An Unexpected Compliment


Have you ever had an out of the blue compliment that left you just speechless?

I grew up with red hair and freckles.  Apart from old ladies telling me what lovely colour hair I had, and one of my aunts telling me that freckles were ‘sun kisses’ (which really did make me feel a little better about them), I wasn’t one to get many compliments about my looks.

young cheryl
Red hair and freckles – not the ‘classic’ definition of beautiful

I also had a problem with pimples (acne) when I was a teenager, and well into my 20s.  Ughhh.

Plus, I’m short.  Well, I’m actually not so short, but I always felt like I was.

And I grew up thinking that everyone else was more beautiful than me.

I know, looks aren’t important, it’s what’s inside that counts.  Of course it is.

What is beautiful?

But, honestly, there is pressure on girls and women to be ‘beautiful’.  Especially from the media.  We don’t want people to think we’re ugly.  It’s a sad fact, but for a lot of women it’s true.  And, as we all know, it can cause terrible psychological and/or physical damage when a girl/woman feels like they’re not as ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’ as everyone else.

blond long legs
The definition of beautiful – blond hair, blue eyes, long legs

In my 30s, I came to terms with my colouring and features, and accepted that while I would never be beautiful, I was ok.  That was enough for me.

And in Russia?

Moving forward some years and this red-headed freckle-faced Australian girl (who, by the way, also finds it impossible to tan – another barrier to being ‘beautiful’ according to modern western standards), finds herself in Russia.

Russia has a reputation for having some of the most beautiful women in the world.  It’s a reputation well deserved, as I found out after moving here.

Some of them are staggeringly beautiful.  I was so intimidated by Russian women when I first came here.  I really felt like an ugly duckling.  Sitting in the metro sometimes, surrounded by long-legged, blond-haired, blue-eyed beauties was sometimes painful.  I felt like the poor cousin from the village.  Unsophisticated and quite plain.

blond and blue eyes
There are a lot of blue eyed blond women in Russia

Looks aren’t important!

Let me repeat here – I know that looks aren’t important!  I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I know that it’s what’s inside that counts.

But years and years of social conditioning telling us that you have to look like a super model to be beautiful is pretty difficult to over-ride.

I’m married now.  As you know.  My husband says that I’m beautiful.  He tells me often.

If my husband says I’m beautiful, then that’s all that counts.  Or it should be.

But I still have times when I feel inferior to other women just because of physical features.  Especially as I get older.  I deal with it better now, and although it doesn’t make me depressed, it’s something that is constantly there.

We have a lot of friends here in Moscow who are a lot younger than us.  Some of them are younger than my daughter.  Some of them aren’t even 30 years old yet.

Olivier and I are usually the oldest in any of our group of friends.  In some ways it’s good, we’re exotic creatures to them!  We’ve had a lot of life experience and have travelled abroad, which a lot of them haven’t done, which makes us ‘old and wise’.

So, we’re kind of popular here – like minor rock stars.

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Back in 2011

Back in 2011, we met a young Russian girl, let’s call her Oxana (because that’s her name).  She was a friend of the guys in the Russian punk rock group, FPG (it stands for ‘Fair Play Gang’).  One day we were having a party in our flat and they invited her along.

When I first saw her I was astounded at how beautiful she was.  Blond/sandy hair, nice figure, beautiful fresh face and skin.  She was young.  I was over 40.

Like almost all the people we’ve met here in Russia, she was very lovely, friendly and polite, intelligent and cheerful.  It was a pleasure to have her join our party.

Over the years we saw her from time to time in concerts, or with friends, although we never became close friends with her.  She got married, had a child, and we were connected only by social networks.

And now

Recently we went to see FPG in a city called Kaluga (183km from Moscow),  and when we arrived we saw that Oxana had also travelled to Kaluga for the concert.

So, with the guys from the band, we were all backstage together telling stories, reminiscing about past parties, catching up on the news.

At one stage I was sitting next to Oxana, and she turned to me and asked me how old I was.  I told her (52).  She seemed a little shocked at this, and began to tell me how great I looked, especially my skin, it’s nice and smooth, no wrinkles etc.

So then it was my turn to be shocked!  She’s beautiful.  She has skin like porcelain.  She’s gorgeous.  And she’s telling me how lovely I am (for my age).

I tried to explain that I use coconut oil on my face, but she said no, it’s not that, it has to be genetic for me to have such nice skin at 52.

Maybe so.

I asked her how old she was – 27!  That means that she was only 19 when we first met her that day at our party!

Beautiful Oxana, who I envy to be like.  Oxana – who has blond hair, no freckles, no pimples, and tans easily – gave me a compliment.

Totally unexpected and it made my day.

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It’s what’s inside that counts

Even though it’s what’s inside that counts, it’s difficult to get rid of this idea that physical beauty is something to be valued.  I know it shouldn’t have, but this compliment gave me a huge boost.

