I think a lot about the nature of compliments. On a daily basis, I am told that “everyone loves me in teal/apricot/whatever”, to the point that I don’t listen anymore. When we looked at you in teal, it was only OK. Pineapple, the crust of freshly baked bread, and lagoon blue were magic.

Nobody is trying to deceive us. On the other hand, ask yourself if anyone you know could organize a correct mental image of what they look like, and what suits them, from feedback they’ve gotten from you.

In my case, the answer would be no. I admit it, I lie. Or I used to lie. I saw bleached hair and thought, “You are no blonde but I see that you obviously did something and I feel like I have to comment”, and said, “Love your hair”.

Photo:Sonja Mason.

Since we can’t look at ourselves, much of what we believe about our appearance comes from what others tell us.  Likewise, what they believe about their appearance comes from our reactions.

We get compliments for too many reasons, other than looking better.

A Winter might just be slinging compliments around to make up for the last time they made someone cry. Speaking only for myself, of course.

If it’s coming from Mom, a compliment may mean “I love you no matter what you do to your hair”. Mom has no idea what we look like. She sees us at every age we’ve ever been. She sees her face in ours and tries to put us in what she’s used to seeing herself in.

If a friend says something nice, could they be saying, “I know how long you thought about making this change and how scary it was. I’m proud of you for trying and I will always keep your feelings safe. I don’t care what you look like, I will love you no matter what.” Beautiful, yes. Helpful in your quest to look your ultimate? No.

From an acquaintance, they may say, “Love your eyeliner” and be thinking “Since the turquoise line is the only thing on your face I can see, I better say something; I can’t remember if the hair color is new, but I’m sure about the turquoise”.

The people in our lives often have some vested interest in keeping us looking like they’re accustomed to. If we change, they have to run an Upgrade of their idea of us. Well, they had other stuff planned to think about this week, and now you’ve gone and messed it up. When you make yourself distinct and learn to celebrate your uniqueness, it puts pressure on them to become aware of their uniqueness. Everyone’s life stays easier when we all keep looking like one another, with toned-down appearances that all say the same thing.

I’m not sure that we can really see others, even when we want to. I often meet a man whose wife has been dressing him in HER perfect colors, before she ever knew what they were.

Photo:Sonja Mason.

There is only one way to sort through the tangle. Your answers are always inside you, just waiting for you to ask the question and be ready to listen. Go back to the one thing about you that never changed. No matter what you’ve lived or believed, what was done or said to you, the colours of your body never changed. They are now, and always will be, true to who you really are.

Personal Colour Analysis is the closest you will ever come to seeing yourself with complete emotional detachment. Just look in the mirror and see what’s there, like the first child who peered over the edge of a pond and saw her face. Look at yourself with the same neutrality that I have. I do not care if you were told you look good in teal. Doesn’t matter to me that every item you own is for Bright Winter. Peel away all the layers of compliments and let yourself see what the body with your name on it looks like.

I appreciate that it feels uncomfortable to think about. Parallel parking was uncomfortable too, but you made yourself do it, and you learned. This is easier.

Music and color are languages we comprehend by hearing and sight. They are also an emotional expression that we understand by feeling. Theirs is a poetry that awakens the outer and inner beings, that stimulates a pattern of modules in the human brain.

I could tell you to believe in your own power. Yeah, heard it. When Nikki Yanofsky sings it, in the theme of the Vancouver Olympics 2010, your soul sings with her, in joy and invincibility. Step out of crowd. In my head, you are already everything you are in your heart.

15 thoughts on “Compliments”

  1. As usual, a very interesting article. I do think sometimes people are rather awkward about giving compliments as well as receiving them which can cloud perceptions.

    Do you think it might be helpful to use pictures/portraits done by old masters to show readers the 12 blueprints examples? Cosmetics to alter skin tones, teeth bleeching, hair dyes, etc. would not interfere with what you are explaining and possibly make it easier. For example, I have a hunch that “Pinkie” by Thomas Lawrence is a True Summer.

  2. When I was draped, my consultant told me I would have to “get used to receiving compliments”. I left that day wondering what on earth could she mean? After all, it wasn’t like I had never recieved a compliment before in my life. She said, “you’ll see”. As I made the changes in my hair, wardrobe and makeup that I needed to make, I gradually came to see the truth in her statement.

    I’d be shopping at the grocery store and perfect strangers would stop me to compliment me on my hair. This has happened more than I can count. One woman said, “I just want to tell you, you look really put together”.

    Before my draping, no one had EVER complimented me on a piece of jewelry before, but when I started wearing my colors and style, it seemed like overnight people were noticing. Did I have to ‘get used to’ this? YES! As women, we pay lip service to wanting to ‘look our best’ ) but then feel embarrassed when strangers acknowledge it, like somehow we are showing up the sisterhood … and who do we think we are, anyway?

    What I loved about the whole draping experience is that by paying an emotionally detached professional to tell me the bottom line on what will make me look my best, it helped me to cut through the my years of confusion caused by the sincere but bias compliments of dear friends and family, as well as my own ideas of what I thought suited me!

    After all, years of doing it “my” way had never motivated strangers to compliment me or tell me I looked “put together”. When that happened, I knew my consultant had spoken precious truth.

  3. Interesting comment. Though others most definitely do react and change the way they perceive and treat us after color analysis, one will certainly get many compliments about looking put together, but they come when you least expect them. At other times, a woman will be wearing a new lip or hair color and nobody says a word, though the person clearly looks outstanding – and I think it’s because they are less likely to give a compliment when it’s less obvious that she did something to alter your appearance. The psychology of human interaction, ay? Amazing.

