Have you lost weight? This is a common question I've asked several times. I see someone I haven't seen in a while, they look great, so I comment. It's a bad habit, and I'm trying to break it.
1. That "compliment" is actually kind of insulting.
When you ask whether a person has lost weight, on some level you're implying that they had weight to lose. It's like you've been judging them previously, thinking they should really shape things up. When I catch myself asking those four little words, I grimace. While I wholeheartedly mean it as a compliment, I know it can feel backhanded because I've felt its sting myself.
2. Positive perception of a person doesn't necessarily mean weight loss.
When you notice somebody looking particularly good, you're likely noticing a new brightness about them. When you feel good about yourself, there's an aura that people catch on to. They notice a little bounce in your step or a glimmer in your eye. After all, don't most people agree that the sexiest quality in a potential partner is their humble self-confidence? When someone is genuinely happy about themselves, it's noticeable. They generate an energy that others want to absorb. It's called positive self-image.
3. You're feeding society's obsession with appearance.
For a person who doesn't swing much more than plus or minus 5 pounds, I feel like I get asked a lot if I've lost weight. It's always intriguing to me that the timing of this question generally coincides with periods when I've been feeling particularly good about my self-care, my productiveness, and so on. If I'm in a slump, I never get asked if I've dropped weight. But when somebody feels drawn to tell me that I look like I've lost weight, what do I do? I give all the credit to my physical appearance and neglect to give kudos to my actual accomplishments.
4. It could just be that the person you're complimenting is falling in love with the most important person ever.
Whether it's a physical feeling in your body or a conceptual feeling about life, our internalization of our feelings affects how we appear to others and to ourselves. If you have unhealthy habits that affect you physically or you tend to talk down to yourself, you won't like what you see in the mirror. But if you accept yourself for all that you are and all that you are not, and you believe that you're doing your best, you will instantly be more positive about your reflection.
You know how you notice a change in a person's behavior when they're falling in love? It's like that. Except instead of falling in love with another person you're falling in love with yourself. What a wonderful thing!
5. Looking inward is so much more important.
Here's my proposal: When you see someone and think "Wow, they look great!" instead of telling them that they look great, tell them that they look like they feel great. Likewise, the next time someone asks you if you've lost weight, congratulate yourself on showing self-love. That's what they're really complimenting.
What's on the inside trumps what's on the outside. Let's shift our focus to love and acceptance. Fill yourself to the brim and let it spill out to all of those around you. Self-love is a true one-size-fits-all. It looks good on everybody.