Get Real! I Hate My Body. Can Someone Else Love Me?


This column is published in partnership with Scarleteen.org.

porte asks:

I am 15 years old and about 5’10 and
weigh more than 200lbs. I am currently in a long distance relationship and have
been for almost 11 months. See, the thing is, I know I’m pretty, but I hate my
body. The only thing that I like about it is my boobs. I am very self-conscious
about it and I can’t seem to lose weight.

My boyfriend and I share everything
together. He doesn’t lie to me, he comforts me and he tells me I’m beautiful.
He loves me a lot. He shares everything with me. He really means a lot to me
and would never pressure me to do something I don’t want to do. He wants to see
me. Or rather, see me below my chest. It doesn’t mean like naked or something
(but he probably wouldn’t mind), but he just wants to see what I look like.
Sounds simple enough right? I know what he looks like but…

I’m ashamed of my body. I’m scared
of showing him. All my life I’ve been made fun of for being ‘fat’ my whole life
basically. I don’t care what people say about me anymore (usually) and I like myself.
Kinda. I don’t think of myself as like…this huge chick who stuffs herself
with mounds of fat.’Cause really I barely eat anything at all. It’s the way I
am. But I am ashamed of my body. Sometimes it hurts so much that I just want to
curl up into a ball and cry for hours. I can’t help but thinking that
everyone’s right about me, I am fat and ugly and I’ll always be that way. I
don’t know what to do anymore. He’s seen maybe the upper half of my body
including my stomach because of a picture my friend took with me on facebook.
He said that I don’t look fat at all, but at the end of the day I’m still
ashamed of myself. I care for and love this guy, a lot. But I don’t know, I
can’t bring myself to show him how fat and ugly I really am. I’m kinda afraid he’ll
stop thinking I’m beautiful or something, or stop loving me.

On top of that I have all these
family issues I can’t handle, which makes me stressed, which makes me gain MORE
weight. Basically the bottom line is that I’m fat and ugly, scared to show my
boyfriend what I look like and can’t seem to lose weight. I want to look sexy
and hot, I want my boyfriend to drool over my body and brag to his friends
about how hot I am, but… I’m ashamed of myself. I’m tired of crying and being
ashamed.

Heather Corinna replies:

Since sometimes a visual comparison
of someone else our same height and weight can help, I want to start with that.
Take a look at some of these images.

The woman in them, Crystal Renn, is
only a little smaller than your height and weight, though your proportions may
be different. She also has recovered from an eating disorder, one she developed
trying to be as thin as she was asked to become in order to model when she was
younger. She has had some great things to say about why she feels better at
the size she is now and about accepting her body as it is:

Recounting this catalogue of
deterioration with little self-pity and a maturity way beyond her years, she
says now that she learned valuable lessons from her brush with anorexia. ‘I
found out a profound thing about myself – that everyone’s got issues with their
weight and their body. I was lucky enough to get it sorted out when I was a
teenager. Now I know what happiness is, and I feel blessed to have that at such
a young age. I’m glad I went through it. I can tell other girls about it and
save them the trip.’

This woman is one of the most
in-demand models of ANY size there is at the moment. In fact, we seem to be
standing at an apex of some serious change when it comes to mainstream beauty
standards and visibility for larger women: it’s a very cool thing, and I’d
encourage you to keep your eyes peeled and your own mind open. Beth Ditto is
about your weight, though far shorter than you (she’s only 5’2): check out how
she carries herself, and see if you can’t get a sense of how she feels about
her shape in this image. Check the images and words here out. Given your height and weight, your body
is likely a lot like the bodies there. By all means, someone like Crystal Renn
or other models meet a lot of other mainstream beauty standards (they all also
look very femme, which may or may not match whatever your gender identity is),
and someone doing well as a model is about looks, not about them as a whole
person. However, I just want you to try and step outside your own self-image
for a second and see if you can’t see someone else about your same size and recognize
that there is nothing wrong with the way that person looks, and their body is
as beautiful as one that is lighter or heavier.

You might find Joy Nash’s Fat
Rant
helps you out, that Kate Harding’s BMI
project does
, too, and that this recent blog entry at Scarleteen is a goodie
for you. I love them all and think they’re spot-on.

I want to make sure you understand
that hardly eating not only is exceptionally bad for your health, especially
when you’re younger, it’s also bad for your metabolism. While it’s likely that
you are already at a healthy weight, especially at your height, your
metabolism may not be operating as well as it could because you’re not eating
properly. In other words, not only does eating too little pose potential short
and long-term health problems, it can also make it so that now and later, your
body has a tougher time staying at a healthy weight. If there’s anything the
screws up metabolism most, it’s dieting, especially fad or starvation diets. If
you want to consider losing weight in a healthy way, talk to your doctor or a
nutritionist, see if they even think that’s something you need to do, and if
so, and get a sound plan from then. Don’t just not eat or do fad diets.

