On Backhanded Compliments

I was talking to a gorgeous local Houston celebrity – a popular news anchor who is absolutely stunning on TV. But there’s something about the TV makeup that causes her to look a bit plastic. So when I saw her in person I thought to myself that her warmth and beauty was so much more apparent in person.

At that point someone else came up to her and said (for probably the umpteenth time) “Oh you are so much prettier in person.” I thought those words but didn’t say it. She turned to me and I told her that I get the same comment all the time. She replied that she thought it was a backhanded compliment of sorts. She wondered if she looked that bad on TV that so many people said it to her.

I told her that people who see me in photos, and then in person, always comment the same thing to me. I just am not that photogenic. Sometimes I take a good photo, but more often than not, I look heavier, older, or have a non-natural smile or look. I can take five photos in the same day, and look like a completely different person in every one of them!

People are usually pleasantly surprised to see me in the flesh and tell me those dreaded words, “You are much prettier in person.” Or even worse, “Have you lost weight?” I addressed this issue in my Huffington Post piece, Weight! Hold That Compliment! Read here.

An old flame I reunited with this past summer told me he is glad to see me in person on the rare occasions he does because I look just awful in some of my photos and he is always relieved to see me in person. (Yes, this conversation really took place.)

Lately, I have gotten more name notoriety due to my flood blogs – I was considered by some “The Voice of the Meyerland Flood.” (Not my words, but another person’s.) Now when people meet me and hear my name, they ask if I am the writer of those blogs. I get loads of compliments and thank yous for this writing that truly came from my heart, but I have also gotten some other surprising comments, such as I am younger than they thought I was, or they express surprise at my looks. I guess I sounded pretty downtrodden in those blogs.

From Facebook acquaintances that I meet in person, I have heard countless times the comment that I am prettier in person. My eyes don’t skrinch up in person, my smile is more natural – there are probably a lot of reasons for this comment.

However, I think the real reason that people think I am prettier in person is that to meet me is to get a sense of my warmth, my exuberance, and my friendliness. That is what makes me attractive, not the blond hair thing or anything else.  As I have always told my daughter (with a Beauty and the Beast theme since she was three or four years old) – it is MUCH more important to be beautiful on the inside than the outside. Being beautiful on the inside radiates on the exterior anyway, as far as I am concerned. (And was the topic of this Huff Post Blog too!)

I am sure the same is true for that beautiful anchor.  She seems like a warm, nice, genuinely caring individual. So her inner beauty radiates in person, making her the target of all of those same comments.

What do you think? Should that comment create insecurity, as it does for a highly successful anchorwoman and myself? Or is it actually a good compliment? Is it a backhanded compliment, or is it just acknowledging that a person is not necessarily photogenic? Would love your comments and feedback!

One comment

  • I don’t think I would ever say that to someone, even if I thought it because I know it would bother me. To hear it. Just as you stated, I would think I must look pretty bad in pictures. I think saying “you’re so pretty” is plenty enough. I don’t need to hear that’s only true in person. LOL I’m not insecure but at the same time, if you hear that enough, you’re going to start to question if you’re seeing what you think you see in the mirror if you hear that too often.

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