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19 Subtle Insults That Have Been Masquerading As Compliments All Along

There are some things in life that aren't easily understood as a kid but make perfect sense as an adult. I can now comprehend why my parents told me I couldn't eat cake for breakfast. Most of the things adults said to me when I was younger, even if I didn't get it at the time, ended up being logical eventually. But, there are certain things I thought I understood the meaning behind, only to realize now I was totally wrong.

"This will all make sense when I'm older"
Disney / Via Disney +

When I look back, I can't help but notice certain comments adults made at my expense that were super cringe, weird, and/or rude...and how they would say them like a compliment. The amount of people who told me I was really "developing" is so creepy in retrospect. When I was a teenager, I just thought this meant I was getting taller. Nope! For some reason, it was normalized to comment on a 13-year-old's chest and act like this was appropriate.

"Not cool, man!"

When adults would say something like this to me at the time, I would smile and thank them because they were an authority figure and I was supposed to respect my elders, but looking back? What an uncomfortable thing to say to a child. This Reddit thread from r/AskReddit where u/Significant-Cow-934 asked, "What sounded like a compliment when you were young, but you later understood it wasn't?" proves that I'm far from alone in this experience. Here are some of the most cringeworthy responses:

1.“'She’s gonna be a heartbreaker when she’s older!' Just a really weird thing to say to a kid."

GIF of Taylor Swift looking uncomfortable

2."You look 18'...when I was 12. As an adult, I realized how creepy that was."

u/Atlantic_Nikita

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"Even as a young teen as a guy, I had a few older women that said, 'The things I’d do to you if you were older!' when I was, like, 14–15 or whatever. Realizing later in life what these older women were implying to me at the time was wild."

u/lsutigerzfan

3."I had the opposite experience. I have always looked younger than my age. It was just as creepy. Old men telling me I looked 12 when I was 18 and then proceeding to hit on me."

u/ProsciuttoPizza

4.“You’d be so pretty...if you were skinnier.”

u/GreenDub14

5.“'You’re so mature for your age' really meant I was traumatized and too scared to behave like an actual child."

A kid looking stressed while doing homework

6."When I was young, someone once told me, 'You're so lucky you don't have to worry about your looks.' At the time, I thought it was a compliment, but later, I realized they were saying I wasn't conventionally attractive."

u/sk0355

7.“You’re beautiful...in your own way.”

u/ZobiBakugou

8."I had an adult tell me, 'You've turned into quite the swan.' So...they mean I was an ugly duckling before...?"

Swans in the water

9.“I wish I had your confidence,' usually said to a bigger person."

u/BlackVelvetx7

10."You’re such a perfectionist."

u/Outside_Performer_66

"Many times, people who say that are annoyed because you're taking too long to do a task or that you take over a group task. Many perfectionists go behind and 'fix' what other people have done, and that annoys them."

u/sneezhousing

11."My aunts used to say I had great birthing hips. I was 13."

Mariah Carey looking uncomfortable

12."You're smarter than you look."

u/Vegetable-Poet6281

13."People told my mom, 'Your daughter is so well-behaved!' No, I was horribly anxious and scared of the consequences if I acted out even slightly. Teaching your kid how to be a good human is one thing, but teaching your kid that you can take anything they love away from them at any time if they make a mistake is something else entirely."

u/SalmonOfDoubt9080

14."'You've got an old soul,' usually meant I was quiet and did what I was told."

u/the_sand_moose

15."'You're too courageous for a girl!' 'You should've been born a boy!' It was a long time until I learned how misogynistic and nonsensical they sounded."

A person ziplining

16."'You're so nice.' A lot of people consider 'niceness' a weakness, something to be suspicious of, or something to take advantage of."

u/Iblisie

17."'You are too pretty to act that way!' I was upset about something and expressing my emotions."

Screenshots from "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
Little Stranger, Inc.

18."'Wow, you're very talkative,' aka how to tell small children to shut up."

u/HiMaintainceMachine

19.And finally, “Bless your heart.”

An older woman smiling

What other "compliments" with underlying meaning aren't on this list? Let me know in the comments!