‘Beauty With Brains’ & 17 Other ‘Compliments’ That No One Likes To Hear!

While everyone loves getting compliments, there are some compliments that seem like insults in disguise! Here are 18 such 'compliments.'

While everyone loves getting compliments, there are some compliments that seem like insults in disguise! Here are 18 such ‘compliments.’

Everyone likes receiving compliments, right? After all, compliments make you feel good about yourself! But, have you ever received a compliment, which sounded like a compliment, but didn’t make you feel good, and you wondered why?

Sometimes the best of compliments, the ones meant to flatter, unintentionally come upon as subtly offensive. They occasionally also feel like insults in disguise.

Let’s take a look at what some of these are. I am sure we have heard some or most of these at some point in our lives.

Beauty with brains

Labelling a woman ‘beauty with brains’ can never be seen as a compliment, because it limits, and stereotypes a woman.

Are we saying that a beautiful woman cannot be intelligent? That all beautiful women are dumb or is ‘beauty with brains’ such a rare combination to find? In that case, you make all intelligent women feel unattractive.

Beauty and brain have no co-relation! Besides having a good heart, a kind soul is what makes one beautiful.

You haven’t aged at all!

This is such a commonly accepted and sought-after compliment! Although it’s always well-intended, how it’s perceived totally depends on you.

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However, here is how it can feel depressing- To say to a woman that she hasn’t ‘aged,’ is a subtle reminder to her of her actual age. Beauty isn’t just restricted to youth alone, and nobody wants to hear that they look young/beautiful, despite them ‘ageing.’ Besides, to have aged means to have accomplished, to have grown, to have crossed milestones.

You are pretty for a dark-skinned girl

If you cannot respect someone’s skin colour, please don’t say anything at all.  It’s that simple.

You are a good driver ‘for a girl’

Does that mean all women are bad drivers? Aren’t there men out there who drive rashly, indulge in road rage? But does anyone ever say ‘all men are rash drivers’? Then, why is it that women drivers are generalised?

You are different ‘from other girls’

Whether it’s said by men or women, this can’t be seen a compliment. It just tells the receiver, that her gender is bad, and that because she is unlike the rest, she is good. This is simply disrespectful of other women.

Oh! You cut your hair! Long hair used to suit you so much!

The only way to interpret this backhanded compliment is that ‘you do not look good with short hair.’ And when it comes right after it’s been chopped off, it’s such an upsetting feeling!

For that matter telling someone that shorter hair made them look younger, can only be interpreted as ‘you look older than you are.’ And isn’t that kind of offensive?

You look so much better/prettier without your glasses

A comment like this with a reference to someone’s glasses is hurtful. It’s a gentle reminder that there is a vision problem. Basically, you’re saying ‘you look unattractive when you wear glasses.’

If you say ‘your eye colour/eyes are beautiful’ without mentioning their glasses, that could perhaps be taken as a compliment.

You look so pretty when you smile, why don’t you smile more?

It’s not cool to tell someone how or when to use their smile. Indirectly you’re telling them that their straight face isn’t good enough. If you give unsolicited instructions to anyone about how you think they should do certain things, you’re simply being forceful, domineering and annoying.

But if you still believe they ought to smile more, make sure that you’re funny or friendly to be around. Approach them appropriately with something like ‘your smile is contagious’ or ‘your smile lights up the room.’ Say something that is actually a compliment.

You were looking so pretty/ hot the other day

Someone said this to me once, over and over again. It felt dreadful, because if I was looking good the other day, why didn’t you say so the ‘other day’? Especially when we met and spoke!

You were so healthy the last time!

To whosoever who say this, you really want to say ‘then why didn’t you say that so the last time?’

You ‘used to be’ so cute when you were a kid!

Well, that’s definitely nice to hear (thank you!) but it does make you wonder if they no longer find you cute.

You look beautiful ‘today’

So basically on other days, I look ordinary. Sigh.

You’re so much prettier in person than in pictures!

This comment initially does feel like whoever said it, going by your pictures, at first thought you were unappealing than you actually are. They are probably saying it now because they are pleasantly surprised with your warmth, friendliness, sense of humour or personality, which pictures can’t put across.