I’d also — as would any sound
healthcare provider worth their salt — also encourage you that if you don’t
feel healthy and fit, that getting more active is the better way to go than
dieting. When we’re all as active as we should be, doing activities we also
really enjoy, not only are we likely to be the size and shape that genetically,
we’re supposed to be and are healthiest at, we also tend to easily eat in a
healthy way AND feel a lot better about our bodies. And that’s not so much
because of the changes to how we look that may happen, if they do, but because
when we are doing things with our bodies, we get more in touch with them and we
feel more at home in them; we feel more vital and alive and tend to put much
less stock and energy into nothing but appearances.

More than anything else, what we
look like is about our genetics, something you might consider when unpacking
your own fat-phobia: when you say things like that you’re not "this huge
chick who stuff herself with mounds of fat" you’re suggesting other
fat people, but not you, are fat for that reason, which often just isn’t true.

If you are or start eating in a
generally healthy way (which isn’t just about what you eat or not eating too
much, but is also about eating enough), and you are or become active at
least a half hour a day, in a little while, you’re probably going to look like
what you’re supposed to look like per your genetics and being healthy. That may
be different from how you look now, or it may not be. One reason you may be
unable to lose weight is that the way your body looks is exactly the way it is
supposed to.

Even though it sounds like for your
height, your weight may not be that much above average, let’s just go there.
Let’s go ahead and say you ARE fat (whatever that means, since there isn’t a
sound definition for that word and the way people use it). Okay, so you’re fat.
So what?

There’s nothing wrong with being
fat, just like there’s nothing wrong with being skinny, or being on any place
in the hugely diverse spectrum of shapes and sizes that exist. Fat people are
as cool and beautiful as everyone else, just like disabled people are as cool
and beautiful as everyone else, just like people of one race are as cool and
beautiful as those of another. I don’t know about you, but my cool and
beautiful friends come in a big range of shapes and sizes, and I don’t find any
one more cool or beautiful than the next based on weight. Some of my fat
friends even have better body image than some of my thinner friends: in other
words, them being fat doesn’t mean they (or others) find themselves ugly, nor
are they ashamed of their bodies just because they’re fat.

I know some people in our world, an
alarming number, are fat-bashing or fat-phobic, and you won’t hear me say that
doesn’t suck and isn’t hard to live with: it does suck and it is hard to live
with. It’s freaking awful. But just because we live in a world with bigotry and
bias in it, and with far too many people who judge others based on appearance
(be that about weight or about race, gender identity, disability, what have
you) that doesn’t make messages sent via bigotry and bias true. It also doesn’t
mean you have to keep them for yourself.

Those are false messages that come
from crappy places. They can come from one person or group’s fear of losing
power over another, from someone’s need to cut someone else down so they feel
better about themselves, from learned attitudes from those who didn’t accept
themselves (like from a Mom, aunt or sister who we heard saying how ugly and
fat they were all the time when we were young and impressionable), from poor
overall self-esteem, from companies pushing things like diets and
"slimming" garments and cosmetics not to improve anyone’s life, but
to increase the size of their own wallets with no real care about how it makes
others feel, even if it makes other people sick or less healthy. But what we
know, any of us who have studied bigotry and bias — where it comes from, what
motivates and enables it — is that one place they do NOT come from is a place
of clear feeling, clear seeing and real love for oneself and others.

I also want to pose a suggestion to
you: can you recognize that someone going on about how "hot" a
person’s body is to others can enable exactly the cultural and individual
attitudes that are part of why you feel the way you do about yourself? In other
words, lookism, or focusing mostly or solely on someone’s value based only on
their appearance, is a ot of WHY anyone like yourself feels so lousy about how
they look, puts so much stock in it, and feels they have to try and meet some
kind of standard. Lookism is what drives and holds up people making words like
"fat" a barb, and people poking fun of how other people look.

A partner going on to their friends
about how great ALL of you is — how you look, sure, but also who you are, how
you make them feel, how you, as a whole person of body, heart and mind, enrich
their life — is totally awesome. (It’s also a way higher compliment than
"nice ass.") If you want to do something to make yourself feel better
AND do what you, as one individual, can do to dismantle some of the world’s
stupid ideas about bodies, you can work on changing your own thinking and what
you create when it comes to wanting someone to brag about you being hot based
on only your body. Being made into an object doesn’t ever result in anyone
feeling earnestly better as a person.

As far as your relationship goes, I
do think when a relationship is so serious that you count yourself as being in
it for nearly a year and people are expressing love to each other it’s high
time for folks to meet or at least get a whole picture of each other. In other
words, if you two are going to invest this much in the relationship, it’s
past-time to at least have some sense of at least what each of you looks like.
Ideally, you’d have met each other in-person before you both got so serious,
not just to see what you look lie, but to get to know how you both are
in-person, to feel out your chemistry together, to see how you work (or don’t)
in real life when neither of you can control what the other person sees or
perceives so much. But it’s already serious, clearly, and shoulda-woulda-coulda
isn’t of much use.

