This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
Teenage girl - adolescent facial (&other) changes and self image(11 Posts)
My DD (15) was a very beautiful looking child. I never commented on it to her as I didn’t think it worth mentioning really and she has an older sister who wasn’t as conventionally pretty so I didn’t want to even make it a thing. I know others mentioned it around her though. She was never big headed about it or talked about it at all. She idolises her big sister and thinks she’s gorgeous. She’s a really sweet kind kid. She’s a bit of a perfectionist has suffered with anxiety and has ocd tendencies which she has had help with in the past.
Cue adolescence. She’s grown massively over the past year. She’s about 5’9” or 10” now. All the normal puberty stuff has kicked in. She’s getting spots around her nose and forehead. She also has a very persistent rash below her nose that won’t shift which is slightly more concerning but not earth shattering.
The problem is her self image. She thinks she is hideous. Doesn’t want to be in photos. Sometimes doesn’t want to go out. Tries on great clothes at home but won’t wear them going out as she wants to sink into background. Has been trying to eat healthier over lockdown and last night confessed to me she thinks she’s fat and it’s not shifting despite her changes in eating. Seems to be getting a bit obsessive about it now. She doesn’t always make the healthiest food choices. Eg has been eating tonnes of cheese on her healthier eating drive but she’s so sensitive about it it’s hard to broach with her. Also she reminds me a lot of myself as a teenager and I ended up with pretty severe eating disorders so I really don’t want to make food an issue.
She hates her face. Her nose and “double” chin especially.
Thing is her face is not as conventionally pretty as it was. It looks quite puffed up and then with the spots and rash I do understand where she’s coming from. Though would never say it. And her chin does look pretty puffy.
Does anyone have any advice or other helpful words?
There are a couple of issues I’m interested in really
1) how to have healthy discussions with sensitive girls around eating and weight?
2) how much do girls faces tend to change during adolescence and how likely is it her features will all balance out again?
3) is there anything else I can be doing to support and help her?
I talk with her and her sister and always have done about beauty being a social construct and how it’s much more important what’s inside. And also about positive self image etc. And I can see her trying her best to apply these principles. But then judging herself so so critically. It’s heartbreaking.
oh that sounds tough, poor her, and poor you. Sounds like you are doing all you can to support and trying not to add to the problem. Such a difficult stage, especially when they are sensitive. I have no experience with how much teenagers faces might change during and after adolescence other than my DD1's (18) face did elongate a bit and sort of grow into itself if that makes sense - got less "flat" or something. I guess there are just so many changes going on at this time that there's no real way to predict the body/face changes that might be yet to come. Hang on in there. Hopefully someone who knows a bit more than me will be along in a while!
Following this with interest as I have similar concerns with DD 14 and how she sees herself. She has issues with her skin at the moment and minor acne which is giving her a bit of anxiety. She is currently on the 2nd lot of prescribed cream (that appears to be doing nothing) before we move on to prescribed antibiotics. But although this impacts on her mood from time to time she acknowledges that she doesn’t have a severe case, that she can cover them successfully with make-up if she wishes/needs to and others probably have it worse.
Where she does massively beat herself up however is with regards to her stomach, which she perceives as being fat and horrible. She doesn’t consider herself necessarily fat but she absolutely hates her stomach to the point where she won’t look at herself in the mirror anymore and is constantly crossing her arms over herself. You can just tell that her posture and her entire way of holding herself is fixated on covering up her tummy. To be clear DD is not overweight in any way shape or form. She is petite at 5ft 2 and a size 6. She doesn’t have a six pack or a completely flat stomach admittedly, it is slightly more rounded, and I think more feminine. I think she has an absolutely gorgeous figure with slim waist and slim shapely legs. But because she doesn’t have this completely flat tummy she thinks she is absolutely disgusting. I would go so far as to say that it’s bordering on body dysmorphia. For instance she has a friend who is bigger than DD in every way, height, weight, chunkier legs. But because she has a flat tummy whereas DD does not then DD automatically sees herself as fat and her friend isn’t. No amount of me or her friends telling her can convince her or put her mind at rest.
She has Instagram and we frequently discuss the damaging and impossible expectations of women to look a certain way and how this negative impact on ones body image is perpetuated by social media. She gets all this but, similar to your daughter OP, she still can’t help being so heartbreakingly critical of herself.
The teenage years have always been notoriously angst-ridden and in my more optimistic moments I am confident that this is all it is but I do worry that it’s more.
Btw, have you spoken to a doctor about the rash/puffiness on her face? Could it be a reaction to something? Perhaps worth looking at the products she uses and stripping her routine back. Might also be worth taking antihistamine to see if it helps?