Not all people are photogenic for different reasons, and their beauty becomes more apparent in person! So it can depend on how you take it.

But you’re so pretty… how come you’re still single?

It’s not very polite to question/comment on someone’s relationship status unless they bring up the topic. And, if you’re going to say it along with ‘but you’re so pretty’ it’ll sound like ‘then what’s wrong with you’ ‘then why does no one want to be with you.’ It is just not a compliment.

Good for you!

‘Good for you’ is an informal way to say ‘Congratulations’! It’s only when used in a sarcastic way, that it sounds rude.  And you would know its sarcasm, from the unpleasant tone of the user’s voice.

Someone said ‘good for you’ to me once, when I informed them about getting a new job. I puzzled with the ‘good for you’ thing for a while, because the tone sounded insincere/unhappy/ It seemed like they wanted to say ‘you are lucky’ to have got what you wanted. And like they didn’t see the hard work, efforts, behind the success.

You look ‘different’

To say ‘you look different’ is kind of vague. It just means something about you has changed (for the better or for the worse) since the last time the speaker of this compliment saw you. Like they notice that you have different hair cut/ hair colour/you are with/ without glasses, you’ve gained/ lost weight etc. In that case, they should specifically say what about you looks different.

Someone might want to say that you are more done-up therefore different/pretty. Or they catch you with no make-up on, thus ‘different’ or they even might refer to your pictures and say ‘ you look different.’ All of which implies that your plain/normal self is not good.

Different means not looking like yourself. Telling anyone that they don’t look like themselves is definitely a no-no.

You don’t look like a mother at all!

This is usually said to a woman who looks too young ‘to look like a mother’ which puts the wrong message across, that ageing is bad! Come to think of this is only thought of as a compliment because we have created certain stereotypes in our mind, of what a mother should/shouldn’t look like.

Stereotypes based on typical traits which we think a mother needs to have, to look like one. Like someone who is family-oriented and juggles several family responsibilities, and has a sacrificing attitude. She is always stressed with no time for herself and wears only certain clothes. Or someone who does not drink or party or have any tattoos. She has to have physical characteristics like tired eyes, stretch marks, loose skin, a certain body type.

Judging a mother by appearance, qualities, lifestyle/body fat (having too much/too little) amounts to both stereotyping and body shaming.

You are such an inspiration! (saying this to a disabled person)

Calling someone who uses a wheelchair, or someone with any form of physical disability as ‘inspirational’ may feel like a compliment. You may be coming from a place of kindness, trying to be supportive. However, you may have no idea, what it is like to live life in a wheelchair or with a disability and to have people view and discuss your body.

There’s nothing wrong with being an inspiration, only if what you do motivates another person, who has limitations to do it too! But, if an able-bodied person is inspired by someone only because of their disability, it is definitely not a compliment.

For a person with disabilities to constantly have to hear about how they are an inspiration to others only because they are living and enjoying their lives despite their disabilities can actually hurt. Similarly for them to hear how they are achieving the things they do despite disabilities makes them an inspiration may also hurt them.

And what exactly about them ‘inspires’ you? Is it the act that they make you feel so much better about your life? Or does it remind you that life could always be worse and that there are no excuses in life? Disabled people do not exist to ‘inspire’ able-bodied people!

You look gorgeous but why don’t you lose/gain weight or wear this?

What can you say to this? I look gorgeous but… my body is my business? My clothes are my choice! The overweight/underweight person already knows that, has heard enough of that. Why embarrass, and make them uncomfortable and unhappy?

It’s always a good idea to take care of how we talk about someone’s body or describe their appearance. The golden rule– don’t say things to others, that you wouldn’t want to hear yourself!

Having said that, not all compliments are unkind or insincere. You can’t take everything people say to heart. As for the backhanded compliments, just acknowledge the positive portion, and say thank you!

Have you ever received a compliment which left you wondering if it was truly sincere? Do share your comments!

Picture credits: FilterCopy’s video on YouTube


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