If we want to get and stay close and
intimate with people, we have to be willing to show them the stuff we don’t
feel so great about, not just the stuff we do. Relationships that are never and
have never been in-person unfortunately make it easy for people to only show
the good stuff, and if and when that’s what’s going on, you need to recognize
that that’s actually not a very deep relationship yet. (As someone who works
online a lot, for instance, a lot of people have this idea that I am a total
superstar, and oh-so-perfect because they rarely get to see my more annoying
traits, my failings, or the things I may do I’m not so great at the way people
who know me in-person do.) We can’t have something of depth when we’re only
seen by someone else the way we want to be seen, be that about appearance or
our personality. I’d go a step further and say that we don’t give anyone a
chance to really love us until we’re truly vulnerable with them and show
them all of who we really are, not just what we like or think they will.

If this is someone you have every
reason to trust, and who has shown you a lot of care and love, I think you need
to step outside your comfort zone and extend that trust to allow this person
the opportunity to accept (and even like!) the parts of yourself that you don’t
accept or like, including your body. That’s one of the coolest things about
love: often, people who really know us and love us will like and love things
about us that we think suck or feel are substandard.

I want to share with you how
"beauty" is actually defined; what it literally means. Beauty is
whatever any of us sees or experiences that we find to be beautiful; which
delights or pleases our senses in some way, or which elicits feelings of
emotional or intellectual admiration, awe, love, joy or connectivity. Just sit
with that for a minute, okay?

While there are cultural
"standards" of beauty, that’s mostly a self-designed lie, because we
don’t all find delight in our senses from the same things. My mother is wild
about the smell of gasoline: she thinks it smells wicked good, the way some
people think roses, the smell of a lover or a fresh-baked pie smell good. I
experience that same smell as totally gross. Even just with those two opinions
alone, we could not say how gasoline smells to everyone. In other words, were I
to say "Gasoline smells bad," I’d not be telling the truth.
The truthful statement could only be, "Gasoline smells bad to me."

The same holds true with how people
feel about how others look. What looks good to one person doesn’t to another,
and the range of preferences, ideals and experiences people have when it comes
to what they find beautiful or sexy in a person’s appearance is just as vast as
the range with people’s preferences with what tastes good, what smells good and
what feels good. There is no one beautiful just like there is no one
good-smelling. And you may want to bear in mind that your standards of beauty
are narrower and less open-eyed than someone else’s — which may include this
guy — are.

Heck, while we’re at it, let’s talk
about the actual definition of ugly, which is displeasing to the senses OR
inclined to anger or bad feelings with overtones of menace. Your body isn’t
ugly, but for sure, how you’re treating it and yourself sure is.

The idea that there is one standard
or kind of beauty a lie, just like the idea that you are ugly based on what you
see on a scale is a lie. If no one ever gave you the idea that there was one
right shape or size, or one kind of beautiful; if you grew up seeing images of
beauty that all looked like this or this
or this (which, by the way, have all been
representative at some time of a cultural standard of beauty, as those
standards change all the time historically) you’d probably have a very
different perception of yourself. Of course, if you weren’t comparing how you
looked to anyone else at all, you’d likely have a very different perception,
too.

Beauty is far more complex and
diverse than current fashion magazines or one standard at one given time held
by one given person or group. One of the reasons we see more diversity in fine
art is that artists generally aren’t looking to sell you something, like a
fashion mag is, or cut you down to make themselves feel superior, like people
at school may have. Artists try to see more deeply, see what’s really there,
past the surface or ideas the world has given us. We relish in seeing as much
beauty in as many places as possible. We try and see things and people as they
really are, and want to show that to others so ideally everyone can see
themselves, others and the world more deeply, more clearly and with all the
dizzying complexity that is truly there.

Chances are very good that if you’re
unable to see your body as anything but ugly, that’s in part about you having
internalized certain cultural bigotry and bias. It may also be impacted by you
not fully liking and accepting yourself as a whole, great person, beyind how
you look. It’s easier to have crappy body image when we have low overall
self-esteem in the first place. And good self esteem tends to involve making
sure we aren’t hyperfocused on our appearance, or making how we look or what we
weight the be-all-end-all, or see that as a reflection of who we are. As is
also common, you may have gotten into the habit of trying to process difficult
or hard emotions by putting them all on your body. For instance, whatever is
going on with your family and those feelings may be the real deal, you may have
strong worries about being loved and accepted, or be feeling vulnerable because
you’re in a love relationship, and any or all of that may not all be about your
body in the first place, but you’re putting them on your body because it may
seem like something easier to try and manage or control, or because you’re so
used to dumping everything on your body.

Mind, all of this is a process: a
rare few of us come of age with an amazing body image (and this is also true
for women who are thin). Most of us learn that, unlearning the bad stuff and
accepting and embracing ourselves over time, not in one fell swoop. We keep
taking baby steps and we keep feeling better and better as we go. It’s okay
you’re not there yet, but it is time to start really taking those steps. Not
eating, hiding yourself from someone who loves you and telling yourself you’re
ugly are backward steps that keep you stuck: working to accept and embrace
yourself, to dump ignorant or bigoted ideas about size and beauty, to really
take care of your body and your whole self (which can also include counseling)
in smart, healthy and loving ways, to change the things you say to yourself and
to just put yourself out there are the right kinds of steps to take to improve
your image of yourself.

