'I'm ugly'

liesbethFebruary 27, 2009

Hello everybody, I usually hang out on the stepfamily forum, but this time I have a question about kids/people in general so I thought I'd come here.

My SD10 has very low self esteem and says things like: "I'm ugly", "I'm fat" , "My feet are so big, they're ugly" etc etc.

We are trying to boost her self confidence and I'd like to know how you guys address these kind of remarks. What do you say? If I say "no, you're not" it's not going to fix it.

Background info: SD's mom is exactly the same, always saying those sorts of things and constantly fishing for confirmation.

I want to tell SD10 that it's not good to say something negative about yourself just to try and get others to say that it's not true. And then I want to offer her an alternative, but what????

What do you say?

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First of all, is she overweight? Does she dress and groom herself properly? If she has any problems, I would try to help her improve herself. If all else is well, then you will have a problem on your hands if mom is saying that kind of thing all the time. I think you are doing the right thing, but it may take a long time to sink in with that message in her home.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 7:55PM
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She's not overweight and her mom is too skinny, she has an eating disorder. SD10 is already showing the same concerning symptoms. The girls have just started counseling and I hope this will help. But I do want to do something myself as well, some kind of positive reinforcement.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 9:31PM
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I have a 9 y/o DD. She doesn't say that particular thing about herself, but she has her own issues. She is in gifted classes at school, but will still insist in tears that she is not smart enough to be in the class, the others are smarter than her, and she is "too stupid" to do her homework.

That all drives me nuts, it's obviously not true, she has no real reason to say it. In her case, it's drama, and maybe fatigue and frustration. Sometimes I think it's a play for confirmation, to hear me say "You are so smart, look at what you've done..."

I try to turn it around to make her think and respond to herself. I ask "Why would you say that about yourself?" or "What happened that makes you say that?" She stops the drama sooner if I respond with questions rather than arguing with her that she is smart. (Hate when I fall for it.) If DD carries on about it, at some point I just have to say straight forward, "We both know that's not true, and I'm not going to have this discussion." I can say that to my DD b/c she generally has a high opinion of herself, overall self-esteem is not an issue with her. Her fits of "poor me" are temporary and an emotional outburst.

It's like toddlers with temper tantrums. When it doesn't work anymore, they stop.

If you're concerned about your DD's low self-esteem, that might not be the right approach for you. She needs to find good qualities about herself, not look to other people to provide that. Some brainstorming... regular activities you could do with her that encourage her to think positive... Have her journal, ask questions to prompt her journal writing, direct the questions so she has to make positive statements about herself.

The best part of my week was...
I feel good about myself when....
I am proud that I can...
This week I helped someone else by...
When _____ said _____ it made me feel good.
I would like to learn more about...
If my friend is having a bad day, I would help by...

Share times with her when you feel not-so-good about yourself and how you cope with it. Play a lot of fun, upbeat music to bounce around to.

I also think the big picture here needs to be shifting her focus to what makes her feel good about herself. If she has a sport/hobby/activity pay attention to those skills. If she's a good writer, encourage her to write and praise her for that ability. Maybe she's good with small children, or animals, or organizing things, or math or science... etc. Give her lots of opportunities to build that interest, praise her for what she is good at and redirect the focus of her identity to what she DOES not what she looks like. Give her plenty of opportunities to handle routine and new situations on her own, making her feel empowered. Plenty of opportunities to feel good about what she can do.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 12:02AM
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I think you're right, she does it for attention...she's learned it from Mom. So how do you counter act it.

1. some of her comments are on things she can't do anything about (is Paris Hilton ugly, did you know she wears a SIZE 12 shoe...who the heck cares if she has big honking feet)

2. Askin g"why" or "what about you is..." to be specific, can help. Sometimes not hearing those words. Or they're not allowed in this houss works.

She wants attention, the problem is that no matter what attention you give her it won't be enough or right when she's in that mood. SOme of it is hormones right now too. Sometime when she's NOT in that mood, can you get her to talk about her looks, etc. then when she is in that mood you can remind her that you've discussed this already and she isn't...??? just a thought


    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 3:53AM
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February is a tough month, for everybody, but I imagine it's even harder for girls her age. It's a hard month even for those of us who are older and "relatively well adjusted"!! :) You sound like a very caring SM.

