A week of compliments

On days when I’m unhappy with who I see in the mirror, hearing a meaningful compliment from someone can completely change my interaction with my reflection.

For a week, I challenged myself to compliment familiar and unfamiliar faces out in the world, and see how one small action can make a big impact. 

According to Psychology Magazine, neuroscientists have shown that verbal affirmations light up the same areas of the brain as a monetary reward does.

Giving out a compliment takes little effort, yet people tend to shy away from handing them out due to anxiety of confrontation or underestimating the power of an uplifting comment. 

Sometimes I, myself have failed to blurt out a positive remark about someone else for these reasons, but I decided to release any oppositions for the week’s entirety. 

Rather than allowing overthinking to take over, I decided to compliment someone whenever the thought crossed my head.

Throughout the week, I complimented a fellow student passing my way, my barista’s nails, the hairstyles and outfits of strangers in the girl’s bathroom and the makeup of my favorite Ulta employee. All were surface-level phrases, but the reactions made it worthwhile. 

Even if it was a simple, “Aww, thank you!” my heart still leaped with excitement. I also had others send a compliment my way in return, or start off a friendly conversation. I ended up having lengthy, feel-good banter with a few people I would never normally talk to; it was humans lifting up humans, which is something we don’t always see lately. 

I also complimented acquaintances I haven’t had a connection or meaningful interaction with yet, like my classmate or a coworker. Complimenting on the work they completed rather than a piece of their outside appearance felt good to appreciate.

There was one classmate in particular that gave off the same energy in response to my positive remark to her project. They sweetly showered compliments back in my direction, and I noticed us connecting more in class as the week continued. I think it helped them see me as a genuine person rather than a side character in their academic life, and could even continue to build into a potential friendship. 

Finally, I made an extra effort to shower my loved ones with compliments. Although I spend nearly everyday either seeing or talking to close friends and family, sometimes I forget to consistently remind them of their lists of amazing qualities. 

Out of all of my interactions, these were the most heartfelt; I tend to use my sense of humor as a crutch during serious situations, so I could tell a serious compliment went a long way for those who understand my sarcastic nature the most. I ended up getting to spend extra time with the people I love extra, and that truly means the world to me. 

A compliment can change the course of someone’s day, week or year, and it felt good to be able to become the source of this impact this week. I hope to continue to express the small, uplifting things I think out loud for those who probably need to hear it.

Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at mercedes.kauphusman@mnsu.edu

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