I asked my gorgeous pal Corinna Tomrley, who is a fat activist, for some
words for you, because I knew she’d have great input. (And because I don’t just
like her because she shares part of my name: I like her because she’s a
badass.) Here’s what she has to add:

At 5’10 and +200lbs, you sound like
an absolute goddess. But we’ve all been there – it is really hard to accept how
you look, especially if you’ve been told you don’t look good – but, honestly,
it isn’t impossible. It is also really scary to show how you look to someone
who you’ve got to know online and so far have been selectively revealing only
parts of yourself. We all do it to some extent. But at the end of the day, if
people can’t take the whole you and the real you, they aren’t worth your time
and effort. Though it’s cliché it’s true: you have to love and accept yourself
first and not rely on someone else’s idea of what you should look like. If he’s
a good guy he’ll be glad he’s got a whole person to keep in his mind’s eye
until you meet IRL. Self confidence, acceptance of your gorgeousness (and I
imagine you are gorgeous and in no way ‘ugly’), that is totally hot, sexy and
adorable. It’s a long and hard journey to accept yourself when you are big, but
it is certainly not impossible. Start today and you may find that this was the
best thing you could do for your body, your confidence and your future. Instead
of feeling bad that a diet didn’t ‘work’, that you can’t lose weight or gained
some, put that energy into doing something nice and rewarding for yourself. Get
a new outfit and see how awesome you can look with the amazing body you have.
Take a picture exuding sassy attitude and you’ll look stunning. Send it to him.
Whatever happens, you will have a great picture of yourself to put up online to
show the world just how beautiful you are.

Hear all that? I hope so.

Ultimately, I think it’s your
image of you you need to worry most about, not how other people do or may
perceive you. Even if your boyfriend thinks you are the most fabulous-looking
thing ever to happen to fabulousness, while that will be a relief, and will
make you feel good, someone else’s opinion isn’t an instant fix to body image
problems. Someone else thinking you’re lovely won’t usually change how you
think about you much. It doesn’t for anyone else, so I doubt you’d be the lone
exception. It’s you who are in your own head 24/7, and it’s you who are going
to live your whole life in this body: the person I am most concerned about accepting
and loving your body is you. Once you’ve really got that, it actually
stops mattering much what other people think. If you never get that, what other
people think will only be a band-aid, at best.

Here’s what I suggest to start: take
that photo. Even if you just take it for yourself. Take it the way Corinna
suggested, or, you could take it while thinking a big, powerful internal
"Screw you" to anyone, even the voices in your own head, that say you
and your body aren’t beautiful. Then, I want you, all by yourself, to take a
good look at it.

Would you diss that girl in the
street if you saw her? Would you truly be unable to find anything of beauty in
her if she wasn’t you? Would you try to make her feel bad about herself? Would
you call her ugly? Would you starve her? Would you shame her? Would you make
her cry? Would you be as harsh to her as you’re being to yourself?

If not (and criminy, I sure hope
not), please let that be a big ding-ding-ding to you that you need to STOP
treating yourself this way. You can’t control what other people said to you or
how others have treated you, but you can control what you say to you and how
you treat you, and you’ve been treating you very badly. Your body isn’t your
enemy. Your body isn’t making you feel bad right now: your mind is. Changing
our minds is actually something that’s a whole lot easier to do, and usually
more healthy to do, than changing, or trying to change, our bodies.

Now, send your guy that photo.

I’m going to leave you with a few
more links I think you could use, in addition to my best bod-lovin’,
self-accepting, get-out-there-and-take-life-by-the-horns sentiments:

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Follow Heather Corinna on Twitter: @Scarleteen

To schedule an interview with Heather Corinna please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • beenthere72

    I have to admit that I pretty much skimmed the 2nd half of this post, but I have to say that I felt the same way at that age all the way up to about 26 years old. I’m 37 now and 5’4″ and about 185 lbs. I want to kick my 15 year old self for ever feeling that way. I was *beautiful* and had a nice figure – I was not fat, no matter what my own parents said. I don’t think being 5’10″ and over 200 lbs is fat either. It’s rubenesque and can be absolutely beautiful. I thought I was fat at 165 lbs as a teenager, and it just led to more trouble down the line, or up, I should say, as I reached 265 lbs in my twenties as I struggled with diets and self esteem issues. I believe that if I had just realized back at age 15 that I was not fat, that I was truly beautiful the way I was, that I would not have followed such a path of self-destruction for the next 10 years. I ended up having gastric bypass surgery and luckily a new-found love of self and though I’d love to lose a few more pounds – and get back to that 15 yr old weight, I no longer consider myself fat, and I do consider myself beautiful.

  • any

    Been where you are. There is a reason you do not like your body and I would say the message more often than not comes from outside sources. i.e comparing yourself to other people in magazines and such.

    Stop worrying about the look of your body and start managing the care of your body. Healthy living equals a happy life. Take care of your skin…your diet…and your lifestyle. Be healthy…be happy. Find cloths that make you say, gotta love me. I have been big and I have been small. Taste and style and healthy living really does make the difference.

