Today we’re talking compliments! I was listening to a Food Psych episode recently, and Christy was talking to her guest about how a genuine compliment about someone’s appearance can be well-meaning, but can potentially make things worse for the person you’re complimenting. 

Most compliments truly come from a caring or loving place. But, have you noticed that compliments these days tend to be about our physical appearances? Our outfits, our bodies, our makeup, etc. Think about it– when was the last time you received a compliment from a spouse, friend or family member that was about your physical appearance? Probably pretty recent. How about a compliment about your bravery, creativity or passion? Unfortunately, probably not as common (or maybe I’m wrong and you have a savvy complimentor in your life!) 

Here’s an example from my life. Growing up, I was very skinny. People commented on my skinniness all the time — I don’t think I was ever teased, but I do remember feeling like I didn’t fit in much. I ate like a racehorse back then– and looking back, I think it was to prove how much I could eat. Family members and friends would comment on how much I could eat and still remain skinny. which I’m sure was attributed to a raging high metabolism and playing outside almost every day, recess, soccer and dance. Going through high school and college, I continued to get well-meaning compliments about my smaller body size.  But as time went on, this created a huge amount of pressure within myself to maintain it.  When I hit my early 20’s, my metabolism begun to naturally slow down. That’s when I started counting calories and exercising. I thought I needed to maintain this small body in order to stay myself… it’s what I have been known for my whole life.  

It’s a lot of pressure, especially when your family and friends have commented about it your whole life. I realized that this was an unrealistic pressure to place on myself– no one remains the same size throughout their life. This one of the motivating factors towards healing my own personal relationship with food and my body– I gave up dieting and rigorous workouts in order to make peace with food. 

Even when given with good intentions, compliments can sometimes do more harm than good. Webster’s dictionary defines compliment as the following: 

compliment: an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration

Let’s read that again. An expression of respect and admiration. If we’re mostly complimenting each other’s weight loss, over-exercising habits, and dieting, what are we really complimenting? We’re giving respect and admiration to weight loss, over exercising and dieting. 

What I guess I’m trying to say is, be careful about commenting on other people’s body sizes. You never know what phase of life they’re in. They may be in the midst of recovery from an eating disorder, or full-blown in the middle of one. Or, they may have heard comments their entire life about how skinny their body was, or how large their body was and each comment increases that internal pressure. What we may not know is that every time we make that comment, the recipient cringes inside and wishes people would notice their other qualities. 

So let’s stop giving weight loss and dieting that kind of respect and admiration! Here’s a list of 65 personality traits you can compliment that aren’t about someone’s physical appearance.  

I challenge you to compliment someone today using a word off of this list! Pay attention to the way they respond. I’d love to hear what kind of response you get– are they surprised, happy, and thankful for your comment? 

Complimenting someone on their hard-working and dedicated attitude towards finishing grad school. (Hi, Leslie, if you’re reading this!) 

Complimenting someone on their bravery for moving their family to a whole other state and building a new life (I’ll miss you Erin!) 

Complimenting someone on their loving relationship (Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!) 

Complimenting someone on their humor (Thanks for making me laugh, Nick)

Happy complimenting! 



List of positive personality traits:


  1. What a great post! It’s so important to raise awareness of the important things we should be noticing in one another!

  2. […] 65 Traits to Compliment that Aren’t About Our Physical Appearance via Zen & Spice […]

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