Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Autism Answer: The Powerful Perks And Possible Problems Of Compliments

When people tell me that I look young, I don't mind. I think it's wonderful for people to feel comfortable enough to share a thought or vision of me!

However, when I see "looking young" tossed around or offered as an assumed and obvious
People say I look young to be their mom.
compliment, I can't help but think, "Why?"

I've never wanted to look young, though I don't mind it. I've even decided to believe it to mean that I look "giggly" and "happy". These are things I do want! Yet people often throw out compliments and make jokes that only make sense if we all agree that looking young is desirable. Again, I can't help but wonder, "Why?"

Looking young isn't a thing that means much of anything. I suppose "a youthful look" is more of a thing with meaning, but it's not an innate compliment. I always wished people would see me as "wise" which doesn't quite match the giggly, silly, young-ish looking "me" that I prance around as. Of course, as you all know, I've grown comfortable with the giggle, silly (even sometimes wise) me. I like her! 

Anyway, I'm just thinking about the picture of beauty we're painting for our children and ourselves when we assume young (or thin or tanned or muscular etc) to be compliments rather than observations. We might want to be careful here. 

Not a single one of us is entirely healthy, we all live in this same polluted, pesticide using, preservative filled and convenience craving world. So when we do focus on getting healthy (perhaps with our weight or our mental health or our strength or our careers or our youthfulness or all of the above or none of the above) then we should celebrate and compliment that. Not a look so much as an intention. 

Beautiful is something I see all around me. In all the beautiful people I see taking care of their kids, loving their parents, working hard at the feed store, sharing a laugh with each other, holding the door open, telling a story to a stranger, driving a friend to the store. Seeing this beauty and celebrating it is my idea of a compliment.

We know that many of us are born with such a drastically unusual look or uncommon bodily movements that we surprise and challenge people just with our appearance. This does not mean we can't be or aren't beautiful. This does not mean we should be relegated to only "different" compliments.

Imagine, though, if everywhere around us we saw happy, confident, powerful people of all looks, sizes, colors, body movements, and ages, being complimented for who they are and what they do - and being known as beautiful.

A compliment is nice and I like getting them! I really do! But compliments (to me) are not about looks; they're about actions and intentions. The things I do, the things I try to do, the reasons I try to do them-it feels fantastic to have that recognized. The work is hard and it nourishes me to have it appreciated.

When I was young I wanted to be pretty, I really, really, really did. So I understand caring about looks. But when I was young I was also overwhelmingly surrounded (as most of us are) by a world that celebrated and complimented pretty. It wasn't until I got older and started thinking for myself that I purposefully let that go. 

Now I'm so far from caring about appearance that I almost forget how that felt. Almost. 

But I stand here on the edge of understanding and I promise you, it's better to feel complimented by, and to compliment, our actions and intentions! I feel beautiful and confident like I never have before. 

When people tell me I look young, I don't mind. I love that people feel comfortable sharing a vision of me. But when people start adding "will you tell me your secret" or "you're so lucky" or "what do you use and where can I buy it" I can't help but wonder, "Why?"

I don't mind looking young, but I don't overly value it either. It's just a thing. A thing that matches one side of me that I like and doesn't match another vision I have of me, and I think that's fine!

Friends, growing older is freaking beautiful!!!! 

And not everyone has the honor of doing it. 
So, perhaps, let's value the honor of honoring it. 

What we choose to compliment and celebrate is powerful. I think it's time we step back and make a shift in trajectory. 

Just some thoughts, 
from giggly, silly, young-ish looking me! 

(maybe with a hint of insight from wise, grey, wrinkly, beautiful older me?? tee hee!)

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)