"You Look So Good!" 55 Ways You Say You Respond When Ill

“You look so good!” Why do these words convey criticism to one who is ill rather than good wishes?

Over 1200 people took our survey and one of the things they shared was how they respond to the well-meaning (but annoying) comment, “You look so good!”

We know people mean it as a compliment, but still. . . doesn’t it sort of feel like they are saying, “You don’t look sick, so what’s this about some illness?” Even though we know they have good intentions it seems like it gets under the skin of many of you. One author even wrote an article for us about whether she should wear makeup or not when she feels really lousy.

And we discovered from our survey, that sometimes you just have to respond to “but you look so good” — a smile doesn’t say all that you want to say.

But, of course, one of the temptations is to use sarcasm in our response.

Most of us can say that it depends on who says it. We may be more likely to smile and say, “If only it were true!” to a friend who doesn’t really get it. To the person behind at us the grocery store who commented about our groceries, we are more likely to say something sarcastic since we don’t have to deal with repercussions of a stressed relationship.

Just remember that our seemingly justified bitter comments back at them can only alienate people more and it does nothing to create an awareness of invisible illness. But who of us doesn’t relate with wanting to say a few of these things on the list below?

The most telling comment I read was from a woman who simply said, “I wonder why they can’t see my pain in my eyes?” It’s a good reminder that though we sometimes think the world should accommodate our emotional needs, who around us is hurting for other reasons (divorce, loss of job, loss of loved one, etc.) and they are wondering about us, “Why can’t she see the pain in my eyes?”

Be sure to add your own at the bottom in the comments section!

  1. I am hangin’ in there…
  2. I am so blessed. God is so good.
  3. Drugs are a wonderful thing
  4. I have my good days and I have my bad days.
  5. I clean up well.
  6. I have my ‘good’ days…. but this isn’t one of them!
  7. Thanks, I wish I felt better.
  8. That’s a perfect example of how you can never judge a book by it’s cover.
  9. Thanks, but there are many aspects of my illness which you don’t see … would you like to know more about it?
  10. That’s what most people think since pain can’t be seen most of the time. Have you heard about Invisible Illness Week? It’s really helpful to let people now that most illness is invisible.
  11. I’m trying to appreciate that fact. I know the day may come when I have to use a wheelchair or a cane, and my illness will be more visible.
  12. You should be on the inside.
  13. Thanks. I have more to be grateful for than I have to complain about – which means I have a LOT to be grateful for!
  14. Well I guess I did good job on my makeup, because I am having a hard time to tell the truth.
  15. . . .And that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?
  16. Powder and paint, make you what you ain’t!
  17. It took a lot of work to look like this.
  18. It’s God shinning through me
  19. It’s nice of you to think so, but you’re missing the pain and agony that I really am in.
  20. And you look so wise. Looks can be deceiving though, huh?
  21. I’m having a “good face” day.
  22. Yeah. My kid thinks it’s cool I’m an ill person working under-cover!
  23. I do a great job hiding how I really feel.My life is still very challenging and probably will always be, but I am hanging in there, keeping a positive faith, and gratitude as THE attitude. Thanks for their concern.
  24. I’m trying my best to do well OVER my circumstances instead of being under them!
  25. It’s up and down.
  26. I’m still struggling, but it IS nice to have a day when I am able to pull myself together and make it out of the house!
  27. I’m not complaining about my looks.
  28. I’m very good at pretending.
  29. Good, because if I looked like I feel it would scare you to death.
  30. Actually, I still am really hurting…
  31. I am 36 years old outside but 85 inside
  32. Thank you. I’m on my way to the Oscars.
  33. Thanks, I’m grateful for this good day.
  34. Things aren’t always what they seem.
  35. Praise God, I’m glad that he enables me to look so much better than I feel.
  36. Thanks, that’s God’s joy shining through!
  37. Have you ever heard of the spoon theory?
  38. I am upright which is better the alternative
  39. Thanks, want to swap bodies for a few days?
  40. Thanks, I guess I am fortunate that I have an illness that can’t be seen.
  41. Thanks. I like good days.
  42. Want to step inside my skin?
  43. It’s amazing what a shower can do. I guess I am all cried out for now
  44. Thanks. . . I wish I felt it!
  45. I’m not complaining about my looks.
  46. I’m very good at pretending.
  47. Looks can be deceiving (and smile)
  48. Thank God for makeup!
  49. Thank you for caring. I try to act like I feel better than I really do.
  50. Thanks, I am trying to even though it will never go away. i just try to remember things could be worse.
  51. I’d be great if it wasn’t for the pain.
  52. I’d complain but who wants to listen.
  53. If I can’t feel good, at least I am determined to look good!
  54. I’m in good shape for the shape I am in!
  55. Smoke and mirrors!

What do you say when someone exclaims, “You look so good!”? Or what> would you say if you could say anything? (Keep it clean!)

If you struggle with people understanding that looks can be deceptive, you may enjoy Sherri Connell’s booklet, You LOOK So Good!

