Why Skinny Is Not a Compliment

Short. Thin. Tall. Fat. We learn the basic description words as kids. But over time – and with a lot of advertising by the diet industry and a ton of not-so-subtle Hollywood brain-washing – we start to associate feelings with these physical attributes. Suddenly looking (or “feeling!”) “fat” becomes dreaded while “you look so skinny today!” receives an enormous smile and an enthused “thank you!” in response. Our value as humans – especially for women – seems intrinsically tied to pant size and how others envy our figures – or lack thereof – instead of being based on our actions, thought-processes and more. There’s one problem with all this: skinny is NOT a compliment.

Let me break it down for you with the following scenarios:

  • Scenario A) You find a brilliantly red fall leaf on the ground and say “wow, that leaf is red”.
  • Scenario B) You find a brilliantly red fall leaf on the ground and say “wow what an exquisitely brilliant shade of red that is – really beautiful!”

In which scenario did the leaf actually get complimented??

Yeah, that’s right: scenario B has an actual compliment. Scenario A just has a statement. Which means that when someone says “wow you’re so skinny” they’re actually just making a statement about you, not complimenting you. Need another example? When a mid-height individual looks up at someone who’s 6’6″ and says “you’re tall”, we typically hear it as a statement, not a compliment. Saying someone is skinny (or thin/slim etc.) is the same thing.

Now, I’m sure that around now some y’all are thinking “yeah but that’s how people tell me I look good”. Not quite. That’s how people tell you that you look skinny – and how they used to tell you that you look good. Because unfortunately, when people use this language they aren’t giving you the credit you deserve and they could be making others feel bad. After all, if “skinny” is a compliment, then what are curvy or “fat” people supposed to think/feel? Doesn’t seem positive… :/

Luckily, now that you know that you’ve been accepting lame-o, watered down statements in lieu of compliments – and we all know you deserve more than that, you fabulous being you! – we can move on to replacement compliments that you can give to others. It’s time to start teaching through example people! Read on for good guidelines on how to give REAL compliments:

  • “You look so strong – must feel great!” (Expresses what you noticed, but follows up with what’s important.)
  • “Those pants look great on you – are they comfortable?” (Again, the pants look great, but let’s make it about the experience.)
  • “That shade of green is PERFECT on you – really brings out the color in your eyes!” (What you notice + how it actually enhances them/their appearance.)
  • “I saw you lifting at the gym yesterday – awesome form!” (It’s all in the details!)
  • “I love your most recent painting. Your use of teal really made that hippo’s tutu POP” (You get the idea by now. It’s what you notice + something specific about what you noticed.)

So, are you ready to get your compliment on? I challenge each of you to find something that you genuinely want to compliment someone on this week and go for it! Don’t hold back. After all, who doesn’t love getting compliments?!

Thanks for reading!



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