06/09/2014 04:03 pm ET Updated Aug 09, 2014

My Size Changed, My Value Didn't

Candice Russell

Now that I am "of a certain age," I do not mind in the slightest when someone asks to see my ID before they serve me. In fact, you have pretty much guaranteed yourself at least a ten percent higher tip just by helping me maintain my inner delusion that I can still pass for 20 years old. And yes, I know I look a bit different now than I did when I got my photo taken at the DMV. I understand the double take. I will return their subtle smile when they hand it back, as though we are sharing some sort of secret just between us. I will even say thank you when offered that ill-conceived but good hearted, "congratulations," though I don't really mean it when I do. I just wish that, maybe once, it would stop there.

"You are so beautiful now."

"You must feel so good about yourself."

"Congratulations, you look so much better!"

Listen, I know that every TSA agent at the airport/ex-coworker I run into at the grocery store/old classmate who finds me on Facebook intends these things as compliments. I mean, what's wrong with calling me pretty or telling me how good I look or congratulating me on my success? Nothing at all, if that is all that they are doing. But is that ever really the case? There is always that caveat subtly strung along at the end. That hidden bit of subtext. You are so gorgeous... now. I think you are stunning... now. As if the girl in the photo they are holding in their hands or that mental snapshot in their head is somehow less than the girl standing in front of them. As if all of my worth is somehow tied up in how much I do or do not weigh.

I know that the platitudes are meant well. I really do. But for those of you handing them out? Next time, try and think a little before you speak. Think about whether or not you would want someone you barely know commenting on your body and its value. Think about what is and is not appropriate. Think about the person in front of you and that picture in your hand, and take a moment to remember that they are, in fact, one and the same.

Because here is the thing: I don't think that there is a difference in the level of beauty between the girl in that photo from four years ago and the woman standing in front of you today. Sure, my face was fuller and my cheeks wider; sharp edges now inhabiting spaces where soft, sweeping curves once lived. But my eyes shine just as much in that picture as they do now, my smile is just as wide. I don't feel "so much better" about myself now because there was nothing wrong with my self-esteem to begin with. My beauty is not tied up in that 180 pounds I lost. My beauty is not synonymous with the word "thin."

I appreciate the compliment you are trying to give, but I have always been beautiful. It's just a shame if before now you would have been too narrow-minded to see it.