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How to help my ex's niece with self esteem?

(9 Posts)
DontCallMeFrothyDragon Mon 19-Sep-11 10:01:13

OK, despite the fact I don't speak to my ex and his parents any more, I'm still close to his step sister and her daughter and speak regularly to them. Recently, my ex's niece has started becoming very self conscious and convinced she's "fat" and "ugly", something which isn't helped by DS's grandfather, who continues to point out that she's "chubby" (She's 14 and a size 10, so his comments hardly stand, IMO - but regardless, why reinforce the message that women are supposed to be slim?) and countless bullies at school.

So, hw do we help her with her self esteem? Her mum is stuck for ideas, and between her efforts, and the efforts of other relatives, we're struggling to get her to accept that she is an intelligent, beautiful, funny and sweet young lady, not this "ugly" person she seems to think she is. Any ideas?

garlicnutty Mon 19-Sep-11 13:52:46

Poor kid.

Let's address the bullies first. Ae they picking on some particular aspect of her presentation, or is it more that she's especially vulnerable due to poor self-image? How do they bully her?

I'm pretty keen on fighting classes for girls. Kick-boxing and karate are both good.
Also, I'd recommend supporting her to keep saying "Stop it, Grandpa, I'm NORMAL, you know!"

If you think she's already dysmorphic (has an inaccurate idea of her own size), try the test my psychologist did when I got anorexia: Cats use their whiskers to assess which spaces they can get through, but people are self-aware and can do this just by looking. Discuss this a bit with her, then play a game with two chairs, placed back-to-back. Get her to estimate her hip width and place the chairs to fit. Then ask her to walk between them. If she can do this without twisting and without extra space, or if she bumps the chairs, she's still okay on that front. If there is a space, use this to show her she's overestimating her own size and explain what it means - a good opportunity to introduce critical thinking about media images.

garlicnutty Mon 19-Sep-11 13:56:18

This came out wrong:

Then ask her to walk straight between them without twisting. If she can do it exactly, or bumps the chairs, ...

HereBeBolloX Mon 19-Sep-11 13:58:09

That's a really good exercise...

theothersparticus Mon 19-Sep-11 14:10:03

That is a brilliant exercise. How many readers have just tried said exercise and found space? blush

I must remember this for my neice, she's 6 but she's already made comments about her wieght sad

EasternPhoebe Mon 19-Sep-11 16:38:06

Message withdrawn

DontCallMeFrothyDragon Mon 19-Sep-11 17:18:33

I'm not sure why the bullies are picking on her, tbh, but it seems to be verbal.

Her mother has tried speaking to "Grandad", and he brushes it off with "she needs to stop taking things so seriously."... No, he needs to stop being a moron, but still. Almost makes me glad they don't bother with DS, as it's less insults for him. sad

GN, I'll suggest the exercise to her mum. Sounds a really good idea. smile TY.

Tchootnika Mon 19-Sep-11 19:01:18

Throwing a curve ball in here, maybe, but one of the responses I always see to girls with low self-esteem is 'you're beautiful' - yes, surely, in some senses we all are, but - and I know I'm echoing Julie Burchill, here - the fact is most of us are not conventionally 'beautiful' - i.e. what 99.9% of teenage girls understand to be 'beautiful'.

So in telling an (ordinary looking) insecure teenage girl that 'beautiful', you may just be reinforcing her belief that people who say nice things aren't being honest.

Why not challenge the idea that we should all be 'beautiful' - or just direct her to look at her peer group: how many of them are 'beautiful'? And how many of them are getting on with productive lives? And is there any correlation between the two?

Exercise = a fantastic idea!

garlicnutty Mon 19-Sep-11 20:15:45

I was thinking it's better for her to answer her GF back herself smile

Agree about the overuse of "beautiful". Even when mathematically true, it's not an achievement. Only requirement is to be okay.

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