Everyone likes to be on the receiving end of a compliment; who wouldn't? Even if you're a bit socially awkward, like me, being told something nice about yourself can be a lovely little confident boost. But what happens when, upon further examination, you realize that compliment actually felt more like a passive-aggressive dig? What tends to hurt the worst are "compliments" about your body that are actually insults. Your body, as cliche as it may sound, truly can be your temple. So when someone makes a backhanded compliment about your personal appearance, it can cut pretty deep.
It shouldn't be surprising, yet it kind of is, that there's even a word for it: complisult. Tracing its roots back to an episode of Community, the name means exactly what it sounds like. Someone says something to you that is half compliment and half insult.
Whether or not the complisult giver is intentionally trying to make you feel confused or bad about yourself isn't really the point. The fact of the matter is people say awful things all the time, but it's up to you to take power of your narrative. One of the best ways to do that is to be able to identify what's actually an insult so you can speak out whenever you hear someone say it, well-intentioned or not. To help you along, here are a few "compliments" about yoru body that are actually insulting.
1"You'd Look Prettier If You Smiled More."
On the outside, it seems like they're complimenting your smile or saying that you're pretty. In reality, especially if this is coming from a guy, it's implying that you need to smile to be more acceptable for them. The only person you should smile for is yourself.
2"I Hardly Recognized You!"
Wait, so does that mean I look so great now and that's why you didn't recognize me? Because that implies I was hideous before. Or does that mean I looked decent before but now I look awful? Unless you've made a drastic change, like glasses or a haircut, then this "compliment" is definitely a thinly veiled insult.
3"Have You Lost Weight?"
Just like you should never ask a woman if she's pregnant, it's a safe bet that if someone was happy about losing weight, they would be openly talking about it and wouldn't need to be asked.
4"You're Not Fat; You Look Great."
This implies that being fat and looking great are mutually exclusive and guess what — they're not!
5"You Look Good On Instagram."
One can only assume that this person is suggesting that you owe your good looks solely to the magic of filters and Photoshop. In a world that is so consumed by social media, it may seem like a compliment to be told your online pictures look great, but make sure they appreciate you in real life, too.
6"I'd Never Guess You Were ___-Years-Old."
OK, maybe, just maybe there's a chance this is meant as a compliment. But either way, it can make the receiver of this comment incredibly awkward and hyper-aware of their age. There are negative implications about looking young (being inexperienced, immature, etc.) or old (appearing tired, haggard, etc.), so this is most likely an insult.
7"You Should Wear Makeup/Dress Up More Often."
Why? Because a woman needs to wear cosmetics or feminine attire to fit into an acceptable beauty standard set by society? I think not.
8"You've Got Child-Bearing Hips."
No joke, this was an actual comment my sister, a nurse, received from a patient. Maybe this was a compliment "back in the day," but tying a woman's worth to her reproductive ability is so not in anymore.
9"Oh, Your Skin Cleared Up! What's Your Secret?"
Additionally not a joke, this was a complisult from a former friend (emphasis on former). Even if someone is pointing out something positive now, like clear skin, it's really just highlighting a negative from the past, like acne.