Friday, January 9, 2015

A Look at the Power of Words

"If you have don't something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

It's the something we've all heard, whether it's from a grandma, parent and teacher. Understandably so, as it's sage advice. However, I've been wondering whether we need to say something at all – even if it is nice.

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As a pregnant woman, it seems someone always has a comment. "You look so small!" "How many weeks do you have left? Oh. Really?" "You look like you are carrying a boy."

Each is said with a look toward my belly. Each is said as a reference toward my appearance.

The more I've taken in the statements and the more I've sought grace in doing so, I've noticed that the things we say – the good things – are in reference to how we look.

"I love how you did your hair today."

"Your outfit is really cute."

"Did you wear makeup today? It looks nice."

"Are those new boots?"

I will often say things like this to a co-worker or friend, even a passer-by on the street, because I think it's important to acknowledge people. I don't know if they are having a good day or a bad day or whether anyone has said something nice to them. I remember days at this time last year when I was struggling with depression and having a tough time that a single compliment would be enough to get me through the day.

But even with the best intentions, it's all superficial. We're not bolstering someone as a person or supporting her spirit. We are, in a way, giving the message that we so often try not to: it matters how you look. To me. It does.

I've considered how to change this, in my own approach to saying nice things. I could tell someone that she has a nice smile or a gentleman that he had a great laugh. But, coming from a stranger, it honestly sounds creepy – at best.

When I talk to Miles, I try not to tell him how cute he looks, a difficult task because I'm so in love with him. I try to share with him that I am appreciative of the little person he is. I emphasize the things that make my heart happy, whether it's him saying that when his baby brother is born that he'll "try to hold his hand" or sharing a book with friends.

Yet, the interesting thing is that when he says something nice, to me, it's not about who I am or the things I do. It's the lesson I'm trying to avoid.

"Mommy, you look beautiful today."

Tell me: Am I thinking too much about this? How do you share something nice with others?


  1. I think both are good, when genuine. Dave and i want to make sure our kids know that while they're cute, they're also kind, smart, have good hearts, are strong, etc. I agree with you.

    1. Thank you for agreeing with my crazy pregnancy ramblings. And your kids are cute!

  2. I don't think you are thinking too much about it, especially with your kids. But I think it's okay to give strangers/coworkers/etc the appearance compliments. I do a lot - "I like your lipstick, "I like your necklace," etc. When I say those things, I feel like I am telling them I like how they put themselves together, which while yes, is about their appearance, is also about how they take care of themselves and the effort they put in to them. And it's nice to get compliments. It's nice to have people notice when you are having a put together day. It is NOT nice when they make it about how you don't look that way all the time. But whatever. Everyone says something awkward from time to time, thinking they aren't! Ha ha.

    And I make an effort to say those types of things to my close friends along with things about their character. "You're a good friend." "I appreciate what a good listener you are." It's so easy to say those things! :)

  3. This is such a visual world and I don't know how to get around that. Of course there are many qualities that (should) trump looks and I love that you focus on those with Miles. That said, I think all sincere compliments are nice. That's how many people show their intention of thoughtfulness.

  4. I think no matter what words are said, if it is positive, it's good. We are all beat up and made to feel worthless from time to time, sometimes because of our over thinking minds but like you said, these comments are sometimes the things that get us through the day. I totally see where you are coming from. We have more value in looks than anything else but by not acknowledging the way that the entire world judges us and avoiding telling your children that they are indeed beautiful may (or may not) have it's own impact on them. Once our children grow up, they will judge us on our parenting. They will decide for themselves what they thought was great and what they thought wasn't great. I still remember to this day the time my dad told me I looked beautiful. It wasn't like him to say that, and it was probably the only time he did say it, but it meant so much to me. I was something like 8 years old and to hear him say that did nothing less than make my heart swell with happiness. Everyone is beautiful. We all are. We are all loved by someone. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of these things because the world beats us down and makes us forget it for a moment. This got extremely long but this post really brought some thinking. Thank you for that :)

  5. The other day I was talking with the cashier at Target, a young guy, nothing deep or anything and at the end of my order he took off like 100 bags (I bring my own) and then added a "store coupon" . My total was $15 less. I asked him why he did it and he said it was because was so nice. He said most people are pretty quiet or rude and it was rare to have a nice customer. He made my day...and I guess I made his! I don't think we hear enough nice things during the day, so be that person and make someone smile. Even if you think it is superficial.

  6. I consciously make an effort to compliment my kids on things that aren't just about their appearance because I think that it's important to have self worth not solely tied to your appearance. You're not crazy!

    And on a side note, people think a pregnant woman gives them just cause to say whatever they want apparently. When I was 36 weeks, I had a woman tell me that she thought I was just incredibly obese...ugh...