When is a compliment an insult?

Published October 22, 2013 by Crystal

I’m pondering.

In the anti diet movement there is a belief by many that “You’ve lost weight” or “You’re looking slimmer” might be more an insult than a compliment.  And I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

I understand and accept that we are, I am, so much more than the way I look.  I realise that there is so very much, far too much, emphasis put on our appearances.  And the media enforces this every minute of every day.  The diet industry promotes this focus, and uses it to our disadvantage.


Our size shouldn’t matter to anyone.  It shouldn’t be a reason we do or don’t get jobs.   It shouldn’t be what deems us beautiful and ugly.

And maybe I have far to go before I’m freed from the subconscious messages I still believe.

I don’t feel attractive when I’m large.  I don’t feel particularly attractive when I’m slim, but I feel better.  In my mind other people can be whatever size they want.  Big or small, everyone else is gorgeous and wonderful.  But  I feel more comfortable physically, and less tired, when I am carrying less weight.  I feel I can take on the world a little bit more effectively.  For me, being slimmer is the preferable way I want to be.  And so at the moment I am putting effort in to this.  It’s not happening breezily, it isn’t falling off ever so easily, but it is coming off, and I feel confident at the moment.  I’m fitting into some clothes that had become a bit of a squeeze and have noticed small changes.    If someone were to say “You’re looking slimmer”  I wouldn’t personally see it as an insult.  I would think, they’ve noticed my body shape has changed, they’re showing an interest.  In fact, for me, I think I might be a bit upset if people weren’t to notice.  Like when I dye my hair drastically, and someone doesn’t comment, and I think “Do they just not notice me at all?”.

But I can understand how someone might see it as an insult.  A comment made about weight, when we want to be more than our size, can lead us to feel like the only thing we have going for us is our looks, maybe?   Maybe it’s time to start thinking about complimenting others in a different way?  Maybe it’s time to really focus on something other than size?  But where do we stop?  Because compliments are based on appearances an awful lot of the time, on a superficial level, simply because it gives us something to say, to break the ice, or give a confidence boost.  “Oh your hair looks good!”  “I love that lipstick” “Wow you look good in that dress!” all the sort of compliment I’ve heard or used, and I always mean my compliments.

If someone is putting effort into losing weight, it feels almost cruel to me to not comment or acknowledge the efforts.  Weight loss isn’t always easy, sometimes people really suffer, or do it for the wrong reasons, but if they’re trying so hard, how can I not say, “I notice your hard work”.

We are all more than our size.  This is very true, and must be celebrated.  But does it mean we can’t celebrate when someone succeeds in changing their life in a way they want to?

I don’t know.  Think I shall continue to ponder!




One comment on “When is a compliment an insult?

  • I think comment vs. insult also depends on the person who gives it and how it is intended. One time I wore a new dress and a co-worker said “Oh, is that something you finally fit in to.” I knew where that was coming from, but I also know that person is TOTALLY unhappy for herself, so I just smile and move on!

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