Why not take her out for a girls day on the town. Get dressed up, go to lunch at a fancy chic restaurant, get your hair done, buy a new, inexpensive but currently fashionable outfit.

Talking and building self esteem, even counseling are good, but sometimes it something as simple as being treated like a special person, and especially as an adult by an important adult makes a difference, too. Let her help plan, she might not want to initially, but gently encourage her, and make it something the two of you plan and do together every season. Make sure there's no agenda, she'll be on the lookout for that, and no talking about "her problem", just a day out with "the girls".

She may not say much to you about it, but if you two have fun, she'll talk about it to her friends, and the fact that she does something they probably don't do will make her feel better, not only about herself, but also about her life.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 11:17AM
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions, we'll start trying a few things, and of course we hope the counselor will help a bit as well :-)

Have a nice day

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 2:24AM
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My SD10 has very low self esteem and says things like: "I'm ugly", "I'm fat" , "My feet are so big, they're ugly" etc etc.

We are trying to boost her self confidence and I'd like to know how you guys address these kind of remarks.

Me, I'd turn her remarks around so she'll think there's nothing to it, but that you don't find her fat, or her feet big, and maybe she'll come to realize her thoughts are really npt that logical.

"I'm fat"

You reply "Compared to what?" or "I've seen fatter!"

Or you say, "Yeah, you need to quit wearing that yellow dress because everyone starts yelling TAXI!"

"My feet are too big."

You say, "Well, at least we don't need to buy you any water skiis!" or "If you had athlete's foot, too, you'd be faster!"

She'll laugh and see how silly her perceptions really are.

[Note: We don't have any kids.]

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 11:27AM
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I have a friend....older woman who I have known for more than 40 years.
she does that too...."I have awful hair"..." I know I'm not a good mom..." ..."I know I really don't cook very well.."
and the natural thing to say is..."your hair looks fine.....this cake is delicious, you're a great mom etc."
That kind of talk doesn't mean that the person really thinks those things, but rather it is a way to gain compliments and reassurance from people.
I would explain to her that people really don't like to hear someone complaining about themselves all the time....and if she thinks she's too fat, work out and get in good condition, if she thinks her feet are huge concentrate on wearing and finding shoes that minimize their size, if she thinks she's ugly tell her to smile, because everyone is prettier with a smile on their face.
But don't fall into the trap of saying...
"of course you're not fat or ugly or whatever"....she needs to find ways to gain self esteem other than putting herself down so you are forced to disagree.
And don't forget to compliment her a lot....tell her how pretty her hair looks and how nice that dress looks etc. She will disagree with you.....but then say, :"well it looks pretty to me!"
Linda c

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 12:13PM
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Or just divert the conversation. Of course kids need reinforcement, but it's better if it's spontaneous and not in response to something, since you'll be creating a pattern.

If a kid is depressed and feeling useless, building them up in direct response to what they say can actually put a lot of pressure on them and make them feel more worthless or unworthy.

Like I say, diversion is probably best and find indirect ways to reinforce them, rather than as a response.

It's true, you don't want to train them to be continually negative or fishing for compliments, negativity breeds negativity. I'm not into the quasi-cult version of "Positive attraction" but positive things/people seem to attract positive things.

If it seems to be getting out of hand, most district youth/adolescence mental health services have self esteem workshops, and there are lots of good books out there on the subject.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 2:59PM
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Spewey, about not having kids... that's probably a good thing. Keep it that way. And avoid the children of others.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 3:49PM
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Audrey Hepburn's Beauty Tips

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.

Remember, If you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!

Written by Sam Levenson

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 12:17PM
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Why not take her out for a girls day on the town. Get dressed up, go to lunch at a fancy chic restaurant, get your hair done, buy a new, inexpensive but currently fashionable outfit.

I'm not so sure of that one.

Doesn't that reinforce the "looks over substance" problem that is really the issue here? The solution to a young girl's self-image issue shouldn't be to take her out to get her hair done and get a new outfit. That will just teach her that the solution to insecurity about looks is to try and make yourself look better.

