Why Are We So Worried About Dressing Up and Getting Compliments?


Why do we fear getting compliments if we dress up?  Why do we often dress down for fear of getting even positive comments?

Why Are We So Worried about Dressing Up?

Are you worried that if you change your style or dress more stylishly you will get ‘the look’ or comments from friends family and co-workers? Even if these comments are complimentary?

Many people fear change.  And sometimes those around us are surprised and don’t quite know how to handle the  changes we make.  They may be complimentary, or sometimes they may ask you what is going on in your life that you need to change.  This can make some of us uncomfortable as we don’t want to have to deal with the questions or comments.

Do we fear compliments because we feel inside that we are:

  • not young enough
  • not thin enough
  • not pretty enough
  • not perfect
  • not stylish enough

Enough with the enoughs!

As the old saying goes – there are 8 billion women in the world and only 8 of them are supermodels.  We need to give ourselves more credit and understand that we are beautiful as ourselves, no matter our shape or age.

Often even when we get positive feedback about our appearance, we dismiss it, we are so unused to dealing with compliments or attention we reject it.  We find it hard to believe, yet we take criticisms on board as if they are facts carved in stone with little issue!

For some people attention is something they shun, they want to hide in the background and not be noticed.  To disappear.  The reality is we are all seen, no matter how much we may try not to be, we are not invisible and others notice what we wear.

There is no such thing as an invisibility cloak.

But what I’ve noticed, and experienced for myself is that fairly quickly that those who are around you get used to the “new you”, and that becomes the new normal.  Comments subside (particularly that sort of “are you off for a job interview” type), as your new upgraded duds seem to be only for a special occasion.

Now that you dress well every day, consistency is of course key, everyone quickly gets used to you being the stylish, well dressed person that you have decided to be.

The reality is we are communicating with our clothes all the time (just read my posts on Yin and Yang to understand this concept better), so why not communicate a positive message, the one that you choose to present to the world.

What I love is hearing how much so many of the husbands/partners of my Evolve Your Style challenge participants enjoy their wives new styles and the effort they go into putting on their outfits each day.

Are you ready to take the leap and show the world the new and improved you?  It’s time to Dress Up!  And I’m going to start a movement as so often I hear how everyone hates how much societies all over the world are dressing down so much of the time, to a level that has become inappropriate.  So #DressUp and please do post photos of yourself with the #DressUp hashtag if you’re a social media user to help spread the word that it’s OK, no make that GOOD to dress up every day, not just for special occasions.

Now when I say dress up, clothes still have to be practical and work for your lifestyle, but we’re talking putting on your nicer outfits rather than saving them for “good”.  Imagine you want to impress someone every day and dress to impress!


I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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  • Thank you, Imogen, for a powerful post! It is wonderful to just say “Thank you!” to a compliment… simply accepting a gift from the giver, and not getting embarrassed or self-effacing. To devalue the complement, devalues the giver. We need to teach our children to accept compliments gracefully. Especially by example!

  • I think most people don’t dress better because they want to be comfortable. I say the goal is to look nice, express yourself, AND be comfortable. With today’s fabrics – knits, blends with spandex – it’s easier than ever to be comfortable.

  • regarding finding/presenting one’s own style esp at an impressionable age/with a timid/more unassuming personality, if there is a forceful individual (either mother or best friend) who are a bit dogmatic or judgemental with v strong opinions – they might just say – ‘what are you wearing?’ or ‘that really doesn’t work.’ (when it might be great- just not to their taste!)

    I myself find it v difficult to say ‘thank you’ to a compliment because I feel that the polite thing is to return it but it’s not always possible and I find it difficult to lie. my friend meets me for coffee, compliments me on how great I look, she is however wearing bright lipstick overpowering her face and the wrong colour dress that washes her out. same scenario with my other friend who has just had a baby, last thing she cares about is her appearance and looks suitably dishevelled. if I just say thank you, it feels as though ‘thank you, wish i could say the same about you’… so I actually tend to downplay it – ‘oh had this dress for ages’, ‘oh it’s just from a charity shop’, ‘oh i bought it in the sales’ etc. (which in itself might be a lie and am not happy about this response 🙁 )

    btw if I may point out, there are 3 billion women, not 8 billion… (there are currently 7 billion humans including both genders!)

    • You could always say something positive to your friends, like you like their haircut, or they have a great figure. But, to be honest, I would just take a compliment at face value and say “thank you”!!!! But perhaps I am missing something! Maybe my friends secretly want me to compliment them!!!! 🙂

  • So many women say they can’t accept compliments so I thought long and hard about what people were actually saying while complimenting me and most of it has nothing to do with me personally.

    Many of their comments are about my clothes, my jewellery, my handbag, sure it’s simple enough to say thanks, (although sometimes it sounds weird to say “thanks” to “i love your bag”, because what am I thanking them for? liking my bag!? That sounds weird in itself), but those comments were about objects I just happened to be wearing or carrying. If thanking people is too hard, or weird, listen to what they actually say then start a conversation.

    “Oh my god, i love your bag”, “isn’t it awesome, i love animal print and it was such a bargain”. Simple!

    You don’t take it as a compliment but as a conversation starter and it’s less nerve racking. Of course we know it also comes down to insecurity. Women don’t have the confidence in themselves to believe others could find something about them wonderful. Maybe turning a compliment into a conversation is a better alternative.

  • Yes, I think that’s true, too. I quite often tell a little story about the coat, bag or whatever. “Thanks, I got it on holiday in such and such, and I really love it because xyz”. It’s just a pleasant and fun way to connect with someone 🙂

  • I think that if I were to make a huge effort to get all dressed up and this results in complements on my appearance, one of the thoughts going through my head would be that I now have pressure on me to keep it up – when really I just want be comfortable and not have to spend lots of time and effort into getting dressed. Also, I might wonder whether I don’t appear attractive enough unless I spend hours on my hair, hobble about in high heels and force my body into body-shaping undergarments?

    • It doesn’t have to take hours, and you can still be casual. You don’t have to wear shapewear or high heels to look stylish or put together. And if it takes hours to get your hair looking nice then you don’t have the right hairstyle (I won’t spend more than 3 minutes on mine). It’s just about taking a little more care and not dressing sloppily

  • You mean other women have all those enoughs?

    You’re kidding me aren’t you?

    I never had them till I had my 9th pregnancy and my body just gave up.

  • I think the thing about compliments is, if you like my outfit and compliment it today, and then the rest of the week goes by and you say nothing, I must look “less than” on those other days and I start to wonder. Thus, I prefer people not comment on my appearance at all.

    If someone DOES compliment me, I give a simple but sincere thank you and change the subject. I never do a reciprocal compliment, as it seems completely false — “you look good, oh, so do you!”

  • I think “thank you,” is generally sufficient, especially if you don’t make a big deal out of it; like if someone opens the door for you, “thank you,” and move on. I’ve find so much inspiration and advice on this blog but the one piece I come back to over and over is “the power of the 3rd piece.” Even for exercise. It’s not like I am going to wear a scarf over a running top and shorts, but maybe a headband or running-specific cap. When it is cool enough if I put a light vest over a sports t-shirt I feel more together/intentional. It shows people that I make exercise – and the friends I exercise with – a priority.

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