    Enjoy yourself and you will start to see a new and better you.

  • any

    P.S. You are only 15 teen years old? It matters not whether you think you are big or small…no boy needs to see anything more than your go get them hair do and the gotta love me cloths you have on your back. Holding hands and nice kiss on the cheeck is as romantic as anyone 15 teen year old needs. You have your whole life ahead of you. Taking things slow can be so much more fun as living life fast. The world is so huge for you right now and there is so much of it to learn and see. Take the time to be selfish and find yourself. All 15 teen year olds should have that pleasure.

     

    Just know…you can not choose your family…you can only love them and accept them.   Sometimes accepting your family for who they are means you must find some healthy way to deal with all the drama, trauma, and crisis that come along with being apart of your family.  That may mean causing some drama of your own.  Remember the best thing for you to do is to keep the drama you choose a healthy and loving choice for yourself that might open doors and can lead you to something better.  You may not have to let everyone know your business but you can channel your energy into seeking career counselors and other school resources that may help you prepare for that better future.  You are only 15… you so do have a great future.

  • harry834

    like this:

     

    you can not choose your family…you can only love them and accept
    them.   Sometimes accepting your family for who they are means you must
    find some healthy way to deal with all the drama, trauma, and crisis
    that come along with being apart of your family. 

     

     

    Not knowing the details of the family situation, I’m not sure we can classify this under the umbrella of "normal family drama". It may be abuse. It may be non-physical abuse. It might not be either of those. But I’d caution those to think of these possibilities before putting it under that umbrella term.

  • harry834

    don’t assume beacuse this person didn’t say it was abuse that that is the case. Those who grow up with it accept it as normal.

    Let’s be careful to avoid feeding that false sense of normality…assuming abuse is happening (it may not be, I haven’t ruled that out)

  • any

    I did consider all of that.  You neglect to read between the lines…I do not know if this child is being abused and therefore do not want to outwardly touch on the topic with this child. Being a teenager may not be easy even for the most well put together teenager.  Sometimes teenagers might think that the worst have happen when it has not. Sometimes teenagers might not understand that the worst is happening but it can be dealt with in a healthy manner. Worst there may be adults who can lack this understanding. This is not family advice. This is more a general human fact. My statement above is made to purposely not address if the enviroment this child lives in is healthy or unhealty.  What is done is done and may not be changed but the future for a teenager can be endless posibilities. What matters is her personal choice to do what is best and healthy for herself and her future. She learns to make healthy choices today…she will be creating for herself a healthy enviroment tomorrow. More importantly she will be developing a skill that she can use for a life time. Supportive family will make that posibility just that much more easier. Non supportive family will make that possibility just that much more harder. That is not family advice that is a human fact. Her family is apart of her. She learns to see the best in her family even in what she thinks is the worst situation…she will learn to see the best in herself even in the worst of situation. Read the post more carefully…this is not family advice this is more human rights advice.  Do what is best for you and your circumstance advice.  I personally think statically no matter the circumstance every teenager should be looking forward to a fantastic future.  Educational goals, career goals and living with a positive attitude within your life is the best healthy choice and the best way to prevent and overcome the bad experience of abuse. So, I say to her…go to your school find the guidance counselor and focus on that positive future. Someone else who knows more about this child and her life may advise her on the topic of abuse. The only thing I have to say about abuse is very general…"abusive people relish on a person not liking themselves."  I believe this because I think abusive people no matter how well they look on the outside, do not like themselves very much on the inside. Misery loves company as the saying goes.  So, I say… "love yourself and you are half way through the battle."

    Hugs to you.

     

  • harry834

    I agree with everything you’ve written about the girl having a positive attitude about herself. No doubts there.

    But I have doubts about whether we should advise her to have a positive attitude about her family when we have no idea what her family is like and actually have indicators (even if not certainty) that abuse might be a factor in her family.

    You said these:

    "She learns to see the best in her family even in what she thinks is the
    worst situation…she will learn to see the best in herself even in the
    worst of situation."

    Reading this sentence, it says that her ability to see the best in herself depends on her ability to see the best in her family.

    And even though you keep saying this is "not family advice" it is, because you are talking about how she ought to relate to her family. When I say "relate to" I include the perceptions she ought to have, and you said she ought to see the best in her family…ie you are advising her on how she should perceive her family.

    I have no problem in advising her in how she should perceive herself. But we shouldn’t be advising her on how she should be perceiving her family, especially given what we do know (even if it doesn’t add up to full proof of abuse).

    Yes, her family is apart of her. But the same is true for abusive and non-abusive families. 

    Yes, teens often think they are in the worst situation, when it really isn’t. Then again maybe it really is.

    You mentioned a human rights perspective. A vision of human rights must include an awareness of injustice and abuse, and not letting rose-colored assumptions about human nature or human families block us from considering that possibility, especially given the signs.

    However,  In everything I’ve said and everything we have read, there is not enough evidence to advise this girl as though she were an abuse victim. But, reading what you have written and the advice you gave her about how she should "see the best in her family" presumes too much in the other direction.

