Society dictates that we shouldn't feel good about ourselves. We are told that we are too much or that we are not enough, we're too big or too small, too loud or too quiet - it is so rare that we are told to exist happily and proudly in our bodies exactly as they are. Living in such an image-obsessed culture where the 'ideal' is so permanently out of reach can be detrimental to many of us, and in a climate where the aforementioned beauty 'ideal' is the key to success, it's no wonder that so many people are suffering a collapse of self-confidence. That's why I think, in a society so rife with slut-shaming, rape culture, body-shaming, sexism and general bitchiness, it is so important that we build one another up instead of tearing one another down. But so accustomed are we to lacking self-esteem and using self-deprecating comments, it is difficult to compliment another, without invariably comparing yourself to them. So here are my top three ways to break the habit of tearing yourself down, when you're building someone else up.
1) Avoid sentences that start with "I wish I had..."
I'll say this once and once only - please stop comparing yourself to others. It is so imperative that we recognise our own strengths, be those in character or the physical attributes that you are proud of and revel in. When you pay someone a compliment that starts with "I wish I had..." you are undermining your own beauty or mental prowess in favour of building someone else up. In a culture where self-esteem is at an all-time low, you should recognise that your invaluable worth is just as applaudable as another's. Most of the negative comparison that leads us to make sweeping "I wish I had..." statements, are as a result of the ideas about beauty that have been drummed into us by society, but these ideas are little more than a fabrication. Realise that you can acknowledge someone else's beauty without making comparisons to your own and banish those wishful compliments, choose instead to empower yourself and the person to whom the compliment is directed.
Complimentary Challenge: Instead of wishing that you had something that someone else has got, trying changing the language you use - say instead "I love your..." or "Wow, you look..." Do not compare yourself!
2) If you pay someone a compliment and they pay you one in turn - accept it!
It feels good to pay someone a compliment, but heaven forbid they pay you one in return. Often when we pay someone a compliment, the go-to reaction is to say something nice in return but how many of you have been on the receiving end of a compliment and have mumbled and shuffled your feet awkwardly? Or shut down the compliment before it had time to sink in to your mind? Or just outright refuted the compliment? These direct and indirect motives to not accept something positive about yourself are detrimental to your self-confidence and the more that you tear yourself down, the further you'll fall into that self-critiquing rabbit hole. People don't dish out compliments apropos of nothing, so if you receive one off the back of something nice that you've said, then please learn to accept it with open arms. It takes time to adjust to accept positive things about yourself, especially in a society that tells you that you aren't right, that you don't fit, but the more that you learn to accept the positive things that people see in you - the more you'll start to believe them too.
Complimentary Challenge: The next time someone pays you a compliment, don't hunch your shoulders or swat it away - make eye contact, smile and say thank you!
3) Learn to compliment yourself!
It is so easy to dish out compliments to friends, family and occasionally even strangers, but do you ever find the time to actively engage in a verbal pampering with yourself? No? Didn't think so. Even with the rise of body positive activism and subsequent quashing of beauty standards, so many of us still find it difficult to say nice things about ourselves, but why? Negative self-image isn't instilled in us from birth, it is something that is learnt over time through exposure to the media. If we accept that these preconceived ideas about beauty are learnt, we have to acknowledge that they can be forgotten or altered to contain new, true, fresh and more accurate ideas about beauty. So pay yourself a compliment or two, or three, or however many you want to because you DESERVE them and you are WORTHY of them: the rules of society can be rewritten to include not exclude, to create a comfortable platform for all types of beauty - and guess what? These new rules can be written by you.
Complimentary Challenge: Go to a mirror right now and pay yourself as many compliments as you want to - you are allowed you know.
This article was originally posted on Fran Hayden's blog, here.