«Why don't you smile for a change?» and other sentences that are off limits


Marlies Seifert




We asked, you replied: Presenting the five sentences that you can't stand anymore.

Our article «Five things that you really shouldn’t say anymore in 2022» provoked plenty of comment. The Migros Commitment community was quick to conclude that there are far more such throwaway expressions which can be hurtful. Via Instagram, you sent us further examples of phrases that you would like blacklisted. We've selected five of these. The list is by no means exhaustive. Can you think of any other no-go sentences? Then send us a message on Instagram!

«Why don't you smile for a change?»

This classic is often said to young women in particular. The idea of the good-natured girl who even smiles in the face of adversity is deeply rooted in our society. Just don't have an opinion, don't wind people up! And whatever you do, please don't bang on the table. How unladylike would that be! Psychologist Marianne La France, who researches smiling, has a very clear opinion about the demand to smile: «It's a mild form of harassment, but it is harassment,» she said in an interview. In our article about toxic masculinity you'll discover that not just women but also men suffer as a result of classic role models. And you can find out what we can all do to tackle them.


Please don't! Some expressions simply make you shake your head in disbelief.

«What a big/small belly you have!»

In this case, it was directed at a pregnant woman. Just like in other situations, your best bet is not to make any comments about people's bodies, whether your own or that of others. Worse still, pregnant women typically worry enough about the health of their unborn child. Senseless comments therefore only exacerbate their insecurity. Another phrase of this kind was heard almost daily by a different follower during her pregnancy: «You must now eat for two.» What if you're not particularly hungry because you feel nauseous the moment you smell food? Exactly. Please therefore stop judging other people and giving them a guilty conscience.

«We always did it like that»

This expression is the death knell that stops any change in its tracks. It's closely related to the phrase «Everything was better in the past.» In the 1950s, people thought that smoking was healthy. And in Switzerland, women weren't allowed to vote until 1971. Aren't we all happy that things have changed? 

«There's no racism in Switzerland»

The only people who ever say something like this clearly aren't affected by racism and are blissfully unaware of their own privilege. Everyday racism is everywhere - even in Switzerland. That's because the term refers to more than blatant hostility. Racism and discrimination can be much more subtle. But that doesn't make it any less hurtful. Care for an example? Click here to access an online publication in which people with immigrant backgrounds recall their experiences at Swiss schools.

«You're just not strikingly beautiful, but of average beauty»

Can we please agree that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? It's precisely sentences like these that cause us to compare ourselves and desperately try to meet some sort of beauty standards. This article about diet culture explains why that's unhealthy and what it does to our body.

Photos: GettyImages