See what your compliments did

Beauty is not permanent. Like a flower, it fades. And also like a flower, it comes in many different forms. If you prefer a rose, don’t praise her in front of an orchid. The orchid feels devalued because it can never look like a rose. If you praise a flower in full fresh spring bloom in front of one whose petals have mostly fallen, she will feel devalued because her bloom has gone. The point is, the more I was told I was pretty when I was younger, the worse I feel now I no longer look like that. The world and all of you who commented suggested that my only worth was my face, and now that face is middle-aged, I am worthless. I believe it. I feel it with all my heart. And back then, I felt that, at night, when my petals were closed and my dazzling colours weren’t showing as they did in full sun, I was worthless then, too. If only you had kept your mouths shut. The accepted wisdom is if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. But I suggest that your ‘compliments’ are as damaging as your insults. Calling someone beautiful can be as damaging as calling them ugly. Don’t comment on things people have no control over. A dandelion cannot control its flower any more than a petunia, yet one is a weed, and the other coveted. If you must comment, comment on those things people actively did control: cool outfits, interesting haircuts, an amazing bag. Comment on books they are reading, or art they have made. And DON’T assume body weight is something easily controlled (whether large or small, waxing or waning), and therefore worthy of comment. It is not. Basically, look at the flowers, appreciate them, but just fucking shut up. They don’t deserve to feel worthless as they wither back to the ground to provide nutrients for the soil and the continuation of the life cycle, just because you don’t think they ‘look pretty’ any more.

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