  • Stay mindful of another person’s world. We never know what anyone else’s relationship with their body is. It’s also inappropriate to put our body ideals on them in the form of appearance-based compliments.

On the flip side, we need to own what we do when other people compliment (or comment on) our bodies. It is when we do not view our bodies as objects that we can let these comments roll off us. When we know we’re not objects, comments of any sort carry less power. That’s when we know how our body looks (good or bad, up or down, big or small) does not define who we are.

About the Author

Claire Fountain
Claire Fountain

Claire Fountain @cbquality is the wellness culture of tomorrow. A writer, visionary, and celebrity yoga instructor who’s globally recognized TrillYoga continues to influence the fitness industry. With clients ranging from the top NBA, NFL, and MLB athletes as well as being an UA athlete herself, Claire inspires with her unorthodox and realistic approach to yoga and mental health, while promoting a conscious lifestyle through insight and education. Her work focus on the intersection of women, well being, mental health, body image, self worth and the stories we tell ourselves with experience ranging from over half a dozen e-books to international classes and speaking engagements.
Claire graduated from Vassar College and is currently finishing her graduate studies at Wake Forest University while working on a (some day) book.

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