Guys who “compliment” one girl while unintentionally undermining every other girl’s confidence are changing the way our generation interacts. For the worse.
An unintentional contributor to this issue at my college recently posted on a social network describing an apparently attractive girl who was getting her mail, and recommended that other girls ought to work out at the gym the way she “obviously” does so they can have a similar figure.
Everyone’s dealing with the pressures of everyday nonsense — stressed about classes, missing home, angry with their roommate, and counting pennies to pay for textbooks. They don’t need to see one guy’s opinion on how their bodies “should” look.
But this boy isn’t the only one. Multiply his comment by thousands of virtual cat-callers and well-meaning wolf-whistlers everyday.
Stuffing ourselves into the mold that models and superstars have set, who have been edited to “perfection,” all while attempting to develop confidence isn’t the easiest of tasks. Then, to hear your peers publicly reaffirm that the people who possess these characteristics are what you should aspire to replicate can slowly chip away at even the most confident demeanor.
One compliment can make your day, but one negative comment, even if it’s indirect, can take all that away. Today, social media is ever present and finding yourself surrounded by mixed messages that can leave your head spinning can be just a few clicks away. Humans constantly seek validation for their actions, and when it isn’t provided, they have the potential to become desperate. This desperation just adds even more insecurity to our already fragile self confidence.
Who doesn’t love a compliment? If someone says you have a pretty smile or your hair is looking extra gorgeous, even if you switch into the “Oh stop! That’s not true!” denial routine, you’ll probably walk away from the encounter a little taller. Personally, I’m a sucker for the validation that a nice compliment provides, but some comments can leave a bitter taste in everyone else’s mouths.
At my school, students frequently post “confessions” for each other to see on a Facebook page. These posts commonly involve cravings for pizza or a desire to sleep “foreverrrrrr” but the most popular topics are definitely crushes or anonymous well-meaning compliments. Though some of these are cute, a few can cross the line from compliment into something that is borderline offensive. It’s incredible how much we let other people control what we think and feel, humans are incredibly impressionable beings. Even if we don’t like to admit it, absorbing these mixed messages can be negative.
Pinterest is another site I frequent; I love all the recipes and outfit ideas. The majority of Pinterest users are women and so the “popular” tab of the site is filled with ideas other women are posting for each other to see. Just a few scrolls down can give a basic outline of what women seem to expect of themselves and each other, for better or for worse. Descriptions of juice cleanses or work-outs and pictures of beautiful models in wedding dresses abound and emphasize what our society expects of a woman.
Teenage and young adult years are formative years and the way we discuss drawing attention to women and their bodies shapes the way we think.
Publicly calling out the “girl in them yoga pants at the salad station, you aren’t fooling anyone” isn’t necessary or beneficial to anyone. Asking “if all the ladies could pay attention to hottie at the printers… that’s why more of you need to go to the gym” is inadvertently more damaging than it is cute. Looking at these comments objectively and taking them with a grain of salt keeps them from causing damage. Just do what makes you comfortable and healthy, the only validation you need is from yourself.
Anna is a sophomore at Hartwick College, majoring in anthropology and history.