Imagine this scenario: You haven’t seen your friend/acquaintance/yoga teacher in a few weeks. You run into them and are amazed, did they always look that great? You scan their hairstyle, complexion, and their yoga pants (OK, booty). You want to express your admiration to this person that you genuinely really like. You say, “Oh my goodness! You look so great! You must have lost weight!”
In our culture, complimenting someone’s appearance is one of the safest forms of connection. It happens on a near constant basis. The stinger is, even when these compliments are genuine, they can harm us.
Here’s another scenario: You have been feeling great, practicing tons of yoga, and going for long walks. Your stress levels have been manageable and your clothes are fitting you fantastically! You’ve been receiving tons of compliments on your slim, happy body. Now, fast forward six months. Your stress levels have been creeping up. Daily yoga has become twice weekly. And your walks? Maybe after this one last huge deadline is past.
You know that things will get better, but in the meantime you can’t help but notice your clothes are a little more snug than you’d like. And, when you look in the mirror, you just keep remembering the smaller version of yourself that everyone seemed to be so keen on six months ago. A cycle of negativity and resentment starts. You and your body are decidedly not friends right now. You’ll talk again when your skinny jeans don’t make you want to duck and cover.
Maybe this scenario is familiar too? It’s all too common that we measure our self-worth by the measurement of our hips. There are so many reasons why our weight might fluctuate. Sometimes from stress, sometimes from happiness, sometimes because we’ve over-committed and over-exhausted ourselves. It’s also true that for some people, skinny is NOT healthy, and it does not need to be praised. It’s up to each of us as individuals to manage all of these factors, and find our happiest and healthiest self. Whatever that looks like.
Meanwhile, we certainly don’t have to add pressure in the form of compliments that focus on size and shape. If you think your friend looks amazing, just tell them that! Tell them they look happy, healthy, glowing! These qualities are totally praise-worthy, and they aren’t measurable on the scale.
Use your appreciation to spread love and health, connect consciously with your loved ones this season.
Elizabeth is a yoga teacher and artist in Fairfield County, Connecticut. She is the creator of Love by E, handmade gemstone mala and jewelry. She teaches in workshops, special events and trainings in the North East in addition to a range of regular, weekly classes. She teaches smart and accessible yoga designed to make you feel good. She loves every minute of her work. You can find her writing and her teaching schedule on her website.
Photo by Ali Kaukas