    Everyone here agrees she can’t change the past but can still shape her future. Everyone here agrees that she should have a positive attitude about herself and her future. Based on what she has told us about her life (and not what we imagine to be true or wish to be true), it sounds like if we are to advise her to trust someone besides herself, it is the boyfriend. You also mentioned counselors and so did Heather. I agree. 

    Would I advise her to have a negative view about her family? No, but if she already had a negative view of them, I wouldn’t tell her to turn it around (unless we knew more about the family). Heather is advising her to turn around her attitude about herself (though she isn’t using those exact words, and I’m glad she’s not), and I am glad Heather is giving this advice. I think your advice about the girl believing in herself is good too. However, it feels Heather’s choice of words is more down to earth.

    You mentioned that you were not giving advice on abuse. But then what about this statement:

    "Educational goals, career goals and living with a positive attitude
    within your life is the best healthy choice and the best way to prevent
    and overcome the bad experience of abuse
    ." (italics mine)

    You mentioned that you were trying to give a general statement about human rights. It sounds like you’re trying to give a general statement about human nature. I’d avoid that. We can’t have a one-size-fits positive speech for every problem humans might go through.

    I’ll say it again: a vision of human rights requires awareness not assumptions about what humans do. We must be aware of what we know and what we don’t know. Given what we know we must make some speculations, but we must restrain these speculations within a certain sphere. That is why, inspite of everything I said, I wouldn’t advise this girl as though she were an abuse victim. If I did, I’d advise her to get the help she needed to deal with that problem, from a counselor or police or whomever. And I’d probably ask certain experienced acquaintences of mine before I gave that advice.

    If we assume for the minute that she is definitely not an abuse victim, the worst your advice might have done, if it were given, may be (key word "may be") the girl thinking that your just another adult preaching lecturing her to look up to her parents, "for her own good". Kids stop listening after that.

    However, I do consider the possibility that some portion of the human population, including teenagers, would be comforted by your words. I hope then that we can hook everyone up to their preferred motivational speaker. Best way to give everyone what they truly need.

  • any

    I have advice just for you. Do not read and pick what you want. Get the context of the message right. How do I put this…the idea of trust or personal relationship with family is not advice I can give this girl and just as the topic of abuse…"I do not want to discuss." Advice about trust and abuse is about involving oneself with her family relationship. These are words you keep using… So, I think involving your imagination with her family relationship is more your thing then mine. Encouraging any person to find the best in their family is never wrong and to find something to love about one’s family is never wrong. So, I stand behind my personal belief.

    This is only hypothetical. This is an example just for you since you are having such a hard time reading what I have written. I am thinking base on your writings you are in more need of this advice then her.

    A teenager may have a mom who may have the most beautiful hair and the teenager might have a dad with the most wonderful smile. A teenager may laugh and suddenly hear their grandparent’s wonderful laughter. Upon any teenager believing they are in the worst situation ever…one can go to the mirror and appreciate those wonderful traits within themselves. I stand behind the words "concentrate on the positive." I am talking about construction VS destruction. Build on the best about your life and that can include the best of your family. Any teenager who can see any positive traits within their family may be able see the best of themselves more clearly. Upon going to the mirror a teenager may see their mother’s beautiful hair and a father’s best smile. A teenager may laugh and suddenly realize their grandparent’s wonderful laughter. So, any person can accept the best of their family just as well as the worst. Regardless of their situation, good or bad…right or wrong one can learn to love those good traits and build on it and find value in them self. There are people who believe the most beautiful paintings in the world are the ones with the best imperfection. That is more or less how see life. People can accept my personal understanding or reject my personal understanding. I will never stand for anyone changing the context of my understanding. My understanding is simple…“the people with the best life are people who may see the beauty in our most imperfect world.”

  • harry834

    And it doesn’t address any of my concerns. It reveals nothing new that I hadn’t taken from my first read.

    Over and over again you say this: "look at the positive, no matter how bad things are". I feel everything you have written could be condensed into that one sentence. You did give some specifics of what "the positive" aspects of the family: the fathers smile, the mothers hair. I thank you for being more specific.

    We can both agree that to the extent that this girl’s positive qualities are inherited from her parents, whether by nature or nurture, that we are both glad she inherited thes traits, and its ok for her to be glad too. I’m just questioning whether we should advise her to be glad.

    The simplest way to explain my concerns is this. Imagine a girl has been horrobly abused, even if only non-physically, by her family and is still living with them. What should we say to her: "look at the good side of your family!" Seriously? This is ok to say to someone abused by their family? "Look how they love you"?

    It is torture enough to grow with the abuse, to grow up possibly thinking its normal…does she really need to be told to love her family regardless of what they doo to her.

    You are trying to take the easy way out by saying "it’s a general statement". Sorry, but the differences matter. You can’t say what your saying to any child regardless of whether or not she’s being abused. The difference DOES matter. 

    You can’t have this general-purpose advice statement. Differences in situations matter. The difference between growing up with an abusive family versus growing up with a non-abusive family DOES matter, and you can’t use the same words for each situation.