Hair, makeup, clothes, and fancy restaurants.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 9:42PM
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I don't have girls, thank goodness, but I've always felt those fashion/glamour magazines are incredibly destructive to womens'/girls' self-esteem (re: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf). I don't read them myself, but I imagine the explosion of celebrity-associated media isn't much different.
I'd limit access to these as a start.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 8:57PM
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Honestly, I'm with Spewey. My grandmother would say things like that. I think showing girls just how "ugly" they could be helps too. Go to a hospital and show her what unhealthy kids look like. Teach her to appreciate her healthy body. Teach her to appreciate her strong body. Find role models who were not considered attractive as children and point out how beautiful they are now. I believe Julia Roberts was an awkward young woman. Show pictures of different women and talk about beauty over time (what was beautiful in 1920 was not in 1960 and different again for the 1990's)

My mother always says, for one season I had the "perfect hair". Sometimes your type of hair is "in" and sometimes it's not. Real beauty shines from within. Anyone can get liposuction, botox, etc. and look "pretty".

Show her what movie stars look like without their makeup. Show her airbrushing. No one is a "perfect beauty". We all have our flaws.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 10:04AM
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Look in the mirror with her, note the color of her eyes, shape, checkbones, lips, how long are her lashes, do they curl! Help her find the beauty that undoubtly is there! I know it sounds strange but it is such a wonderful exercise. I was assigned to do the same when I was young, I was always told I am pretty, I just didn't see it or BELIEVE it. How her hair bounces, her posture, its there I am sure she is beautiful! She simply needs to see the pluses and not the minuses. I was assigned to find something new once a day, its amazing the beauty you can find when you look for it, its as easy as finding the ugly!!!! Let us know how it goes :-)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 8:41PM
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She is right at the age when kids discover that they are only a small part of a much bigger world. She may be trying to find out how she could be special in some way. Since she is so young, she really has no idea of what makes a person pretty or stand out somehow. You may want to show her what you think is special about her or have her talk about things that she is interested in, and how she might be able to act on her interest. With volunteering, sometimes a kid can feel more positive when they help other younger kids.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 5:16PM
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Hi there,

You've gotten a lot of good advice here. I wanted to point you to a great parenting website from UC Berkeley. It has an article (and video) on the right way to praise kids. And no I am in no way affiliated with this website...I just find it to be really helpful. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Greater Good Parenting

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 5:04PM
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Thanks so much guys for all the advice. I'm trying to do a bit of everything with SD11, which works well because I'm not creating a pattern with all these different responses :-)

For example when she says something negative we don't comment on it but instead ask her to now also mention something positive.

We pay attention to her activities and encourage her, focusing on what she's good at doing, rather than how she looks. (And she is a pretty little girl with long curly blond hair)

Sometimes I ask her if she likes what I'm wearing and of course that is always a 'yes'. I then agree that I also like that shirt/dress etc.

And we have a laugh, Vicky mentioned that Paris Hilton has huge feet so that is always brought up when she mentions her own feet (they are big I can understand she doesn't like it). And yes we do look for shoes that will disguise that a bit too.

I love Audrey Hepburns Tips by the way!

And thanks for recommending the Greater Good Parenting website, I'll have a look at that next.

And I almost forget to say the most important thing; it is getting better, SD11 is not saying those things as much anymore. Thanks again everybody

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 12:20AM
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Compared with Hugh Jackman, I'm ugly and fat too.

But my sterling personality makes up for it. (cough, cough)

Sometimes I think it might be a better world if we were all blind. Maybe then we could deal with each other without the prejudice our own visual ability seems so often to cripple us with. Thinking maybe MLK got it right with that "content of the character" thing. That's where it's at....or at least should be at.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 7:10PM
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What about compliments like
"You look confident today!"
"You look so friendly and cheerful when you smile like that!"
"You look really smart with that backpack!"
"Your nice posture helps you look so tall and proud of yourself!"
to give her the idea that looks are necessarily about the actual appearance, but about how we present ourselves and the image we set across?

You know her and I don't... But those sorts of compliments worked great on me when I was that age. I knew I was a pale, scrawny kid who hadn't grown into her eyes or nose yet, but that I liked how I set myself out. I'm still not a knockout, but I know my demeanor makes me prettier than my features might be on their own :)
That might be a good approach with her. Might not. Depends on the kid.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 9:10PM
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Uhhh... I mean "looks aren't necessarily about the actual appearance"...
I wish GW had an Edit feature!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 1:52PM
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