Dear Dr. Christina,
I am in high school and I have never been asked out on a date. I doubt I will ever start dating because when I see the other girls in my class, especially in gym class, I do not think I am pretty enough. They look so perfect. My parents do not let me wear any makeup or dress up in any trendy clothes. My parents say they are just too expensive to buy so I just get my sister’s hand-me-downs.
I do have a problem with acne and I am overweight. I hate to look at myself in the mirror. I hate to get caught when my friends take pictures of me because I feel so fat. My mom says it is only “baby fat”, whatever that means, but I am not a baby. I feel like such a dork and I know I’m just plain fat. I see all those pictures in the teen magazines and on TV and I just want to drool. I just feel I don’t have a chance. Is there anything I can do to help myself?
How I remember those days and, yes, what you are experiencing is called negative body image. Believe it or not, both men and women face the exact same thing you are, so I do not want you to think you are alone. We are constantly being bombarded with body image in TV commercials, movies and magazines in order to promote a certain look that makes us feel that we need to be perfect. The trouble with that is there is no such thing as perfect.
I know you must be frustrated and feeling horrible, but I am so proud of you that you wrote me because you will be helping me to help others who are feeling the same way. The first thing that you need to do is not give up. There are so many things you can do! Let’s start with the basics.
1) You must do your best to take good care of yourself and eat a diet that is healthy and that fits your needs so you can maintain a healthy lifestyle.
2) It is important not to compare yourself to others, especially those images you see on TV and in social media, because you may be comparing yourself to pictures that have been adjusted with Photoshop or some other software program. You want to consider limiting your exposure to those types of media images, or at least rethink your response to them and say “Photoshop” so you can remind yourself that they are not real.
3) Take any negative thought you may have about your body and do your best to turn it around into a positive thought, meaning focus on what you like your body. This is very important if you feel you can do this.
4) You are a unique and special individual. You were made the way you are supposed to be made, not something that somebody else wants you to be. No one will ever be you. Remember, you are AMAZING!
5) Accept yourself and your body and realize you have the power to change it if you want to. If you feel you are fat, then do something about it. I know sometimes we eat because our feelings are hurt and we call it comfort food. Oftentimes if you really want something, you will move heaven and earth to accomplish your goal. Do it for yourself, not others.
6) Let your goals be reasonable and attainable. Do not try to sabotage yourself. Do not let yourself have such high expectations that you will fail no matter how hard you try.
7) Practice looking in the mirror and do your best to love who you see. This may feel like a hard one at first. If you start out by finding just one thing you see that is pretty, such as your eyes or your smile, you can and will find others.
8) Focus on who you really are and what is important to you. You will see that people who have the same interest in you will be attractive to you. Sometimes it is best not to try so hard to be like others or have what they do.
Being a teenager is a time for major changes that occur, not only in your body but also in your thoughts. Don’t be too hard on yourself because of all the hormonal changes that are occurring in your body that could lead you to have acne. Sometimes going to a dermatologist (skin doctor) or OB/GYN (women’s doctor) can help. The same goes for what your mom called ‘”baby fat”. This will get redistributed as your body grows and goes through puberty (your teenage years).
I know wearing makeup may be trendy, but sometimes going bare or natural can bring out the true beauty in your being a woman. So, at this time, understand that there are many choices out there. Just try it out for now if you have to.
Believe me, if you could shift your thoughts just a little in order to increase your self-esteem, you may do better in school and find it easier to make friends. You may also find it easier to have better relationships with your friends, and you may even feel energetic enough to deal with your life dilemmas. Of course, if you do not feel this happening, I would encourage you to speak up, tell someone, and seek help from counselors and family.
As for the clothes, I know hand-me-downs can stink, but be glad you had a sister and not an older brother. Clothing seems to cycle and what is trendy today is often no longer trendy tomorrow. Something that we wore 10 years ago can be the new fad tomorrow. I know that is not the answer you probably wanted. As an alternative, if you know how to sew, you could make your own clothes at a fraction of the cost or go to the thrift store or second-hand stores for clothes people recycle.
Dolly, you have your whole life ahead of you. I hope this letter has helped you realize how special and beautiful you are, just the way you are. This is a time of so much growth and change for you. I can assure you there is so much to come as you begin your high school years. Please have patience with yourself as well as everyone else, including your parents.
Thank you for sharing yourself and helping others realize that life has many curves and that you have many choices to make.
My thoughts are with you. Have a great year!
- Posted By: DRC Editor
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