self acceptance

Being with family can do weird things to you

Something to be aware of if you’re with family for the holidays/break/visting/etc:


If you’ve been working on self-acceptance lately and making progress, some aspects of that are likely to be harder when you’re around family. When you visit family, you might feel bad about things you’ve learned to feel good about in other environments. That might be very frightening. It helps somewhat to know that it’s normal, and that most people struggling with self-acceptance go through this. 


It will be easier when you leave again. And, in time, as your self-acceptance solidifies, you will likely learn to hold on to it more consistently when you’re with family. This takes time and practice. It’s not your fault that it’s hard. It’s not a failure and it doesn’t mean you’re doing self-acceptance wrong. It just means that it’s hard. 


An example: If you’re fat and you’ve been learning body positivity and feeling good about yourself and your body, that’s likely to be harder to maintain while you’re visiting family. Most people aren’t in tune with that particular kind of body positivity. And some families are actively awful about it. You might feel worse during your visit, and feeling worse may linger after your visit. But it’s a temporary setback; it’s not permanent and it’s not your fault. It’s just that these things are hard, and close relationships complicate things when you’re trying to learn to live by values people you’re close to don’t share. 


It can help to actively stay connected to people who share your values while you’re visiting family. (Eg: take time to read body-postive blogs; talk to your friends; write emails.) It can also help to journal. 


And, in the words of Laura Hershey, it helps to remember that you get proud by practicing. Feeling good about stigmatized attributes you have takes time and practice. Feeling good about those things even when you’re around family members who feel bad about them is an advanced kind of pride. It takes a lot of practice to level up and feel ok even in that context. It’s hard, and that’s not your fault. You’re ok, even if you feel bad right now. 

You can't fix someone's perspective

Hey there. So, I’m wondering how I can help my sister with her self esteem. She’s very beautiful, and it’s been made clear to her by many that she is, but at the end of the day she thinks herself ugly. I get really frustrated and angry with her sometimes when she does this– it’s so clear that she’s lovely, everyone knows, and it’s obvious she is. I just don’t know what to do. I want her to see how great she is, without hurting her.
realsocialskills said:
It’s hard for me to tell from your message how your sister sees herself. You’re saying that she sees herself as ugly, and you see her as beautiful. You also say that she has low self esteem, and you want her to see how great she is. I’m wondering if maybe you’re conflating issues that seem the same to you, but which seem very different to your sister.
Sometimes people who have tremendous respect for themselves as people feel ugly. Sometimes amazing, wonderful people really *are* very unattractive by conventional standards. And for some people, it’s really powerful to come to the conclusion that don’t need to be beautiful to be ok. I don’t know how the world looks to your sister, and I don’t know what she’s struggling with. But it may well be that trying to see herself as beautiful is not what’s right for your sister at this point. And really, she’s the only one who know that; you can’t tell from the outside; you can only guess.
Your sister may be struggling tremendously with her self esteem, she may be struggling to feel worthy. But it’s her struggle - you can’t do it for her, and you can’t make her do it faster. This is something she has to figure out for herself.
It’s hard to see someone you love struggle, particularly when you think you know what would solve things, if only they would listen to you. Taking over really doesn’t help though, particularly when someone’s main problem is that they don’t respect themself enough. You can’t give someone self-respect by trying to force them to override their own judgment in favor of yours, as tempting as it might seem.
You can’t take over or direct your sister’s path to self-acceptance and self-respect, but you can support her in powerful ways. The best thing you can do for your sister is to respect the way she feels about herself now and stop trying change her. 
You can’t make your sister think that she’s great. You can’t make her think that she’s beautiful.
What you can do is acknowledge that she feels ugly, and show her respect and love as she feels this way. What you can do is be with her anyway, and show her that feeling ugly will not make you abandon her. 
Don’t get angry or upset at her for not feeling good about herself. That is counterproductive. If you express exasperation with her over this, it ends up sounding like "I want you to like yourself NOW NOW NOW you’re beautiful", which on the receiving end can be heard as “I hate you for not loving yourself more”. That is the opposite of the message you’re trying to send.
I think the best thing you can do for your sister right now is accept that, right now, she doesn’t feel great about herself. Your sister’s poor self image is not an inditement of you. It’s not your job to fix it - but you can be there for her while she figures things out, on her own timeline.
You can’t try to change your sister’s self-image without hurting her. What you can do is show her the love and respect that you wish she’d show herself.