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What to do when best friend is "perfect"?

41 replies

MaisyMoo123 · 01/05/2015 14:41

Hello - just after some different perspectives on as little challenge we are facing -hoping this is the right place for it.

My 9yo dd is having a bit of a crisis of confidence. She's generally doing fine but she has a 'best' friend who excels at absolutely everything and this is really starting to get dd down.

They have been friends for 4 years and there has always been this dynamic in their relationship and although we've had odd moments of it in the past, it's only in the past few months that dd has started really taking it to heart and that I can see it affecting her self esteem. She says that she feels like it doesn't matter how hard she tries or how well she does, she will never be as good as her friend. This is across the board too - including out of school activities that they both do. Whatever they do, dd feels second best.

Her friend is obviously very bright and very capable, but dd is a clever little thing too and I'm worried that her constant comparison is just going to make her feel inadequate every time. She works really hard but gets nothing like the recognition at school that her friend gets (can't remember the last time she got a certificate or similar where as friend gets them once or twice a week). She is generally pretty disheartened down in the dumps about it all and I'm worried about her :(

Obviously we encourage all we can, tell not to compare - that it's her own achievements that count - and try to reassure her that we're proud of her and know that she's trying her best, but I just wondered if anyone had any thoughts or tactics on this sort of thing that might help? I'd hate for this to result in her feeling like she's just not good enough.

Thanks for listening!

OP posts:
ragged · 01/05/2015 17:11

Without mentioning Miss Perfect, could you ask the teacher to remember your DD for a certificate or similar? Just say she's a bit disengaged & needs a little lift.

Lucy61 · 01/05/2015 17:33

This an opportunity for some important lessons in life. Don't engineer some fake certificates toile her feel better, that's undermining her.
Teach her to look to do her personal best and not compare herself to others. To be happy for her friends when they succeed and realise that her self worth/esteem is not conditional upon others recognising her achievements or how well she did in comparison to others. She is great, always great and unconditionally so!

Lucy61 · 01/05/2015 17:33
  • to make her
Lucy61 · 01/05/2015 17:35

Is there something she is particularly good at/ enjoys?

Heels99 · 01/05/2015 17:39

Does she do put of school,activities, brownies, sports, drama etc?

MaisyMoo123 · 01/05/2015 18:41

Thanks for your replies.

Everything you say makes perfect sense Lucy. It's just getting all that across to dd that is tricky - especially given her current state of mind. You're right - it's an important lesson, but a tough one too. We give her lots of praise, reassure her that she doesn't need to compare herself to others to know how well she is doing and try to explain about valuing talents etc. She is usually happy for her friends' successes too - but sadly I think with the constant success of this one particular friend it's wearing a bit thin!

She does plenty of out of school activities and dancing is her real love. She has always been pretty successful at this and had genuinely thought this was her 'thing' but said friend takes one of the same classes and recently got a higher exam mark in that too! Dd was beyond disappointed.

OP posts:
CantStopEatingCheese · 01/05/2015 18:50

Would she maybe be interested in an out of school activity that her friend doesn't go to? So that she can have something where she's not comparing herself to this particular friend?

Nayville · 01/05/2015 18:50

Oh bless your dd. Do you think the best friend is aware of how she feels?

I agree with Lucy61. I think I'd also have a little chat with her teacher though mind, a little bit of recognition will lift her spirits a bit.

MaisyMoo123 · 01/05/2015 19:38

Thanks again for then helpful comments.

Dd only does the one out of school activity with this friend. It's just a bit unfortunate that it's the one thing she really loves and felt she was really good at (and has previously had recognition that she is from teacher but not for a while) then her friend goes and gets a better mark in that too. She does other things but nothing she loves quite as much - a couple of other dance classes and a couple of other things that she enjoys but aren't in any way talent focused (i.e. Brownies) but that's no bad thing!

I'm not sure the friend is aware how dd is feeling. She's super confident and dd is a less so, so I think it's probably not that obvious to her.