Kids change Massively in puberty , my dd looks very different but we still tell her she is beautiful. It's perfectly normal to be insecure as you grow and change . Just keep up the positivity .
Could she be bulimic? Might explain the puffy face and rash.
Get her some prescription acne stuff from the doctor. It's a really difficult age. I remember feeling just as down about myself.
Saying beauty is a societal construct and does not matter is (in my opinion) not entirely true and therefore I would not say that to my kids
Beauty does matter (a bit) and it conveys some advantages (and disadvantages), other things are more important, obviously, but saying it does not matter is disingenuous;imo
I’d get help (GP, dermatologist) with the rash. Or even just a pharmacist visit to start with
I have a 15yr old who gets spots and have bought him the NipFab teenage breakout pads, which really help.
He does not like his looks and thinks he’s chubby (he’s not) and too tall (it feels out of control to him, and whilst he likes being 6ft3 he worries he might end up 6ft6 and he struggles that how he looks and his height are not in his control. This is the crux of teenage angst). It is also normal, at 15. I tell him he’s handsome and very lovable. He says my opinion does not count as I am his mum
But anyway, start with sympathy as being 15 is hard, and be practical (help with skin care, pharmacy) and tell her she is gorgeous, and also hugs. Hugs are good with teens, you can convey support without words.
Poor kids, who’d be 15 again?!
I appreciate knowing I am not alone in this. God it is tough though. Indeed - who would be 15 again?! I know it's "just" a case of helping steer them steady through the next few years but it is heartbreaking to witness the distress and self directed criticism.
@Pikachubaby - while my mantra is that beauty is a social construct and doesn't really matter - I always temper that with a "but that said you guys totally lucked out and are gorgeous" as a way of trying to get the message across that really it is what is inside that counts but that also we all know it does make a difference, and especially at that tender age.
I suppose, and I hate myself for saying this, I am worried myself that her superficial gorgeousness may not come back, as I know how self critical she is (I was exactly the same) and how tough she is finding that. She looks at photos of herself as a kid and just says quite matter of factly and quite sadly "I don't look like that anymore" and she doesn't. She is fixated on her nose and chin which she thinks are really out of proportion and ugly and tbh she has said it to me so many times now I cannot see the wood for the trees. Some of her dads family do have slightly saggy chins and slightly wide noses. Maybe she will too, I've no idea. But I think they look gorgeous as they don't care and comport themselves with confidence and energy and so look amazing. I think she just needs to get through this tough years and hopefully gain some of that confident energy so that is what will shine through rather than the self-criticism and doubt. So much of it is just fashion anyway. I remember when I was her age having a big bum and being mortified, whereas now they all love that look.
Oh but it hurts.
I may give the dr a ring and explain my worries and get her in just for a check up about the acne without mentioning the puffiness in front of her (if she thought I could also see it she'd never go out again I suspect) and get dr to let me know if the puffiness is anything to worry about - it may just be a growth thing. She does have HUGE tonsils so am wondering also if that would have anything to do with puffy neck and chin.
I just stick with my mantra that she is beautiful and she is just too self critical and doesn't register how other people actually see her. She says I am lying.
@Rollergirl11 I really empathise with your nd feel for your DD. Since my ED hit in early teens I have spent most of my life comparing myself to other women in terms of whether my body is bigger or smaller fatter or thinner etc. Bloody exhausting. Wouldn't wish it on anyone. It's taken me a lot of hard work, self compassion and self acceptance to get past it. I think just keep doing what you are doing, talking about societal mores etc but also showering her with love and positivity. It must leach into their psyches somehow I hope.
I have been to pharmacist yesterday and got her stuff for the skin, she really appreciates that. She has Excema too and then these weird facial rashes crop up that we have prescription cream for but that just don't seem to go away. Sigh.
@nicelyneurotic why do you think the puffiness might be linked with bulimia? God I hope not
Making yourself sick can make the glands swell giving a puffy face look around the cheeks and jaw. I'm not sure what the correct term is but it's a sign of bulimia. I only wondered as you mentioned the skin above her lips was irritated too.
I wonder if she has any food intolerances which may be causing some of these issues?
As an aside, if she really hates her nose she can get surgery as an adult. It's not a big deal these days and easily fixed. She may just need to grow into her looks a bit.
Thanks. Yeah I think it is a case of growing into them maybe. Also interestingly she’s been in much better form the last few days, laughing and smiling and sort of glowing from within and I totally see the beautiful girl she’s always been again. Incredible how much of the sense of beauty we get from someone is bound up with such intangibility.