    I’d ask you to read MY words carefully and see the points where I do agree with you and those where I don’t and those where I take an in-between. Read the details of what I’m saying and try to address the points I’m bringing up. 

    I don’t know what this girl would like to hear. For all I know, everything you say or might say would be just what the girl needs to hear. I haven’t disproven that possibility.

  • harry834

    whenever I quote you, you keep saying that the words mean something different in their "context".

    So do this: Take any words that I have quoted from you and then cut and copy the parts of your words that provide the context. 

    My argument is that I "pick and choose" because the the words really don’t change even with all your other words. But if you copy my quotes of you AND your other words that provide the context, I can see what the quotes look like with and without the contextual words. 

    So far, I’ve combed through everything you’ve written and see nothing new which changes my original argument. If you can copy/paste the quotes with the context words/sentences, I might be able to see what you mean.

     

  • harry834

    Finally found it. Barbara Ehrenreich is author of the book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.

    http://www.amazon.com/Bright-sided-Relentless-Promotion-Positive-Undermined/dp/0805087494

    In her book, she discusses her battle with breast cancer and how those around her kept telling her, over and over, to “look on the bright side” (sound familiar, Any?). She says how this happy talk really frustrated her and didn’t help her at all. And she has met many others that feel the same, including other crisis survivors.

    That is the point I’m trying to make: is that for many people (if not most), the positive-talk/look-on-the-bright-side/see-the-best-in-the-imperfect speeches are something we’ve heard over and over again from many people who may have good intentions but don’t have words or actions that give real comfort or help. But the positive-talk speeches are simply a habit for many people, such as Barbara’s advisers and maybe you Any, that we can’t expect you all to break that habit and adapt to people’s real feelings anytime soon.

    All this I say, without excluding the possibility that some/many others might be comforted by your positive-talk words. Jon Stewart suggested this very possibility when he interviewed Barbara. I do personally feel that people are turned off more often that comforted by such positive-talk but we haven’t done any statisticak studies so I’m afraid to say “most”, I am safer to assume “many”.

  • harry834

    in their interview, they say here (scroll down to last set of quotes):

     

    Jon: "I imagine there are a great deal of women who did find great
    comfort or strength in that [positive-talk], and isn’t that okay in the same way if
    Jesus makes you stop drinking, it’s okay?"

     

    Barbara: "I never think delusion is okay. I really don’t"

     

    –Author and 1998 Humanist of the Year Barbara Ehrenreich responds
    to Jon Stewart on the October 14, 2009, Daily Show. Ehrenreich was
    discussing her new book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of
    Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, and her frustration with the
    pressure to remain ever positive while battling breast cancer.

     

     

  • any

    Positive thinking is a completely different topic then woman issues and teenager girls.  So, yeah I will have the debate with you but not on this site

    Hugs to you.

  • any

    This has nothing to do with this girl story. I have worked in the volunteer industry since the age of ten years old. That is about three decades or maybe even more. I am reading all the things you have wrote. I would not keep addressing you but woman issues are too important not take the opportunity to discuss. Just recently I was at the YWCA and this successful body builder stood up. She explained how she has always been in control over her life. One day a man she loved took a gun and put it to her young son’s head. Now I am quite sure if anyone was to go ask this man…it never happened. Abusive people never say, “I am a mean ABCXYZ. I want you to feel shame and be powerless.” Abuse much like rape is about taking away another’s power. It is about taking away another’s voice. He could not attack her looks…she is an award winning body builder. He could not attack her mind…she is educated and have built her own life. He could not hit her…she is built to take and give a punch. He could have left her, she would have done as she has done in the past. Cry and get over it. He could have ask her to leave. I am certain she would have. She was at the YWCA. Running she exhausted all her money so she might have even done better for herself without the gun incident. This is called intervention. She could have trusted all the signs before that moment and left. That would have been prevention. Prevention is all about a woman having a good relationship with herself, her mind, her body and well being. It matters not whether she has been abused in the past. Looking at this woman I would say she was well into her 30’s before finding herself in that unbelievable moment. I have learned it is best to stay out of family matters. It is best to stick with issues of finding trust and self esteem within ones self and making the best choice for you. So, woman who may feel they have never been abused may still need the tools for prevention. You are completely right I am repeating myself. The worst abuse is putting the fear of God in someone and making them afraid to even so much as think for themselves. This can be done mentally, physically, socially and even politically. We as woman have a lot of issue we have to claim. Loving ourselves, finding peace with our past, and enjoying our future allowing us the freedom to make the independent choices for our independent situation is always a fight worth fighting and in a fight everyone thinks their view point is right…that’s why people fight. You lose this fight. We are talking about my view point. I am sorry about how you are reading that which I wrote because what you see is sincerely a message I do not wish to send. You are the person still using the words…trust and abuse in regards to the possible relationship with her family. No where in my writings do I use these words with exception to addressing your concerns. Read between the lines of my original blog it is truly all about prevention and future possibilities. She sounds just like every 15 year old girl who have this really great boyfriend and the most annoying judgmental family ever and we will not even talk peer pressure. I have been a 15 year old girl with a lot of 15 year old girlfriends. Harry sounds like a boys name. Just so you know girls do things a lot differently when boys are not around. We act like the best beauties in the world but we worry about everything. Hopefully every teenage girl will have that special love that they feel they can show their real face too. It may be new to you, it sounds new to her but not new to me. There are red flags but for the most part she sounds normal. All normal teenagers at some point give a red flag. They would not be the normal teenagers if they did not. Hugs to you.

