Addressing the “Good for Your Age” Compliment

“You’re smart, for being a young person.”

“You look good for your age.”

“You are athletic for your age.”

The “good for your age” compliments seem nice and flattering at first. But actually, these “compliments” are a backhanded knock on people your age.

For people who think that I’m being too sensitive, consider the implications of the compliments I expressed at the beginning of my piece:

  • “You’re smart, for being such a young person.” Implication: Young people are usually not that smart.
  • “You look good for your age.” Implication: People your age usually don’t look “good” (whatever good is).
  • “You are athletic for your age.” Implication: People your age aren’t athletic. By the way, I’ve known of people over the age of 100 to run marathons, so people can be athletic at any age.[1]

In summary, these compliments of being “good for your age” are indirectly critical of others of a particular age in ways that are ageist. It’s ageist because people (or groups of people) are judged solely on the basis of the age they are or the age they look.

Instead of making such ageist comments, we can just avoid the age-based compliments. Instead of saying that someone is smart for their age, say that the person is smart. Instead of saying someone looks good for their age, say that the person looks good. Instead of saying that someone is athletic for their age, say that someone is athletic. Ultimately, your traits need not be based on age because, really, age is just a number.

Please note that I will not publish a post next Monday because it will be Presidents’ Day.


[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/01/01/568665002/at-age-101-shes-a-world-champ-runner