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The_Invisible_Man's avatar

How can I let my friend know that she's not ugly?

Asked by The_Invisible_Man (438 points ) August 11th, 2012

So I was on the webcam with a friend earlier and out of nowhere she calls herself a fat cow. I tell her that she doesn’t. that she looks great because I honestly believe that she does. But then she goes on to say that I have my opinion and she has hers and that I can’t change her mind, and she’s not going to let me. So I have to deal with that and I said that I’m not going to, and like I keep saying I never have. I just don’t want her to feel down so much. She says that complimenting her and saying she isn’t ugly doesn’t help.

So what am I supposed to do? I don’t want to make another mistake and have her feel even worse. I want to help her realize that she is indeed a beautiful person. From the bottom of my heart, what I see when I see her is a beautiful person, but she doesn’t see that, and I understand that it may be hard for her with what she’s gone through and the way people has treated her regarding her appearance. I just despise the fact of feeling so helpless to help her.

Even if I can’t convince her 100%, how can I at least get her to feel a bit more better about herself? I know I can’t make her, but I have to try.

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13 Answers

cookieman's avatar

Without knowing more about what she’s “gone through”, I would hazard a guess that this is about more than her looks. She was very defensive when you tried to cheer her up and seemingly wanted to be miserable at that moment.

Does she normally seek attention this way? Does she seem to like drama or playing the victim?

If the answer is ‘yes’ to those questions, then I would just let it go. If the answer is ‘no’ and you know her to be a sincere person, then she may be feeling worthless, or “less than” for some reason.

Either way, your job is not to diagnose her and you can’t verbally beat her into believing she’s a beautiful person.

What you can do is be there for her. Be a good friend. Inject some levity into the conversation. Maybe seek her advice on something.

Say things like, “I had a great time hanging out with you today” or “Thanks for being there today” or “I’m so glad we’re friends”.

The point is, you cannot fix her or make her feel pretty or valuable, but you can let her know she has value to you – and that just may be enough to nudge her out of her funk.

Aethelflaed's avatar

If you’re trying to combat body image issues, it’s more helpful to phrase it as a positive (“hey, you look really cute in that shirt”) than as a negative (“your opinion on your own body is wrong”). If you have to combat the “fat cow” remarks, go with “well, I think you look great”; it states that you differ without telling her she’s wrong.

The_Invisible_Man's avatar

@cprevite She usually doesn’t play the victim at all really. She’s been feeling that way for so long though. I knew that just telling her that she’s not ugly wouldn’t do it, but I didn’t know what else to say at that time.

I’ll definitely give what you said a shot though next time she tries to put herself down like that. Letting her know that she is worth something may mean something to her. At least I really do hope that me stating that she is of value can help her feel better about herself.

Thanks a lot for your help though.

The_Invisible_Man's avatar

Aethelflaed@ That’s basically what I tried when we talked about it, but she shot me down. But saying that is a nicer way rather than saying she’s wrong about her own body. I just wont try to over compliment her just yet so she wont immediately cut me off.

Thank you for your advice.

Judi's avatar

You can’t “make” anyone feel anything. She has issues that only she can deal with.

marinelife's avatar

The only thing you can do is tell her that she needs to work on her self-esteem. You could give her the book Self Parenting, but it probably won’t do any good until she is ready to hear it.

wundayatta's avatar

Brain chemistry can play a role in this. If you are depressed, you see yourself negatively. Ugly. Worthless. Talentless. Stupid. That sort of thing. If people tell you otherwise, you don’t believe them. Mostly because while you may tell her she is beautiful, you are the only one.

I feel that way about myself, but I have learned not to put too much credit in those thoughts. I think that mindfulness practice can help you learn to ignore these thoughts. It can also help you allow others to say nice things about you without denying them.

My first rule in cases where someone is denying my compliments is to tell them they are no longer allowed to deny it. They only do it from low self esteem, and they are feeding that feeling when they deny positive things. So they are not allowed to do it any more.

I make a big fuss about it. It’s easier for me, because I’m a denier, and I know denying when I see it. So they know I am calling their bluff. You can’t do that because you don’t have the problem, so I’m not sure it will work for you, but you can try. You see, she knows what she is doing somewhere inside her. She knows she is not that bad looking. Indeed, she hopes she is good looking, but she can never admit it to herself because she can’t get her hopes up. It’s complicated to explain and I don’t have the energy to do a better job now.

Once she stops denying, it is easier for her to hear it. If you keep repeating it over and over, she might start to take it in. But she still won’t really hear it in a way that it sinks in. This will take years. You just have to keep on saying it.

There are people who have told me I am handsome, on occasion. But then I start to wonder. I forget if they actually told me, or I made that up from wishful thinking. So I ask (which I never would have done before), and she says, “of course I think you’re…. [whatever] ... I told you that.” Well, she may have told me, but I need to hear it again. And again. And again. Because it is like dropping stones in the ocean. Once they fall down far enough, it’s as if they were never there.

So, to recapitulate. Get her to agree not to deny your compliments. Tell her to just say thank you. No subtle denials, eithers. Just thanks and move on.

And tell her over and over. Not like a broken record. Not habitually and not by rote. It has to be honest. But it has to repeat regularly or she will forget or come to believe you didn’t mean it.

gailcalled's avatar

At some point, no matter how sweet and loving you are towards your friend, it is not going to work because she may need therapy.

If she is just whining a little and looking for compliments, that is one thing. But if she is always down and depressed and feels ugly and has had unhappy experiences, she would do well to find a therapist to help her sort things out.

if she continues, she may well spiral deeper and deeper into melancholy.

This may be beyond your skills, no matter how kind and thoughtful a friend you are.

I have powerful memories of being an anxious and overly self-critical teenager; I’d moan and groan and all my mother’s reassurances didn’t help. After all, she was my mother so why was I possibly going to believe her.

cookieman's avatar

@gailcalled: But you know you’re beautiful now, right?

gailcalled's avatar

@cprevite: Milo tells me all the time, but perhaps he’s just being kind. After all, he has some vested interest in me being content and well-behaved.

noraasnave's avatar

In my experience, women hear and refute the words we say automatically, because there is not action to back it up. Some suggestions, which I use:

Take my soul mate shopping, even if we don’t buy anything, it lets me lay on the compliments, and also, allows me to lightly place negative tags on the clothes (doesn’t fit right, unattractive outfit) and all the compliments on her.

I stare at my soul mate; sometimes she catches me, sometimes she doesn’t. I am always trying to learn what makes fashion work, and so I study her, I study her fashion,and the more I study the more I am able to aptly place compliments on what she focuses on and cares about, which hits a bulls eye on her self-esteem and heart.

I take her shopping with me, the more attractive I dress, and the more I let her help ‘dress me’, the more highly she holds her beauty, after all an unattractive person couldn’t attract such a well dressed, handsome person (wink).

I just read this to my soul mate, and she approves of this message. (madsmom1030).

robotmonkeyarm's avatar

Lesson of life: if it’s a woman, don’t bother. She’ll never believe you. It’s like trying to answer to, “Does this dress make me look fat?” You don’t win.

noraasnave's avatar

@robotmonkeyarm that is an interesting theory. I disagree, there is an answer to that question, but one has to actually be pursuing that particular woman to be able to answer it.

Getting asked this question usually indicates that one is NOT pursuing the said woman and possibly not even paying attention.

If women agree then I give all credit to my soul mate for patiently revealing her secrets to me because my best attempts at pursuing her are well received.

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