When you receive the wrong compliment

Written by Mariam Kamal 

One of my best friends has told me:
 "Whenever you feel anxious, chained, or frustrated, try to remember the last time you received praise for something you had done."

 I have searched for the benefits of compliments and discovered that rehearsing compliments help us deal better with our painful emotions and might lead us to regain our happiness and motivation.

Compliments can make us feel good, valued, and appreciated. They rev up the same parts of the brain that are activated when we get paid a monetary award and may help us learn new skills or behaviors.

Sometimes, compliments can be the crutch we rely on to belong, survive, and thrive.

But is it possible to receive the wrong compliment?

Good intentions … Bad consequences:
When I was sick, I used to only eat "clean food. I committed to strict eating habits. I was obsessed with a "healthy lifestyle", and was the best people pleaser.

Ostensibly, it was the typical picture of health, and because of that, I received compliments on my thin body, my lifestyle, my eating habits, and my personality.

Those behaviors were the seeds of my eating disorder, and because what you water will grow; the praise I received for them made my Anorexia bloom.

That's why you should watch your words before paying a compliment.

Body-image ... Self-image:
We live in a belief system that glorifies stereotypical bodies and ingrains the connection between body image and self-image.
Turn on the television or just engage in a family-gathering conversation and you will meet with that system.

The obsession with weight loss, muscle building, and eating healthily is the way to be happier, stronger, and even loveable.
Therefore, we adopt and encourage any behavior that can fulfill these needs in order to be safe and not feel left out of the herd.

The Enabler … The Supporter:
We don't know much about what others are going through.
Some people don't have the ability to deal properly with their uncomfortable emotions, so they may go for numbing them, ignoring them, or searching for a purpose by embracing maladaptive mechanisms.

Controlling our bodies is one of these mechanisms and receiving compliments on that mechanism will automatically enhance it even if the givers don't intend or don't know the fallout.

According to Bethany Juby and Michelle Pugle, this is called "enabling a behavior", which means; "encouraging an unhelpful habit instead of empowering a helpful one."

Praising food restrictions may mean that we are enabling a potential disorder or encouraging emotional numbness, and the only way to get out of this vicious cycle is by being the supporter.
Helpful compliments:
"Our emotions tell us what is really important to us", said "Carl Jung".

Most of us have got used to the idea of accepting and celebrating the "good" emotions and ignoring or denying the "bad" ones.
We have learned how to feel "happy" but not how to feel "angry".

But emotions are emotions – and in fact, dealing with our "bad" emotions or discovering their underlying causes is the authentic definition of growth and emotional intelligence.

So, whenever you experience fear, anger, or whatever you name, try to recognize and feel it.
And whenever you experience others' fear or anger, try to respond in a healthy way.

You can give yourself the compliments you deserve. Make a list of what is good about you, which says nothing about your body or your appearance. Write about WHO YOU ARE, NOT HOW YOU LOOK.

We also have to listen to others' sufferings without judgment.
 Try not to fix or change their behaviours, and try not to comment on their bodies, or their eating habits.

Compliments enhance our happiness hormones. The effects of these hormones can last days with the receiver and up to two weeks with the giver.

So, the next time you want to compliment someone, go deeper and make your words last forever.


Why do compliments make us feel so good.

What is the difference between supporting and enabling?