Something I talk about in the classes I teach on Assertiveness, Self Esteem and Criticism, is that a lot of people have a hard time accepting compliments. So often in life, we are unable to take compliments at face value, and we have a hard time accepting them as positive. Sometimes it is because we are wondering about a hidden motive, what does this person want? Why are they being nice to me? Other times, it is because we don't believe it ourselves, when we feel badly about ourselves, it's hard to imagine that others don't feel similarly. I'm sure the following conversation is fairly normal in your life as well.
"Nice outfit today!"
"Oh, this old thing, I found it in the back of my closet"
"You did a good job on that project!"
"(list of all the things that went wrong on the project)"
Because I am constantly teaching this, I've tried really hard to work on it myself, and I really think I've improved at taking compliments, except about one issue. See, here's the thing, in January, I did a detox at yoga, and after that, my naturopath put me on an asthma nutrition plan which cut out eggs, wheat, dairy, chocolate, wine and beer. So, since January, I've lost more than 40lbs. I am still not even half way to being a "healthy" weight for my height, but it's a big change, and it's quite noticeable now. I have a really hard time with this. Part of the problem is that I was happy with my body the way it was before, and I'm happy with my body the way it is now. I'm enjoying the weight loss because it's been good for my yoga practice, and I'm almost out of plus sizes so the thrift store will have more clothes that fit me... oh, and towels wrap around me better! I am not, however, obsessed with the weight loss. I stick with the eating plan because it has helped my asthma A LOT. I've cut back a huge amount on the inhaled steroids, from two puffs, twice a day to one, once a day, and the only time I have asthma symptoms is when I eat things that aren't on the plan, (like the s'mores last weekend!)
How does this relate to compliments? Well, I've started getting a lot of "compliments" on my weight loss. And I'm really having a hard time with it. I've been trying to get to the root of why, but I'm having a difficult time analyzing it. Part of it, I think, is that it seems too personal, but my body is something the world sees everyday, of course my coworkers and friends will notice the change in size. If I get a new hair cut, or new makeup, they notice, why wouldn't they notice this. Then there is a part of me that feels that I don't deserve the compliment, that I haven't done this to lose weight, that I'm not cutting calories that much (I eat a lot of tortilla chips and jelly bellies). The simple fact is, that with cutting out eggs, wheat and dairy, and continuing with my yoga classes, I must be eating less than I put out. I've had to eliminate frozen pizza and ice cream and lean cusine frozen dinners from my daily eating, and it makes a big difference. I also had to stop eating most desserts and snack food. So, I feel like I'm not putting nearly as much effort into this, in a direct way, as all the times I did try and lose weight and failed.
So really, I think the issues comes down to the weight. I don't like that the focus is on weight. I don't like that it's something we compliment people on, and yet in some ways, I think we should? I have a lot of thoughts about it, and I'm having a hard time getting them out. On the no side, as in no, we shouldn't compliment people about their weight loss, my thoughts are as follows.
- Self Esteem and Self Worth should not come from physical image or outside things. Giving compliments about this does not promote internal factors.
- My sister has an eating disorder, as do many, many others, and this is a huge trigger thing.
Then there's my thoughts on the we should compliment people side of things.
- Science has shown us over and over that obesity is rampant, and a huge cause of health programs, should we not applaud people's efforts to be healthy?
- (This goes with the one above, I suppose) if someone were to quit smoking, we would applaud it, if they were to quit drinking, we'd compliment them, why wouldn't we do the same to weight loss?
I think what it comes down to, is who the compliments come from, and how their phrased, at least in my book. For example, when my supervisor compliments me, she says things like "you've really changed a lot of your habits" and she encourages me in my healthy eating. When her supervisor compliments me, she says things like "you're a lot smaller, have you lost weight?" I find the questions harder than the compliments, I suppose. People telling me I look good, I don't seem to mind nearly as much as people telling me I look good I because I've lost weight, or that the weight loss looks good. I have a really hard time with those, and I question, did I look that bad before? I was okay how I looked then to! (I also really hate it when anyone calls me a skinny minny, or really, when anyone uses the word "skinny".
I suppose, this has no conclusion. I haven't answered any of my questions. I still don't know whether it's good or bad to compliment someone on their weight loss (thankfully I'm so oblivious I never notice when someone loses or gains weight, so that part of things is not an issue for me), and I still don't know why it bothers me so much when people compliment me on my weight loss. Thoughts for another day, I suppose.