This is just one chapter of topics: I Never Know What to Say!; It Seems Like I Can Never Get It Right!; I Still Do Not Understand!; Couldn’t I just Try To Cheer Them Up?;But I Really Think My Suggestions Are Helpful!;So, Why Do I React That Way?; What “Discourages” Them?; What “Encourages” Them?; Being A Comfort In The Face Of Tragedy

Lisa Copen, Rest Ministries Founder


  1. Carol says

    “Thanks!” I choose to believe that when people say, “You look good!” they are either truly trying to give me a compliment or else trying to encourage me. I am grateful for either. And besides, unless they are pretty close friends, they really don’t want to hear how I’m feeling. So most of the time, “thanks,” works great.

  2. Craoline says

    I needed this for a talk with someone that I’m having some time in the next hour. Talk about good timing!

  3. Lynne says

    I have reached a level of acceptance with my pain conditions so when folks tell me i look good i take it as a compliment. I thank them and i tell them that taking care of myself is myway of coping with my daily pain and limitations.

    Yes,we do meet folks that are disbelieving of our conditions but rather than get angry and frustrated about their comment,gain strength from it and remind yourself of the chocies you make to take care of yourself whilst living with chronic pain.

    We can’t expect folks to truly understand unless they have the pain and limitations we have ourselves.

    Keep your energy for you to stay positive rather thangive it to others by getting upset with their comments.

  4. Patty says

    I am or was very blonde (now just dishwater blonde, ugh). I have always worn a lot of pastel colors and pink became one of my favorite lipstick colors throughout the years. So now, when I get the “you’re looking good”, my reply is its my pink lipstick! They seem to get a kick out of that and mostly these are really people who care about me. I just feel they are trying to be encouraging and uplifting to me. I think they really don’t know what to say and it’s awkward for them. I think Carol expressed this well. Works for me!

  5. Beth says

    These responses are interesting. For me, the tough thing is knowing what to say when someone asks me how I am.

    Just for fun, my sister and I used to say, “Well, I’m able to sit up and take nourishment!” I still respond that way once in awhile, but one time it backfired. The other person got really worried and said, “Oh, have you been seriously ill?” or words to that affect. I laughed and explained it briefly to her.

  6. says

    I started Chemo infusions in February and completed a cycle earlier this month(March 2013) for a disease called Wegener’s granulomatosis …..I was SO fed up with the stigma that goes along with what a Chemo and Invisible Illness Patient should look like…….When ask by one of the infusion nurses where were my house slippers, I replied…..I maybe sick but it doesn’t change my Shoe Fetish or need to have some resemblance to my normal self. The other thing that annoys me to no end is the misconception that I SHOULD have lost my hair….

  7. Tony Zanichkowsky says

    As one who does not suffer from an invisible illness, let me say that I DO understand…and I can see the struggle in the eyes of people who suffer. I read this list mostly for enlightenment…to better understand what goes the minds of Spoonies, when they are greeted with platitudes by people who don’t understand. Some of the replies were whimsical…some should NEVER be said. LOL
    Here’s one I didn’t spot in the list; “From your mouth, to God’s ears”.

  8. Kris says

    I enjoyed this article. I have Lupus and Fibromyalgia among other invisible illnesses and I was just thinking of something… Because I am 21 and have really bad Fibro fog, I sometimes forget my name, I came up with one, “Thanks. Can you please remember that? I may need you to remind me of it a few times.” and another one “Thanks! My friends think it’s cool. They say I’m superwoman!”

    • admin says

      Thanks for commenting. So glad that you can find a sense of humor in it all. That is a big key to coping with it all :) Blessings to you, Lisa

  9. Carol Junette says

    I have gotten into the habit of a nice “thank you” because I do feel that most of the time people are truly trying to be kind, and yes many don’t understand but they don’t really need to feel my pain and I wouldn’t want them to either. There have been times where the “glad those two hours of primping were worth it” come flying out of my mouth but I say it with a laugh and usually get a giggle back.

  10. says

    I was just talking about this subject last night. I sometimes get hot under the collar, & want to ask the person telling me I look good; So what does Narcolepsy look like, or Gastroperies, or Diabetes, or Peripherial Nueropathy, & so on… How should I look and act.

  11. says

    If you felt like me, you’d look like shit – in reply to those whose brains are just too small to process the information. And there are plenty of those.

  12. Tony D says

    Why would I want someone to say that I look sick?
    If someone says but you don’t look sick. I say thank you. You made my day. I try hard not to.
    Yes, I have COPD but I don’t want anyone to say I look sick. Just my thing. : )

  13. Kim Markey says

    I don’t mind when people say I look good. What I mind is snarky comments about being a “drug addict” as if the fibro pain meds make me high. They don’t. Not one bit. If they did, this would be much more fun and no one would mind having FM. The meds just take the edge off the pain and do nothing for the fatigue. The meds help me get 8-9 hours of sleep, which in turn decreases the pain and fatigue, in theory. I am not abusing the meds — in fact I am taking less than I could take. I also mind when I have canceled a meeting ONE time and the end result was very minor, but then later made as if the world ended because I had to cancel once in a year; especially for a volunteer position, for which I am not paid. Don’t worry: I made my anger known, and flat out told him to shut up twice and made an ass out of him. You’d think someone who you worked with you for 9 years would KNOW that you are going to do your best no matter what, but apparently being an asshole was more important. And now I can fire him if I want: so he had better learned his lesson.


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