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Lucy61 · 01/05/2015 20:22

Oh, bless her. It's a tough one. Don't know what to add but it sounds like you're doing the right things by reassuring her and praising her etc. helping her recognise her feelings and acknowledging them will help her a lot. When she experiences a similar situation as an adult, she will be well equipped to manage her feelings.

MaisyMoo123 · 01/05/2015 21:14

Thanks Lucy - yes, I keep thinking about how it's a valuable lesson that will hopefully hold her in good stead in the future. There will always be people like this friend in life after all! It's just pretty relentless in terms of the friend's successes at the moment and I'm not sure the balance will ever shift in dd's favour.

Just have to help her come to terms with that and be confident in her own strengths and abilities I guess. But that's the hard bit, especially when it's one knock back after another.

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Heartofgold25 · 02/05/2015 22:58

Maisymoon ~ If this was my dd, I would definitely be booking something for my dd that was just for her. Not including the bf. I think your dd needs something to be proud of IN HER OWN RIGHT. It is not good for her confidence to always come second best. And although I admit it is entirely and completely un PC I think your dd and her feelings need to come first as well. So although we are all very happy for dd's bf, there does come a point when your dd needs to feel she has her own strengths and capabilities. Whether it is simply kindness and comparison or a maths whizz. Personally I would be making time for her to do things on her own so she can achieve without comparison.

MaisyMoo123 · 02/05/2015 23:34

Thanks heartofgold - your words really ring true with me. As you say, there's every reason to be happy for dd's bf but it has come to the point where her success is so extreme in everything it is totally undermining dd's self confidence - on a daily basis. I agree it would be good to find something that dd could do which she could achieve at without comparison - it's finding that thing that's the the challenge. Dd does do things that bf doesn't but whilst she enjoys these other activities they don't necessarily provide an opportunity to be 'best'. It's so hard. I know not everyone can be best and I'm well aware that some people never can be - but this situation is getting so extreme that I really do worry that constsntly feeling second best is going to have a really negative impact on dd's self esteem.

I'm a bit annoyed with school to be honest - I would've thought they should be rewarding all children who work hard and achieve well, or at least spread that recognition a bit, rather than constantly rewarding the same child? It should be effort and not just who's best.

OP posts:
fridayfreedom · 02/05/2015 23:41

Could you have a look at the Brownie badges and see if there are any that she could do at home? Her dancing may count for a badge.
An armful or sash of badges is something to be proud of

gleegeek · 03/05/2015 00:25

Your post really chimes with me maisymoo
No advice, but watching with interest. We're in a similar situation - dd (11) has gone to secondary with her best friend. They went to different primary schools but are now in the same class. Dds best friend is very academic and driven to be top of everything. She is picking up awards nearly every week. Dd is bright but not in the same league as bf. She is quickly losing confidence in her own abilities and bf is quite tactless and boasts how clever she is, which doesn't help Sad I don't really know how to help her anymore than we are... it's tough watching it and being helpless isn't it?

MaisyMoo123 · 03/05/2015 15:20

Sounds like we should get our dds together gleegeek! The situation is so similar!

You're right, it's so hard watching and not really being able to do anything other than reassure and offer praise. It's sad when they have their own talents that they should be proud of, but in dd's case they're constantly being undermined by bf's success.

Is your dd's bf amazing at everything or she just an academic high flyer? I can see how it must be even harder at secondary - especially if they were friends out of school until recently too.

My dd's bf sounds similar in that she's inclined to boast a bit too. She was reassuring my dd about a disappointing mark the other day, which was sweet, but she said that she got disappointed in herself too sometimes, like when she only got 12 out of 13 in a spelling test. Not hugely helpful when dd was upset at a lesser mark than that!

Oooh, it is difficult!

