A Compliment Crisis

Art provided by Maggie Seckler ’26

I love to give compliments. 

To me, compliments are like little gifts for others, a way to make someone’s day in just a simple sentence. 

To see a person’s smile creep from ear to ear after giving him or her a compliment causes me to smile just as wide. 

Receiving a compliment is similarly gratifying. No matter how confident one is about their outfit, comment in class, humor, etc., receiving a compliment is a form of superior validation. 

Despite this, I have noticed a compliment crisis in our world, Grace not being an exception. Often, compliments are viewed as fake — ingenuine and superficial. The famous Mean Girls quote sums it up perfectly:

  • Regina: Oh my God, I love your skirt! Where did you get it?
  • Lea Edwards: It was my mom’s in the ’80s.
    Regina: Vintage, so adorable.
    Lea Edwards: Thanks.
    Regina: [after girl walks away] That is the ugliest f-ing skirt I’ve ever seen.

Though this perception of compliment giving is not 100% inaccurate, the assumption that many of us share the same disingenuine intentions as Regina George ruins the beauty of the simple action. 

After asking students around school how often they give compliments, I found that most people give compliments once or twice a day. This number could easily be higher, considering how giving compliments is such a non-strenuous task.

“I don’t really feel like I give that many compliments,” commented Barak L ‘24, who  proceeded to announce: “I feel like I should give more.” 

I wonder: why don’t we give more compliments? 

Ian G. ‘24 explained: “The only reason I wouldn’t [give a compliment] is if, I don’t know, I don’t want to come across the wrong way, or if it’s somebody I don’t know really well, I wouldn’t want to just blurt it out. But if it’s not a big thing, then I will.”

One study validates Ian’s concerns, finding that many people underestimate how their compliments will benefit the receiver, believing that perhaps they will be perceived as cringy or fake, like Regina George. They don’t give compliments because they are worried that they won’t land well. 

This preconceived notion is riddled with worry, as compliments positively impact both the giver and receiver. Studies show that both giving and receiving compliments triggers the reward system in our brains, releasing dopamine, making us feel happy, satisfied, and motivated. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, receiving compliments can make us uncomfortable because we are surprised to receive them. The inability to accept a compliment can be a reflection of a deeper insecurity. The author writes, “Many of us respond awkwardly to compliments as an unconscious act of self-protection. Unfortunately, this unconscious self-protection often robs us of human connection. It keeps us from letting in the kind words and gratitude of others.” 

In high school, we are often faced with mental struggles, caused by our own thoughts in addition to the environments we surround ourselves with. In a world of judgment and social media, it is easy to compare ourselves with our peers and instead of bringing people up, tear them down. 

Compliments are a tool on a path to self-love and a means to provide others with happiness. By spreading kindness, we not only help the world around us, but help ourselves. 

Zamira Frost ‘24 is a Senior Columnist for The Grace Gazette.