Who doesn't love a compliment, eh? I personally can't get enough of them. But, as with most things, there are exceptions to the rule — and such is the case with compliments. Because while a well-executed compliment can make a person feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy inside, the all-too-common backhanded compliment that's actually an insult instead breeds self-doubt. They are the proverbial wolves in sheep's clothing, and the worst part is we're probably all guilty of delivering these insults cloaked as accolades at some point.
Granted, sometimes we don't intend these compliments to be barbed. We may actually think what we are saying is entirely innocent and, obviously, complimentary. The problem, though, is that some compliments can easily be construed as passive aggressive swipes due to what they imply. Although they are embedded in flattery, backhanded compliments are built upon negative subtext and the played out notion that you're not living up to someone's standards. This is especially true for women, largely thanks to a culture toeing the line between body-shaming and body-pos, sexism and feminism. As a result, many of the "compliments" we receive have less to do with celebrating our attributes and more to do with pointing out how those attributes are not in line with some perceived ideal — that they don't conform to what said person considers acceptable and/or extraordinary. It's dodgy stuff, no doubt.
Here's a look at seven compliments that, to be honest, are incredibly insulting.
1. "You Look Great for Your Age!"
See also: "You look so young for your age," and "You've aged so well." Thanks for the shout-out to my good genes and all, but age and beauty are not mutually exclusive. Women do not get uglier as we get older — we get older as we get older. You see how that works? Life is not a slow crescendo to haggardness. The problem with this compliment is in the inherent assumption that every woman will at some point cross a threshold after which her appeal will descend as her age ascends. Alas, considering I hear this and I'm only 32, I imagine I've got decades of this backhanded barb yet to come.
2. "I Love That You're Confident Enough Not to Care About How You Look."
You might hear this if you wear your hair curly and wild instead of straight and sleek. Or you might hear it if you dare to leave the house sans makeup. Is being yourself really such a social risk? What is crystal clear, of course, is that the person who paid you this compliment does not consider whatever look you are rockin' at that moment to be in line with their personal standards of beauty.
3. "You're So Funny/Smart/Pretty/etc.; Why Are You Still Single?"
By conservative count, I have heard this said to one of my best girlfriends at least 30 times throughout the course of our friendship. Yes, she's fantastic. Yes, she's hilarious. Yes, she's gorgeous. No, she does not need a partner to validate herself. Being single doesn't make her any less of those things. Plus, let's just call this for what it is: a coded way to ask someone what is so wrong with them or what they've done that led to a life of solo destitution. 'Cause being single and having the world as your oyster is such a bad like, right?
4. "You're So Beautiful When You Smile — You Should Do It More!"
Well, this is unfortunate. Aside from the many problems already implicit with being told to smile on command, I now know that my regular old face apparently isn't cutting it. If I want to improve my appeal, I'm going to need to make like Miss Universe and smear some Vaseline on my teeth so I can keep a smile plastered on my face 24/7.
5. "You're Really Cool. You're Such a Guy's Girl."
Because I had an older brother and grew up with a tribe of guy friends, I get this a lot. While it's nice to be considered cool, the issue is it is overtly sexist. Men are cool. Men are chill. Men like sports. Men are funny. Men are laid-back. Right? How unheard of for a woman to have these attributes! Also, there's the implication that being a guy's girl is somehow preferable and even superior to being a girl's girl. Which is bunk, because having a circle of girlfriends who support you and celebrate your victories is second to none.
6. "You Look So Great on Instagram/Online."
Um, thanks? Does that mean I look not-so-great IRL? I didn't realize I was using a Fairy Godmother filter that magically transformed me into a beautiful princess every time I used it. That must be what "Valencia" means. I distinctly remember sitting in my old office as two of my closest co-workers discussed how my profile pictures "look nothing like me," with my "full lips" and "flirty eyes." Because, since we're deciphering code words here, "makeup" is apparently code for "head transplant."
7. Anything Ending in "For a Girl."
"You're a really good driver ... for a girl." "You can lift a lot of weight ... for a girl." "You are so accomplished ... for a girl." First of all, I'm a grownass woman. Second of all, I didn't my vagina had such a wide skillset. Because that's the only way this qualifier even remotely makes sense. (Hint: It doesn't make sense.) For that matter, if you have to use a qualifier at all when giving a compliment, that should be your first clue.