the importance of unusual compliments — guest post by molly ford

Molly Ford is a writer living in New York City. She has captured my heart as the brilliance behind one of my favorite blogs, Smart Pretty and Awkward. As someone who has always made ridiculous strides to be prettier, smarter, and less awkward, I’ve found help (and hope!) in each of Molly’s adorable SPA blog posts over time. She also appreciates Diet Coke just like myself. So make sure to check out SPA after you read her guest post on FBDC!

You’re pretty. I like your dress. I want your shoes.

Why are these the most common type of compliment young women give to one another?

While it is nice to hear that someone else besides you likes your outfit, it is only a momentary high. I much prefer the unusual compliments; the ones women never give other women except in long birthday letters when they reflect on their friendship. I want women to start praising, flattering, calling out the good stuff in other women on deeper topics than fashion choices. And I want them to start doing it out loud, to each other, within earshot of other women. Every day.

Since a very young age, I’ve been a reader of memoirs and self-help books. I love when successful, interesting people share advice drawn from their life experiences. In high school, I started a compliment box, an idea I got from one of these types of books.

I kept little note cards that each had a compliment I’d received that year. While I stopped the compliment box when I got to college, I came across it recently while cleaning out my childhood room. Flipping through the sections, I bypassed all the compliments on my eyes or my smile, which, while sweet, didn’t really tell me anything about me. I poured over the compliments on my schoolwork and my personality.

Compliments from others on your looks only reflect what the person looking at you can physically see. Compliments from others on intangible things reflect something more profound.

For girls and young women, it is valuable and vital to our self-esteem to hear validation from other women about our choices not related to fashion. We can all start today: working on praising others on their peacemaking skills; their ability to proof-read complicated documents quickly; or their willingness to major in a tough field. What we admire and respect in other women is not related to their style choices; it is something more. And we should tell them that.

You’re so good at mental math. You juggle your friends and your relationship so well. It makes me so proud to be your friend when I see your byline in the paper.

Courtesy: Ashley Poole Photography

While I enjoy wearing dresses, great heels, and getting my hair done, the best compliment I’ve gotten this year was when someone very special to me said simply, “You’re the funniest girl I’ve ever known, and will probably ever know.”

That’s the kind of compliment I’ll remember for months or even years. I might even have to resurrect my compliment box for the occasion.