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Author Topic: Lack of self esteem
Kalex
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My best friend, let's call her Kaylee, has considerable self esteem issues, and I sometimes don't know what to say anymore. I was wondering if anyone had helpful advice for me.

Let me offer some background information. I'm 18, she's 17, we've been best friends for three years. We have our own unique sets of neuroses, strengths, and weaknesses that complement each other well. For example, when we met I wasn't romantic at all (I was barely beginning to realize that I could 'like' people in that way), whereas her head overflowed with idealized, romantic, daydreams. Her opinions softened my confused view of attraction, dating, etc, while I brought her down to earth a bit.

She tells me nearly everything. I am her best friend/big sister/counsellor/semi authority figure all rolled into one. I don't want to sound controlling, but I do have a lot of influence over her, and I like being able to see how her mind works. She is one of the most genuine, sweet people I've ever met, but is shy and has an unflattering self-image.

Her parents are Eastern European and very conservative, to the point that they seem to expect her to go out and get pregnant at any moment (no way would this happen. She's far too responsible). She is tiny and delicate, one of the slimmest people I've ever met, but they freak if she ever eats junk food, or even too much food at a meal. Her Dad actually says things like she should stay thin for marriage. The double standard is not lost on her, but I can tell it still hurts, a lot.

She guilts herself over practically everything. She is one of those people who can be endearingly awkward, but she insists that everyone must think she's an idiot because she doesn't say/do the right things. I say that people find it refreshing. She works very hard in school, then is so disappointed when she loses a handful of marks. Her parents will skip past a whole row of As to gasp at a solitary B (Math).

And as for boys...When I met her she had just gotten out of a middleschool relationship, but had nearly convinced herself that he was the only one who would ever want her. It didn't help that he kept insisting he wanted her back. She knew he wasn't worth it, but she doubted her own judgement. It took many hours of talking to get her to move past it.

Last summer, there was a guy interested in her. He was good-looking, well-liked, and seemed great in theory. She couldn't believe that someone like that would be interested in her, despite me telling her that I thought she was one of the best people I've ever met (no exaggeration), beautiful, and completely deserving. They didn't seem to have too much in common, but it was high school, after all. Anyway, they went to the park, the lake, etc, never got to the kiss stage. He flaked out and told her he 'couldn't do this', she accepted it, then he backpedaled and said he wanted to try again. She was unerstandably nervous, but he insisted he was sure, only to write her a flowery email admitting he wasn't over his ex. They got back together and last I heard are still an item.

As a result, over the last year her attitude towards guys has soured. It was worst around January, when she went through what I thought of as her 'manhater' phase. I tried my best to talk about how some people just aren't right for each other, no matter what, but she seems to think that the blame should fall on her. The opposite sex is quite foreign and intimidating to her, and this just exacerbated it. This June, she had a 'thing' with a guy. I don't know if it would have deepened or fizzled out, but unfortunately she went away on holiday for a few weeks. She returned, he ignored her calls, and another (reliable) friend of ours saw him holding hands with another girl.

Today, we were talking. She started obsessing again about the guy from last summer, and the 'maybe if I had just done something differently, been better, been more like HER, we'd still be together!' self-flagellation came up. Also, she says that she's 'just friend material', 'not worth it' and doesn't see how anyone could love her. I've pointed out that we've lived such a small percentage of our lifespan, that the world is so much bigger than just one school, guys in our highschool aren't appealing, etc. I've said, in as non-patronizing a way as possible, that when I was her age no one had ever been interested in me, and I had simply decided to become the best version of me I could and hope someone would see that...

I'm sorry for writing such a ridiculous amount, but I wanted to make sure she didn't just seem like a silly, desperate teen. I'll be at college next month, so while we still live close, I won't be in school with her. I have helped her gain some confidence in herself, and she has mentioned that she wants to stop being a 'wallflower' (her words), but every now and then she just slides backwards. It makes me want to cry, and I don't know what to say or how to support her. It doesn't help that I now have a wonderful boyfriend, while she's still extremely single. I don't want her to feel left behind, and I try not to talk about what a truly decent person he is, but I'm in love, and she's my dearest friend. I want to share my happiness, and she is happy for me, but sometimes she starts looking like a kicked puppy.

Anything you say will be appreciated so much, thank you!

Posts: 52 | From: Canada | Registered: Jul 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Molweni
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I think I've been in your friend's position.

To a certain extent, confidence has to come from within.

That being said, has it occurred to you that your friend might know more about her own faults than you do? People with low self-esteem can often be toxic to their partners in relationships, too. I'm sure she knows and appreciates that you care about her, anyway. It may just take her some time to progress farther than that to where you'd like to see her. You shouldn't beat yourself up about it too much.

At the same time, telling her something along the lines of "I didn't do anything special to get this great boyfriend, I'm sure you'll have one some day too" may sound trite to her, because she may be aware she has real issues she needs to work through in terms of how she relates to the opposite sex before she is going to be able to have a relationship like that.

Posts: 47 | From: South Africa | Registered: Aug 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
vshanti
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Hi Kalex,

It sounds like you care a lot about your friend! I can empathize with your situation because it's so difficult being close to someone who has a lot of challenges that aren't in your power to solve. Just remember that being her friend is already a really important thing, and that you are doing a lot just by being supportive of her and caring about her. It isn't your responsibility to make her love herself, or to "fix" her life, because that's impossible. All you can do is be there for her and take care of yourself, too.

--------------------
Vanessa

I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe...
I do, I do, I do.


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marigold
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I wish you could send her to counseling... except if bringing this up would make things worse, like "so I was right all the time about myself, I actually AM far from normal" etc. But having someone professional around for sorting things out might help.

the question is, if she could view this as help, or just as getting into the box called NON-NORMAL PEOPLE. Of course, I think the second version is silly.

--------------------
{*)>>>{

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Onionpie
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I think marigold has a good point. Do you think she would be against getting therapy or counseling? And if she is inclined to think she's "not normal" for getting therapy, you can assure her that a lot of people get counseling and therapy -- people she would consider "normal" people! Would she react well to your suggesting it?
Posts: 1311 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kalex
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Thanks everyone for their responses, I really do appreciate it.

vshanti, I do know that it's not my responsibility, and it's impossible to 'make' her do or feel anything she doesn't want to. All I can do is be supportive. It's just frustrating, because for a long while she was gradually becoming more assertive and her self-esteem was definitely improving, and lately it seems like she's slid back to where she was over a year ago. The things I said that made her feel better before don't seem to have as much of an effect now, and I feel a bit lost.

Marigold and Onionpie, that seems like it could be doable. She's a year younger than me, so she's still in school. I went to a counselor myself, and she knows it really helped me. I did suggest it, and I believe she was nervous about discussing her problems with an adult. The issue of normal/not-normal never really came up, so I'm not sure how she feels about that. Our school does have a lot of 'unusual' people in it, though. Normal is never the priority. I think she did end up visiting a counselor once or twice, and it seemed like a positive experience for her. She was concerned about wasting the counselor's time, but I suggested that considering it's a counselor's job to listen to any problems we have, she couldn't really be wasting time. I'll suggest it, thanks.

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Onionpie
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Glad we could be of help! I hope everything goes well [Smile] Good luck and keep being the great friend that you are!
Posts: 1311 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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