  • any
  • heather-corinna

    …that the advice articles I publish here are reprinted from Scarleteen, which is where the person who wrote in reads the answer.  The OPs who wrote in rarely, if ever, read them here or the comments published here to them.

     

    (In other words, when people here post replies TO the young person who wrote in, they’re usually fruitless.  And if anyone is arguing hard about what they think is the right thing to say to them per concerns about what they’ll see in comments, no need for concrn, as they won’t likely see them.)

     

    It is, however, perhaps worth noting that if — as you seem to be doing, Any, but perhaps I am incorrect — anyone is presenting body image as a "woman issue" alone, that’s in error.  By all means, statistically, we see way more young women whose body image issue is about being fat or feeling they weigh too much than we do with young men, who more commonly feel they are too thin, but even in that regard, fat and other kinds of body image problems are an issue for men and young men, too, not just a "woman issue." Same goes for concerns about being loved or being found physically attractive to others: these are not issues exclusive to women.

  • harry834

    for accomadating our (sort of) off-topic discussion. Any and I have moved our talk to her post on positive thinking.

  • any

    I was commenting as a once 15 year old girl. I have never been a 15 year old boy. Sorry. The advice I rendered is advice that was given to me when I was a young girl by no other than a nun. Eeek! I would roll up my sleeves and would mop the floor and clean a dirty public bathroom before I would stand up in public and give a speech. Then came a time when doing all the physical dirty work was just no longer enough. So, she gave me the talk…I did not pay the advice much mind. She is a nun…”what the holy heck would she know about being a young girl?” As I hung out with this nun and got to know her as much more than a nun…I just started to take heed to her advice.

    I totally agree that self image is not something that is just a woman’s issue. Woman issues with self-esteem and how we relate to our self-esteem is so much different than how a man relates to his image of self-esteem. In my youth I often went to teen detention centers to speak on teen issues, self-esteem, and the possible future of my young teenage peers. I have always walked out of a detention center in sock. We would always somehow touch on the topic of rape, gang volience and disrespecting authority and things I think I have blanked out. The worst is these kid’ss often had good points. The problem boys talked so much differently than the problem girls. The one thing…I could see we all had in common is a lack of self esteem.

    Every child who sat forcefully there to listen to our teen group was just like me, at least that is how I felt. They just handled their problems differently. They handled their lack of confidence in what I thought was a completely irresponsible and dangers way. More importantly a lot of the teens in the detention center did not seem to care they were doing this. They were not even trying to do the right thing because I think they think trying was just a waste of their time. I thought not trying was the real waste of their time. The worst thing I ever heard another kid say is, his plan was to die before 18 because he had no reason to believe there was anything he could do to live past 18 years old. So, he would never waste his time to discuss how he saw himself living after 18 years old. I often wonder what happened to that kid. Talk about a male’s low self-esteem.

    This experience have totally re-shaped how I view the world. I cheerish it for everything it is worth. It is the most important experience within life. That includes being a mom. I would not be open with my kids. I have to stop myself in our busy life and sometimes sit and really listen to my kids and everyday I do my best to empower my kids. Something I feel I would never do if I had not taken the time to go to those detention centers in my youth.

    I was a young adult who was being raised to believed in the sincere power of right or wrong. I was being raised to believe children should be seen and not heard. I now know children should be heard. I no longer believe in the sincere power of right and wrong. I believe in the sincere power of what is right or wrong to empower you as an individaul. Again I am girl so I take a more active interest in woman issues, woman rights and how we as woman look at our world. Our problems really are the same as men. We can not escape we are often treated differently than a man. I feel you are addresssing me off topic too. It sounds like you assume I do not give consideration to men. What this blog is about regardless to whether the person will read the blog is I am fifteen year old girl…I do not like myself so, Who else else will love me. Most fifteen year old girls I would say have been there. Each girl have possibly been given good and bad advice and hopefully have found their own way to overcome.

    Hugs to you.

  • ranyart

    Heather,
    Thank you for this response. I would have loved to see an article this thorough and supportive when I was the OP’s age. I am 27 now and have been struggling with my body image and weight since I was around 8 years old, and while I’ve gotten a lot better at being good to myself, it’s been a long process and sometimes (as is the case at the moment, unfortunately) I slide back into old habits of thinking.

    Sometimes I feel like I am fat-positive about everyone in the world who isn’t me; it’s harder to turn that love and acceptance on myself. Thanks again for a great post; even know it’s all stuff I *know* it’s good to hear it from an outside source I trust.