OP posts:
Heartofgold25 · 04/05/2015 11:46

MaisyMoo ~ Why not organise a veg patch for your dd? She can grow her own veggies and invite her bf and others for dinner she cooked herself? Nothing can make a child prouder than serving home grown fruits and vegetables/or cooking an amazing dinner. I was reflecting about your challenges in 'finding' things, it is really hard if the friends do everything together, but maybe the hobbies need to unconventional and not graded. Possibly water colour painting, poetry, sewing, knitting, pottery these things are so subjective and personal it really is impossible to compare.
When my dd starts comparing herself as I think most older children do at some point, I sit there and we go through everything that makes her special. The greenness of her eyes, her special mole that no one else has, her beautiful smile. Her special animal ~ how there are thousands similar to him but no one quite like him because he is so loved. She really enjoys this, and grows taller before me. We talk about what makes someone unique, we use her grandmother or other people to talk about what makes them special, and then we bring it back to her.
It sounds to me like your dd is developing her identity but this is being over shadowed by her bf and is perhaps overpowering your dd's need to establish herself. Without being unkind I think your dd needs time to blossom and more time to be herself without bf around so much, so she can work out what she loves about herself and her life, without the endless stream of comparisons and commentary from bf and/or others. Maybe you are feeling uncomfortable because you can feel she needs to do this. Forgive me but you do not seem the kind of mother who is uncomfortable or angry about the successes of another child, so that isn't it, so I think it is more the impact the bf is having on your dd is not necessarily a good one. A good friend should always be able to see the beauty and achievements of their friends to my mind, your dd bf is able to do this do you think? Mothers instinct is the best, and your instinct to support your dd identity to my mind is spot on.

beresh · 04/05/2015 16:57

Hi my DD9 is also in a similar situation - BF is kind, popular, top of the class and excels in two competitive sports that my DD does with her. DD complained a while ago that it was unfair that BF was better than her at everything and one time cried before a regional competition they'd both been selected for as she said there was no point her going as she'd never win if BF's there.

For my DD what has helped has been focusing on doing HER best, not comparing herself too closely and reminding her that talent only takes you so far and that hard work does make a difference. She has found that learning to play a musical instrument comes to her more easily than her friend, probably because she practises more, and that has helped her confidence. Also she likes me telling her that if being the best is all that's important nobody would bother running races except for Usain Bolt!

MaisyMoo123 · 04/05/2015 20:25

What wonderful insights heartofgold and beresh - really, really helpful comments. Thank you for taking time to reply.

I love your idea of pointing out everything that is special about dd - we do this in an ad hoc way but I can definitely see how focusing on it - and not as an imediate response to one of the many knock backs, would make her visibly grow too! I will definitely put that into practice straight away.

The comments about identity ring true. I hadn't seen it myself but what you say about dd needing to establish her own identity but it being overshadowed is ringing bells.

Dd has many interests but I suppose the unfortunate thing is that bf shares many of them - and unsurprisingly paints better, reads faster, bakes more wonderfully etc. it really is the case with whatever she turns her hand to - for the moment at least! I can see merit in finding a more subjective hobby that dd can pursue which is just 'hers' and will give some thought to quietly encouraging this but I'm reluctant to finding something different to bf just to prove a point. It has to be something dd wants to do - if that makes sense.

We have always encouraged dd to be happy for her friends and on the whole she is and enjoys sharing in their success - but as mentioned before the endless success of this particular friend is wearing very thin now. Not sure bf quite sees the beauty in others achievements yet either! She has always been rather dismissive of dd's achievements in the past - brushing them off or not even acknowledging them. This has really deflated dd on a few occasions when she's been bursting to tell bf something and then her news is literally ignored (and I've witnessed it so know she's not exagerating).

I can identify with the reluctance to compete too beresh. We have a dance competition coming up but dd has already been in tears just at the thought of it because she knows bf will 'win'. I'm not sure whether to encourage her to enter or let her take herself away from the situation and her anticipated disappointment.

