Editorial: The Problem with Compliments

by OLIVIA DEGEN

It has become increasingly out of the ordinary for many men to give each other compliments. According to modern social stigmas and living in a culture which emphasizes masculinity, it is odd for men to mention what other men are wearing or look like. This has been noticed by not only individuals, but companies such as BuzzFeed as well, which made a YouTube video involving men giving and receiving compliments. The results are not only humorous but are exceptionally uncomfortable. Why is this?

There are a variety of existing theories on why it may be awkward for numerous men when it comes to compliments involving other males. One theory explains that compliment-giving is uncomfortable due to society and the people within it stigmatizing virility and consequent competitiveness.  Many men are unable to praise one another’s sense of fashion or personality because stigmas involving masculinity would not be abided by. This theory also branches into perceived femininity or sexuality for men. Due to the fact that stigmas cause men to feel awkward in giving compliments, many men believe that giving compliments is a feminine thing to do, and that positively commenting on another man’s appearance will also cause for their sexuality to be perceived as something they may or may not be.

While these stigmas do seem to be widely accepted and do not seem to be soon to change, as stated by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, “acceptance is not surrender”. This means that one can accept the stigmas of modern society without necessarily abiding by or living according to them. People with better self-esteem tend to be more prone to receiving and giving compliments, due to the fact that it is human nature to reinforce things that we already think of ourselves. Generally, people with low self-esteem are uncomfortable while receiving compliments because they believe the compliments which they are receiving to be contradictory to their own views of themselves. In this case as well as many others, forgetting the standards imposed by society can be beneficial to both oneself and others which one may encounter. Feel free to give compliments, receive them gracefully, and be yourself in a world where stigmas have caused conformity since what seems to be the beginning of time.