Posted by: Abby Caplin, MD | December 16, 2009

“But you look so good!”

“But you look so good!”

If you type in these words into any search engine, you will find that this frequent exclamation makes people with chronic illness positively simmer!

It all starts with the word “But.” Here’s an example:

You’ve just told your friend that you have been dealing with a chronic illness (ex: multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, cardiac disease, fibromyalgia, etc.)

Your cheeks are rosy, perhaps from Prednisone, makeup or your natural complexion. You have a light in your eyes, because you are happy to see your friend. Then, presumably to help you feel better, your friend says:

“But you look so good!”

“But.” But what? But you are really not as sick as you say? But you look completely healthy, so you must be exaggerating your experience? But what I see is more real than how you feel, so you are a bit neurotic?

The “but” negates all of your experience.

I’ve learned to say, “Yes! Thank you. I wish my insides would look as good as my outsides!”

Perhaps it would be more helpful to say, “Oh, you really mean ‘and.’ And in spite of what I’ve been dealing with, I look good! I appreciate that. Thank you!”



  1. Abby,

    So often we don’t know what to say, and idiocy spills out of our mouths. Thank you for this post . . . it reminds us that what we think is a compliment might come across completely otherwise. I love your blog and the points you make!

    Be well,

  2. Oh, Pam. Thank you for writing. We all periodically have “idiocy” spilling out of our mouths, yours truly included!

    I once had a teacher who said, “People are always getting into trouble with one another. What matters is how they get out of it.”

    I remind myself of this teaching on a fairly regular basis! 🙂

  3. Abby, I realize I am a few years behind the times reading your blog, but this is great! The MS Society even has a brochure by that name (But You Look So Good). I totally relate to your first response (‘but what?’). For me it goes along with, “You are so lucky; you have a parking placard!” And, “You are doing SO well!” (How do YOU know?). I still have to stop and think before I respond, because, well really, chances are the speaker is well-meaning regardless of how my buttons have been pushed.
    Thank you belatedly for this post.

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