Auntie SparkNotes: My Friend Is Always Hating On Herself
My friends are some of the most important people in the world to me, but there is one that I can barely stand anymore. I hate to say it, but she's just SO annoying.
She is a very pretty and very smart girl, but she refuses to believe so. Every day she will ask us the same questions: "Am I pretty?", "Will I ever find the right guy?", "Why do all guys only like the pretty girls?", and "I'm fat, how do you lose weight?". She is the prettiest, sweetest, and most fit girl in my school. If you try to tell her anything different from these ideas about herself that she has—"You're very pretty", "There are many guys who like you", "You aren't fat and you never have been"—it's as if your words go in one ear and out the other. Most of her friends are beginning to ignore her because they can't take all of her negativity. Can you give us some advice? We really need it.
Oh, barf. I definitely don't envy you, Sparkler! A friend who loathes herself, and who asks every day for the same tired reassurances of her desirability, has got to be the most exhausting species of human on the planet—and at this point, I wouldn't be surprised if you and your friends were ready to flee down the street or hide behind the furniture every time you saw her coming.
But before you do something drastic to escape the onslaught of insecurity, I've got to point out to you that there's one really good, really obvious option you haven't tried: honesty.
Not honesty as in, "No, you're pretty! Honest!", but honesty as in, "The most unattractive thing about you is how fixated you are on your looks." Because really, is there anything more repulsive than this sort of self-obsessed approval-seeking? (No! There isn't!) And someone needs to tell this girl, while she still has time to change her ways, that there's nothing uglier than a person who talks about nothing but her own looks.
And I'm not gonna lie: this will not be pleasant. And since a group approach to this conversation will just make her feel defensive and ganged up on, it'll be your job to deliver the message, one on one, as kindly and directly as you can. The message being that a) she's a beautiful person, but b) nobody's going to see that as long as she says such awful things about herself, and c) that since reassuring her hasn't helped, you and your friends are officially breaking the cycle.
And then, break it. Immediately. The next time she opens her mouth to say "I'm fat" or "No guys like me," give her a warning look, hold up your hand, and say, with all the love you can muster, "Friend, we talked about this. Please, no more."
If she whines—and she probably will—then just don't respond. Change the subject; refuse to engage; give her a hug and a smile, and say, "See you later."
She won't like it, of course, and she won't stop overnight. But simply refusing to be a party to her insecurities, and remembering that you're not responsible for her self-esteem, means that you'll no longer be investing all your energy into platitudes about her not-fat-ness. And if you're lucky, once she realizes that she's lost her audience, the self-loathing litany will stop, too.
At which point, hopefully, you can focus on something more pleasant... like all the lovely things about her that made you friends in the first place.
Do you have a friend who self-bashes all the time? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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