why beautiful is not a compliment

Everyone likes to feel beautiful, right? That’s what the media tells us; that’s what our inner nature tells us; it’s what we instinctively tell any little girl we see and the way we measure our attractiveness against other people’s, whether intentionally or subconsciously.

After finding myself telling my daughters this all the time, I had to stop and realize what I was doing, because telling someone they’re beautiful may be a true statement, but it’s not exactly a meaningful compliment.

If someone is, as you deem them, beautiful, that’s the way they were made. They didn’t do anything (short of extreme plastic surgery gone right, in which case you can compliment the doctor) to look like that. And even so, a compliment towards one’s beauty is merely a statement on their outward appearance, one they had no control over.

Related post: The problem with ‘everyone is beautiful’

Why beautiful is not a compliment (and what to say instead)

Because of society’s fixation with beauty, from the time we’re little girls, we want to play with makeup, curl our hair, and wear pretty dresses to look beautiful. It’s okay to be interested in fashion and beauty, but where I see the problem is the idea that beauty means exceptionalism.

This innocent interest in beauty grows into a fixation for looking good, for controlling your weight, for judging yourself and others against this ridiculous “standard” of attractiveness.

Then came an influx of campaigns from the media, like Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign, showing beauty is all shapes and sizes. While this was meant to counteract the media’s narrow vision of beauty, it’s actually a horrible problem in itself. (But I digress – go read that post though!).

Next time you feel the urge to call someone beautiful, here’s a list of alternatives to consider. Let’s start this while they’re young to give a more meaningful, real depiction of what self-worth means.

30 things to say instead of “you’re beautiful”

  1. You inspire me.
  2. You are brave.
  3. You have a beautiful spirit.
  4. You’re intelligent.
  5. Your smile is contagious.
  6. You’re a hard worker.
  7. You are always helpful.
  8. You teach me so much.
  9. I am proud of you.
  10. You’re a great role model.
  11. You are creative.
  12. You make a difference.
  13. You’re a very special person.
  14. You’re a great mom | teacher | business woman, etc.
  15. You make me want to be a better person.
  16. I love how you care about others.
  17. I love how you’re kind to others.
  18. You can always make me laugh.
  19. You have great manners.
  20. You’re strong.
  21. You make my heart happy.
  22. I admire your ambition.
  23. You’re a great listener.
  24. I appreciate you.
  25. I love your style.
  26. You are worthy.
  27. You’re a great friend.
  28. You’re so funny.
  29. I love your curious spirit.
  30. When you sing/dance, etc., it makes me smile.

What’s the best compliment you’ve given or received?