I guess the conditioning I got when I was young was really, really strong.  I think I’ll always attach some ‘importance’ to how we look, even though I know it’s not really important at all.

~ Cheryl

PS.  Please don’t think I wrote this just to fish for compliments.  I wrote it to show that even after 50+ years of life, it’s still difficult not to consider physical beauty as important.  We’re all beautiful.

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Author: Cheryl

I'm an Australian woman who is now living in a village in rural Bulgaria. I lived for 12 years in Moscow, Russian Federation, working as an English language teacher. My current loves are my husband and my vegetable garden.

27 thoughts on “An Unexpected Compliment”

  1. Beautifuly honest. It is so hard not to compare ourselves but we do it all the time, the world of social media doesn’t help. But it is so important to know that we are all beautiful even if it is not in the ‘traditional’ way ?


    1. Hello Claire, thank you for visiting and for your comment. Yes, we are all beautiful, I wish we would all believe it, especially young (and not so young) women. Too much pressure from social networks, especially Instagram. 🙂 Let’s hope things change in the future and we stop comparing ourselves with photoshopped photos and unrealistic body images. Thanks again for stopping by. Enjoy the rest of your weekend! 🙂


  2. It’s very interesting to found out what a person would like to be complimented for… I’ve been married for 11 years (and known my husband for 16 years) and there is no way my mother in law could possibly make me a compliment. Not for how nice and clean my house look, or for how well educated and always impeccable my four daughters are, or for how well I can cook. So disappointing! If she could also recognize that I am also pretty (Lol) that would be like winning the lottery ???


    1. Hi Silvia! Oh, sorry to hear that your mother-in-law doesn’t compliment you. But you know what (and I think you do), it’s not important what other people say or think. As long as you’re happy with yourself and what you’ve surrounded yourself with (husband, children, home), that’s all that matters. Of course it’s always nice to get compliments from the husband, I hope your husband compliments you daily! Thanks for reading my post and commenting, nice to see you here. 🙂


      1. I Guess my husband is short in compliment because he learnt it by him mom (lol) but he does show me how much he appreciate me every day! I totally agree with you that we have to feel comfortable and happy with ourselves, but compliments can give a lot of motivation in doing better every day…


      2. It’s nice that your husband shows his appreciation of you (and hopefully you do the same for him!). Yes, you’re right, compliments really give us a boost and motivation to do better. Imagine if we all complimented each other everyday! We’d all be super motivated and achieving all our goals!


  3. Great to read this Cheryl! I love how you had to add that last bit about not fishing for compliments, that’s something I’d do too! Maybe it’s an age thing but I shared a post recently about how we don’t seem to be able to accept or give compliments anymore! #senisal


    1. Hi Debbie, yes, it’s true. It’s hard to accept compliments. But, many years ago when I was going through my ‘self-improvement’ stage, I read about that, and how we always try to reflect the compliment away from us. And how we shouldn’t do that, we should accept a compliment when it’s give. The best way to respond to a compliment is to say ‘thank you’. It’s all that’s required. On the other hand, when it’s a ‘superficial’ compliment, or something we have no control over (like our looks, for example!), it’s a bit hard to take credit for it, but saying thank you is going to be the most graceful response, I think. Thanks for stopping by today and thanks for the comment. 🙂


  4. Awww. It made me smile. I know how hard it is in our society to be accepted. We all are beautiful and perfect in our own ways.


    1. Hello Arun, thanks for your lovely comment. Self acceptance should come first, and then the rest just doesn’t matter so much. 🙂 Thanks for visiting, hope to see you again. 🙂


  5. I think women of our “vintage” suffered from a dirth of compliments when we were young and impressionable Cheryl. I don’t remember my parents ever praising me or complimenting my appearance. We are our own worst critics so add that into the mix and it’s no wonder we feel like plain janes compared to the gorgeous young things all around us. It was lovely that you were seen by someone who took the time to tell you how good you look – even with the “for your age” disclaimer – it’s still a wonderful compliment and well deserved I would have thought.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂


    1. Hi Leanne, thanks for your words. I also don’t remember anyone close to me telling me anything positive about how I looked (except the aunt I referred to). In fact, it was probably the opposite, knowing Australian ‘humour’ – you know, teasing and stirring you until you’re quite uncomfortable. At least that’s what it was like in my family 😦 Nobody had anything nice to say. Yes, it was lovely for Oxana to take the time to compliment me. And you know what, I read somewhere recently about a woman who received a compliment about with the ‘for your age’ tag, and she ranted about it. She hated it! But I think it’s relevant – we’re 50! We’re not 20! Anyway, glad to have opened up the topic for conversation – it’s an important one, especially for young women. Thanks Leanne, and hope you enjoy the rest of your week. 🙂