Sorry this is so long - thanks for reading if you're still with me!

OP posts:
squidgyapple · 04/05/2015 21:41

perhaps you should try to do things out of school that are non-competitive? There are plenty of activities that can just be enjoyed for their own sake whether it's drama, music or whatever. There is too much emphasis on everything coming with competitions or exams - these can be opted out of.

MaisyMoo123 · 04/05/2015 22:36

Yes, you're definitely right squidgyapple. I agree that there can be an over-focus on competition. I'm really not very competitive and would always shy away from the more competitive things as a child but dd seems to have inherited dh's competitive streak which I think is contributing to her constant comparison - even in things that are not necessarily that competitive from the outside! I'm hoping this will end up giving her a real drive to work hard and succeed, but at the moment it doesn't feel like it's doing her much good.

She does plenty of non-competitive things - and the dance is only competitive in relation to exam results and one little comp (only writhin her dance school) a year so that's pretty low key really. However - that doesn't stop dd feeling like she's falling short in everything anyway - it doesn't have to be formally competitive. Even spelling tests, maths tests, any kind if school recognition, even being picked to read in assembly etc - bf is topping it all at the moment and dd is taking it to heart every time - it's all making for a pretty deflated dd :(

OP posts:
squidgyapple · 05/05/2015 09:59

Oh dear, poor thing. Sounds like her teacher should be doing a better job at recognising everyone's achievements and sharing out the stuff like reading in assembly.

Heartofgold25 · 05/05/2015 11:27

I agree with Squid, I think you should perhaps speak to the teacher and share your thoughts with her/him, and enlist her/his help in boosting dd's confidence in class. Put carefully this could work very well....and it should be something the teacher should be doing anyway. I thought the days were over when just the smart kids got praise and attention, it is so 80s to be schooling the best, and the best only, it is so unhealthy for everyone else.

dd needs to learn to shine on her own, and to develop independence and confidence without the bf is my view. Or as an alternative you could organise something for both of you ~ perhaps a sailing course, or an all age pottery class. It will be good for her to do things that aren't always competitive. I am sick to death of the competitiveness in this country ~ it has gone too far! Nobody simply does things now for the joy and fun of it, everything is measured and judged. It is so unhealthy for our children! It makes me so mad. I drew because I loved it, I ran races because it was fun feeling the wind in my hair, I took up gymnastics because it made me feel strong and I liked pushing myself on the beam, at no point did I feel compared, forced or any need to come first. We are sucking the joy out of life with this endless charade of competition amongst little people, it is a terrible shame for them mainly.

MaisyMoo123 · 05/05/2015 14:38

Your post made me well up Heartofgold.

I totally agree with everything you say about competition and how there is a risk it will suck the joy out of everything - particularly where little people are concerned. I desperately want dd (and ds too) to get enjoyment from doing things and for this to be the main reason for doing them - not the winning or being the best.

I'm desperately trying to think if it is something that we have done as parents that is exacerbating the situation, but I just can't see that it is. We are all about having fun and winning doesn't matter. Yes, we celebrate success but we don't push for it and we don't make negative comments when it doesn't happen.

I am considering talking with the teacher. I totally agree that they should be recognising everyone's achievements and that effort and progress as well as overall achievement should rewarded in equal measure. It's hard to raise the issue without obviously implicating bf though and I don't want to come across as a precious mum because I'm really not - I'm just a worried one!

OP posts:
Roseformeplease · 05/05/2015 14:44

I think one thing that your DD will be very good at, is failure. I don't mean that in the sense that she IS failing, but she is coping, every day with not winning, or being the best.

I think that is a very, very valuable life skill. Very few, if any of us, are the BEST. Only the gold medallist, the Wimbledon Champion, the Oscar winner. One thing her friend is not going to be able to cope with (as evidenced by her comments about the spelling test) is not coming first evey time.

I don't think you should share this with a young DD but it is worth bearing in mind.

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