We are constantly told that we are beautiful. And a countless number of people, magazines, and ads keep reinforcing the phrase “You are beautiful” as if it were to work like a Patronus charm against the dementors that are body image issues.
While many believe that this supposed magic phrase rids women of their negative feelings about themselves, in reality, it has quite the opposite effect. It’s high time we realize that saying this to women is in no way helping them or their self-esteem, and one should stop using this generic and lazy form of complimenting a woman. Here’s why you must stop using the phrase “you’re beautiful”.
Every day we are exposed to countless images of perfect looking, or at least perfectly airbrushed, women. And we’re sold the idea of a perfect face and body by reminding us about our flaws. In a world like this, it is hard to take a compliment of beauty seriously even if the one delivering it means it from the bottom of their heart.
Research shows that giving a generic compliment to a person who is already struggling with body image issues worsens their image of themselves. Telling a woman she’s beautiful might make her revisit everything she dislikes about herself and remind her of exactly why she feels she isn’t.
The study showed that only if a person already considered themselves ‘beautiful’ were they positively affected by the compliment. And if one felt inherently terrible about themselves receiving a “you’re beautiful” would just end up making them feel worse.
It draws one’s attention to one’s look
Not only does hearing it make us feel worse about ourselves, it also amplifies certain aspects of ourselves that we dislike.
A study done in Australia showed that school girls who constantly spoke to each other about their appearance felt worse about their bodies than those who didn’t. This was because each conversation brought their attention to a flaw they would’ve otherwise overlooked.
Saying “you’re beautiful” to women has a similar effect. It reminds women of even minute aspects of their body they are dissatisfied with.
Instead of a generic “you’re beautiful”, maybe go for a more specific, “I love the way you wore your hair” or “Your skin looks flawless today”. Words are more powerful than you think, and everything you say to someone can impact them in certain ways. We must do our best to ensure the impact remains positive.
Sorry, James Blunt. You need a new signature phrase.