  4. As you mention in your reference to the turquoise eyeliner, Christine, it seems to me that many obvious changes to people’s appearances catch our attention, are dramatic and noticeable, precisely because they jar with who and what the person naturally is. Unlike changes that stem from knowing your colours, these changes are usually easy to articulate, because we can identify what it is that we’ve noticed. Hair, lip colour, complete alteration of image, whatever – they stick out, they almost identify themselves. Sometimes we assume that because we’re able to notice and name a tangible change, part of the intention behind it was to be noticed, so we feel we have to validate that perceived desire by complimenting the new thing. I also feel it’s indicative of the hold that consumerism has over us that we confuse things that a person can acquire, and acquisition/change itself, with identity and beauty. (There’s the germ of a doctoral thesis in there, if it hasn’t already been done.)

    People are often more comfortable complimenting objects rather than people – and while the objects that adorn us are expressions of us in some way, it’s not the same. They feel awkward, intrustive, overly personal saying, “You look beautiful” unless it’s a special occasion on which saying that is the convention, expected and safe. The aesthetic response of finding something/someone beautiful is an emotional one. Complimenting an object maintains an emotional distance. It’s self-protective. It often leads to a reciprocal compliment (how often do we hear variations on, “I like your hair”…”Thanks, I like your bag”?). You don’t invest something in someone that they don’t return, plus you receive reassurance, albeit superficial, about yourself.

  5. Interesting article! I had a pair of pants that I didn’t really like, but I always received compliments when I wore them. So I wore them a lot based on that positive feedback. Probably not my best choice!

    Also, I am absolutely guilty of this: “I’m not sure that we can really see others, even when we want to. I often meet a man whose wife has been dressing him in HER perfect colors, before she ever knew what they were.” I’ve been picking very nice autumn colors for my hubby( I am a dark autumn) who, after really thinking about it, and looking at him, I believe is a soft summer!

  6. And the Mom who dresses her children in her own colours… One of the ladies in Facebook has read Jennifer Butler’s work and cites her observation that “our loved ones project themselves onto us”. Very true.

  7. My DA aunt always lets me know that my “natural hair color” was so much better for me. (My hair color has been my own for nearly three years now.) What she means to say is that she liked it when I highlighted my hair. I have not been a “blonde” since 12 years old. I’m sure she likes to remember me as a child.
    My TW aunt prefers me in royal blue and dark hair.
    My TSu mom prefers me in SSu colors.
    My LSp friend will compliment me in anything that I wear.
    I used to use these compliments as puzzle pieces. Assuming that everyone else saw me correctly and that if I could figure out the common denominator, I would have my season! As a pathological people pleaser, it is very difficult to remind myself that finding your true self has nothing to do with the comfort level of others.

  8. Goodness but this is a brilliant, funny, and insight-loaded comment. If ever I write another book, it will be the first paragraph, if you’ll allow it. I suppose that if we distill it down, we get back to the fact that compliments (or any clothing commentary) has more to do with the viewer’s relationship with the item than ours.Now if the viewer were given two of us side by side at the very same time, they might have some remote hope of choosing our best version of us, very much higher if they don’t know us in the first place. Thank you for sharing this :) I’d be the person who’d also try to logic it out using common denominators. Should you ever want to become a colour analyst, I’d be honoured to teach you. I think we’d have a fun week.

  9. On an article titled, Compliments, this one will have me beaming for weeks. Many thanks, Christine!

  10. Ha! I’m certainly guilty of this myself! A coworker will notice me staring at his beatifully cut, black,very classic blazer that does not work AT ALL for his rugged natural summery good looks, and I will comment on the nice fabric. It’s true, but it definitely isn’t the first thing that came to mind. It surprisingly hard to give your honest opinion, even if you really try.

  11. Hi Christine, I´ve been reading your blog for awhile. I love your writing style, it´s very clear and insightful.
    I have a question: if the nails that sticks out gets filed down, it´s possible that “looking my best” will cause hostility from other people, instead of helping them warming up towards me?
    When I was a plain looking girl dressed in my mother´s favorite colors, people almost immediately liked me and sided with me in every matter. It worked like a spell, and I never became very aware of that until now. Despite weighting 20 kg more than my 18 year old self and dressing rather conservatively, I feel like stuff can get more complicated, not easier, when I wear my true colors.
    Is this weird? There´s something I´m doing wrong?
    Maybe I´m just mistaken and I´m not the Season I think I am?

  12. A conversation that I’d love to have in person, Bee. Human psychology is a funny thing. You allude to that mentality where, If you look better, do I suddenly look worse? If you get richer, am I suddenly poorer? In truth, my position has not changed one bit from where it was before but in comparing ourselves to others and not remaining conscious of what’s really going on, we lose perspective. I have heard women say that it took a little time to get used to being noticed for being beautiful, or to use a better word, more expressive of who they are. It rocks the boat of relationships that others would like to keep where they are. That’s OK, we are all helping one another learn, change, and grow all the time. About your own Season, I couldn’t say ;)

  13. Thank you Christine, this is a very wise answer. I´m an inveterate “pleaser” but I can see the potential that rocking the boat has for everyone involved.

  14. Reading this, I realized I’m actually kind of lucky to live in a country where people aren’t really in the habit of giving each other compliments ;) All this frequent talk of people getting compliments all the time has always got me a bit confused, as over here, people just don’t say that kind of things, on a daily basis at least.

  15. And yes (a comment editing option here would be nice :)), as to the discussion above, it’s also been my experience that people usually find a plain looking person much more relatable and even likeable than a good looking person…

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