Okay, so you have to choose. You cannot have both! If you had a choice of getting compliments about the way you look or compliments about the way you perform (professionally or otherwise), which one would you choose? I’m actually talking about forever and ever here. Choose the one that will be your forever and ever. Now that you have chosen one, ask yourself, why? There are other forms of compliments, like compliments about your character… “You are very kind.” However, for the sake of this article, we will focus on looks and performance.
To play fair, I will tell you which one I would choose – a compliment on my performance. Why? Maybe it is because of where I am in my life. I have just started a new business and I am a new author. My book was just released on Amazon and Kindle! Yaaaayyyyyy! Click here to find out more and purchase a copy. I am at that stage in my life where I am pushing myself (in a good and healthy way) to accomplish some life long goals, so yes, compliments about my performance are valued far above compliments on my appearance.
After the idea came to me to write this article, I searched the web, as per usual, to get a sense of what is being said on the matter. Can you believe that they have actually researched compliment giving? Well, they have! They research everything nowadays! Here are some findings:
Women are more likely to have lower self-esteem and higher levels of self-objectification compared to men. When someone self-objectifies they pay more attention to how they are perceived by the larger society (i.e. in relation to their bodies and looks) rather than how they themselves feel. Hence, they engage in “reflected self-appraisal” and make judgments about themselves based on what others think of them. (Tiggemann & Boundy, 2008)
If we as women are to be totally honest we can agree that we more harshly criticize ourselves than men do. This is not to say that men are not self-critical (and not all self-criticism is bad), but they are generally not as open about it as many women are. We judge ourselves and often times each other more often. So with that being said, let’s go back to the question I posed at the beginning of this article. If you are a woman, would you prefer more compliments on the way you look or on your performance? Which one gives you more satisfaction?
Maybe you never thought about it, and there is nothing wrong with wanting and receiving compliments about either category. However, what if you never received another compliment on your looks and you only received compliments on your performance, would you be fine with that? Would you be fine with you being the only one reassuring yourself that you look good? Let’s think of it this way. Even though I personally love to give them (and actually encourage compliment giving as an Ujima Woman principle), no one is required to give you a compliment on your looks. If you are habitually (<~ keyword here) expecting compliments on your looks (or appearance in general) then it is time for you to do some self-analyzation and ask yourself why it is a requirement for you, especially if it is one of your requirements for feeling good about yourself. You may need to work on your self-esteem.If performance based compliments are your thing and you get upset if your work is not openly acknowledged then you should analyze your confidence in your own abilities.
Now to the compliment givers. We love you and don’t stop giving compliments. However, women who only compliment other women on the way they look can, unwillingly, further perpetuate societal norms on how women should look physically. If you have an opportunity (especially if the other woman is a constant presence in your life) it is important to balance your compliments with both appearance and performance based compliments (among other types). Now you may be saying, “What if the person doesn’t perform well or even look good”, leaving you in a position to only give one type of compliment or the other. My advice is to say something like this, “You did a great job in (insert area ….; come on there has to be something!), I think if you try this it would add to (insert whatever it is here).
There could be so much said on this topic, more than I ever previously thought there could be. However, please let me know your thoughts on what I wrote. Do you agree, do you disagree? Leave your comments below, don’t forget to follow this blog, and finally, don’t forget to ask yourself, “Am I an Ujima Woman?” click here to find out what that is..
Tiggemann, M., & Boundy, M. (2008). Effect of environment and appearance compliment on college women’s self-objectification, mood, body shame, and cognitive performance. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 399-405.
Claytine Nisbett is an entrepreneur, blogger, motivational speaker, and author of a new coming-of-age novel, Life As Josephine, click here to find out more and purchase. She holds a BA in Sociology, is Certified for Non-Profit Management, and has been trained in Transformational Leadership by UN Women – Barbados. She uses this space to blog about what she is passionate about – creating and maintaining positive relationships among women, women-based and women-led organizations.