I don’t want you to tell me that I look good.
Even if you think I have lost weight and might want to hear it—I don’t.
I also don’t want to hear about other people who look good or if you think they don’t—that is none of my business.
I haven’t pinpointed the exact reason I get triggered when I hear comments about my appearance.
Maybe I’m hypertensive because “how I looked” defined me growing up, or maybe I just wished people would see the depth of me versus my outer self. There is also a strong possibility that an old sexual abuse story left me feeling super violated and boundaryless—I really can’t say.
What I know for sure is that I am not my appearance. I am not even my body.
When I hear comments like, “You look great,” “You look pretty today,” “Oh, you have something in your teeth,” or my most despised, “Have you lost weight?” followed by a comment on how good I look…I cringe. Every cell in my body retracts. I feel like the wicked witch in the “Wizard of Oz” when the house lands on her and her feet roll up. My whole body coils in green disgust.
Why? Because my worth is not based on any part of my appearance. Yet, such comments can make me forget that.
Shallow remarks about the size and condition of my appearance have also unveiled superficial relationships in my life, similar to when people talk or comment about the weather. Don’t we have anything else to share or something deeper to connect on?
Is this an old trigger? Probably. One that has taught me how to truly value my worth, how to value the worth of others, and how to have more meaningful connections.
I had a good childhood, and I don’t think my parents, teachers, or adults in my life were intentionally mean, but for whatever reason, there was a lot of weight (pun intended) around how I looked. Growing up, I can remember hearing comments like, “That’s cute,” “Ew, that’s ugly,” or, “Go change, you aren’t leaving the house like that.”
I went to a private high school where a uniform was required and while that did take the pressure off on what to wear, we were expected to show up ironed and buttoned up.
In college, I attracted a boyfriend who was really into appearances.
Naturally, I would have done anything to appease him. So I paid attention to keeping the perfect highlights in my hair and making sure my french manicured hands were always freshly done.
My college roommate used to laugh at me when I would ask her not to comment on my appearance by telling me what’s in my teeth. She was one of my best friends, and we could joke about it. I couldn’t figure out my reasoning, I just knew I didn’t like it when people commented on my appearance, and I was comfortable telling her that.
After college, I worked on cruise ships. I graduated from wanting to get beauty accolades from my boyfriend to being rated and judged on my embarkation day appearance. Around the same time, I started to struggle with symptoms from undiagnosed PCOS. I put on weight, didn’t know why, and was frustrated with my body.
This hormone imbalance took my being through a rough journey, and I was unpleasantly surprised by how many people felt comfortable openly and blatantly commenting on my body. Whether it was, “You have put on weight,” or one that still haunts me, “What are you going to do to get back to your normal size?”
That left me with no words. Literally.
Normal? What the hell is normal? I remember thinking why do you get to tell me what size is normal for me?
Eventually, when I lost the weight, the compliments would drizzle in, “Oh, you look so good now” (which unintentionally implies I didn’t before).
I would take trips to my hometown, and my sweet, delightful, absolutely well-intentioned Papa would greet me with a kiss and always a once-over glance up and down. He would then say one of two things in his strong Italian accent always with a loving smile, “Ooo you looka good,” or “Ooo wah wah, you put a little weight again huh?”
I could never be mad at him. He was far too gentle and kind and always meant well.
Not long after my first 30-pound weight loss journey, I became a flight attendant for Virgin America. Lipstick, mascara, and blush were the required minimum when showing up at work. By this time, I had done a lot of inner healing on old stories, healing sexual abuse trauma, and was really caring for myself. So I wasn’t triggered as much.
I was ready to embrace and perceive my appearance in a new way and started valuing beauty as an internal and natural element. I also learned to become a lot more assertive in conversation.
While the old me was only comfortable telling my close friends not to comment on my appearance, I was much more open about it. And sadly, I had an abundance of opportunities to practice with the stereotypical first-class pervert on an occasional flight.
It was not surprising, but disappointing how many customers felt comfortable making open remarks about my body.
So all this said, I have learned how to best approach and comment on someone else’s body, especially in casual conversation. I don’t ever. It’s just not appropriate.
If we are looking for deep connection and ways to compliment, instead of commenting on appearances, can we all try connecting on more meaningful points?
Here are 9 connection points we can try instead:
>> Talk about the beauty we see in others internally.
>> Give others a reason or three we are grateful for them.
>> We can ask what has happened in someone’s life lately that they are grateful for.
>> We can share fond memories we have shared.
>> Ask about their current passion or creation.
>> Ask if there are struggles they want to talk about.
>> We can share something that has made us laugh lately, or ask what’s made them laugh recently.
>> We can ask about a discovery (recipes, books, or something else learned).
>> And my personal favorite: let go of the feeling that asking or commenting is necessary. Speak less and listen more. Stop filling space with comments about our bodies. And while we are at it, let’s attempt to eliminate gossip and senseless discussions.
I am not inferring that I don’t talk about my body. I do. And when I do, it is with trusted people. And I bring it up when I want to. I talk with one of my dearest friends, Sarah, about new foods, recipes, and making choices that feel best for our bodies. I share and explore how hard I can be on my body. It’s a different and deeper conversation than, “You look great.”
I am blessed to lead a membership with the Spiritual Mentorship Program, and every month we explore how to feed and listen to our bodies, cycle with the moon, and address the frequency of the body.
Our bodies don’t define our worth, and looks aren’t enough to judge others fairly. So let’s stop talking about them and instead try listening to them.
That in itself will change the whole conversation.