  6. First of all, I have to say you were adorbs as a child! 😉 I had the freckles, fair skin, and strawberry blonde hair, so I totally get it. Society places so much pressure on women to look a certain way and anything other than that is unacceptable. I hate it. But I love you say it’s what’s on the inside that counts. At 50, I totally understand that but a teen or someone in their 20’s most likely won’t. Remember? We didn’t get it. This is such a powerful post and one that needs to be shared. I will. More awareness needs to be spread. Thank you for this. #MLSTL


    1. Hi Bren, thank you very much for your comment. Yes, it needs to get out and shared, but I think that young women will never have confidence in themselves (unless they have the ‘right’ genes). It’s great that we finally understand this, even though it’s taken 50 years to get it! The best we can do is support our daughters and try to help them understand this before they’re 50. I hope things change in the media but I’m afraid it’s just getting worse. Thanks for visiting, nice to see you here. 🙂


  7. I never felt very good about myself when I was young, and I was supposed to be the pretty one in the family. I never felt pretty enough. I felt my nose was too long, I had bad skin, and I wasn’t thin enough. I still don’t feel pretty enough, but I know that I’m loved by my husband. I wish I had the solution for making us feel better about ourselves. Thanks for a thought provoking post. Sharing to FB.


    1. Hi Christina, I think it’s a common theme among women – we never feel beautiful enough, always comparing ourselves to others. Especially as teenagers and young women. It would be nice to go back and tell young Cheryl to stop fussing over such details and just enjoy life. I’d hate to think how much time I lost worrying about my looks. Thank God for our wonderful husbands! We’re lucky to have them. Thanks for your comment and share. Have a great day! 🙂


  8. I understand what you’re saying, Cheryl. Even though we don’t need compliments and affirmations to know that we are beautiful, it sure is nice when someone else takes the time to tell you so!


    1. Hi Candi, yes, you absolutely understand me! It’s two things conflicting, but as you said it’s nice when someone cares enough to give us a little boost! Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting. Hope to see you again! 🙂


  9. This is such an important topic Cheryl and I spent years feeling the ‘ugly duckling’. Isn’t is amazing the pressure we have put on ourselves to attain an image fed to us by the media. It is lovely to receive a compliment but more important to accept it. For years if I was given a compliment I didn’t believe it and brushed it off or made a joke of it. Now I know that I should accept it and feel good about myself. Thanks for linking up and sharing at #MLSTL and yes you are beautiful!


    1. Hello Sue, you’re absolutely right about accepting a compliment (I actually had to tell my daughter exactly the same thing just this week!). Why did we all think we were ugly??? It’s terribly sad how much time we wasted and confidence we lost thinking about this, and comparing ourselves with others. I’m glad you can feel good about yourself now, we all should! Thank you for the compliment, Sue, and thank you for visiting again. 🙂 xx


  10. Thanks for sharing your honest heart-felt post, Cheryl. Of course, it’s what’s on the inside that’s important, but it’s nice to enjoy a compliment on how we look once in a while. It’s also only human to despair about some physical attribute on occasion. I know I just had a photo taken for work purposes, and it was pretty devastating! I’m blaming it on the lighting. 🙂 #MLSTL


    1. Hi Christie, thank you for your thoughtful comment. You’re right, it’s nice to get a compliment – I just feel guilty that I enjoyed getting it. About photos, my passport photo is a disaster, and I’m disappointed every time they let me go through passport control. I feel like they should challenge it, saying it’s not me, because I don’t look like that at all in real life! It’s awful that they can compare my real face with my passport photo face and come up with a match!! Thanks for visiting and commenting. Have a great day! 🙂


  11. Just one simple but meant compliment can make your entire day. It’s really crazy what effect it can have. Even if we don’t care what other people say and think about us, we all still are narcissists. In my environment it seems compliments are getting rarer by the day. When I was a kid people were much friendlier than now. Even saying goodbye to a stranger is not done anymore. Wish there were more moments like this 🙂


    1. Hi Jonas, yes, you’re right when you say that we are all narcissists. It’s true. A few words can really change your whole outlook, it’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? I think not only compliments are getting rarer, but personal, deep, and honest communication is disappearing and we’re using emoticons and sms ‘language’ for communicating. It’s sad. Thanks for your visit and your comment. Have a great weekend. 🙂


  12. It certainly is lovely to get a compliment, and of course they don’t have to be anything to do with looks. The other day my daughter told me I’m an amazing mum, then I told her I thought she was a better mum than me. She said that’s the nicest compliment she’s ever had. Here from MSTL.


    1. Hi Christine, thanks for stopping by to comment. Sounds like you ARE an amazing mum! It’s clear you did a great job, raising such a thoughtful daughter. Yes, all compliments are welcome and make us feel good. Have a great day! 🙂


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