Amanda LaCount Column: Back-Handed Compliments Are Really Insults

Amanda LaCount -#breakingthestereotype
It always amazes me when people give me insults veiled as compliments. These “compliments” are given with a smile like we should appreciate what they are saying. I think it is time to educate the world, including close friends and even relatives. Below are a few of my all-time favorites.

My Top Three Back-Handed Compliments

First is the “I wasn’t expecting that from you” compliment.  I’ve commonly heard this phrase when in a dance class or audition, and most recently about my “America’s Got Talent” audition. The assumption is that since I’m not a stereotypically tall, thin dancer, I must not be able to dance. When was it decided that big girls couldn’t dance?! I would much rather hear “You are a good dancer.” Period. Another closely related one is “You are a great dancer — for your size.” Again, that sentence should be “You are a good dancer.” Period.

Along with this one is “I’m so surprised you have worked with all these artists.” I guess I’m not supposed to work with big-name artists, because they should never work with dancers like me. Artists work with whomever they want to work with. I applaud the artists who aren’t afraid to go against the “norm” and hire dancers based on their ability instead of society’s stereotype of what dancers should look like. This includes Rihanna, Janet Jackson, Beyonce, Meghan Trainor, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and many others. I feel privileged to have worked with many of these artists. I look forward to the day that every dance audition is based on talent and there are no cuts made before dancers even start dancing based on how they fit the stereotype.

Second is the “I wish I had your confidence” phrase, when it’s implied that it’s surprising that someone my size could have confidence. It seems that some people don’t think bigger people could, or should, have confidence. But confidence is not unique to a certain size. Anyone can be confident. I wish someone would just say “I love your confidence.”

The third one really irks me.  It is “You’d look so pretty if you just lost some weight.” Who decided that no one could be pretty if they weren’t thin? I think I look great and I am fine with my weight, so why can’t other people be fine with it, too? I don’t think we are all supposed to look alike. The world would be pretty boring if we were all tall, thin, tan, blonde women. I like that I am different. I love my red hair, freckles, pale skin, and yes, my plus-size body. I have been a bigger girl my entire life. Yes, my life might be easier if I were thin. But then I wouldn’t be me. It is more important to me that I am healthy and love my body. I would love to just hear “You look so pretty.” Period!

Recently I’ve been hearing “You are so brave” when I  wear revealing items like a bikini, lingerie or crop top. OK, why am I brave? Why shouldn’t I be able to wear whatever I feel comfortable wearing? If I feel comfortable and want to wear a bikini, why should I be considered brave? Who decided that only thin women can wear a bikini or a crop top? Is this something someone put on a clothing label? I’ve never seen “This garment for thin girls only” on a tag!  

I feel good when I wear a bikini or a crop top. I don’t think I should have to cover up my body. I definitely don’t feel “brave.” It shouldn’t be considered “brave” for someone to wear something they feel good in. Aren’t we all the same? Clothing is clothing. Wear what you feel comfortable in. Also, don’t be afraid to try wearing new things. If you like how you feel in something new, wear it.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to have a frank talk with friends, relatives or even strangers. If you receive a backhanded compliment that is really a put down, nicely call them out on it and let them know how their comment makes you feel. Many times people don’t even realize that they are doing it. By educating people, we can stand up for ourselves and stop many of these insults.

What back-handed compliments annoy you most? Share with us in the comments below.
About the Author: Curvicality columnist Amanda LaCount is a professional dancer, actress, singer, model and body activist. She’s the youngest of seven, and relocated from Colorado to Los Angeles to pursue her dream. When she’s not auditioning, rehearsing or performing, she loves to ride horses and go to the beach. You can find her on IG @amandalacount

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