Over the seven years that I’ve been writing about style and body image in this space, I’ve brought up the subject of compliments dozens of times. Since I believe that caring about your appearance is a valuable part of general self-care – and that you have a brain AND a body, and shouldn’t ignore one and favor the other – I enjoy both giving out and receiving compliments about my personal style. Words of praise from strangers and friends have bolstered my confidence at times, and I try to pay that forward.
But I have found style- and appearance-related compliments to be a surprisingly contentious topic here. Although many enjoy both giving and receiving compliments, others feel that any comments on appearance are invasive or unwelcome. Some would prefer to be praised for accomplishments or strengths over biology or taste. A few are unnerved by compliments like, “You look lovely today” because the underlying message may be that today is the exception not the rule. Others have had traumatic experiences with catcalling and street harassment and just prefer to avoid any interaction that centers on discussions of appearance. And many more have offered nuanced and personal reasons and preferences surrounding praising style and appearance.
Every so often, I feel the need to revive this conversation and probe a bit deeper. So: How do you feel about being complimented on your style or appearance by peers, friends, or friendly strangers? Do you offer compliments to others? If you enjoy these interactions, why do you find them pleasant or valuable? If you avoid or dislike them, what upsets or unnerves you?