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Image: a cheerful orange blob monster is chatting to a friend using a speech bubble containing a question mark and exclamation mark. The friend is a grumpy grey blob monster who looks away expressing grumpiness. Its speech bubble contains a grey scribble.

Hello friends! It’s Elodie Under Glass here with a guest post on Low Moods.

I particularly want to thank Quisty, Kellis Amberlee and TheOtherAlice  for their kindly help in reading and editing this piece. It would not have existed without their care, support, compassion, and wonderful editorial abilities. They are truly remarkable humans! (edited: And thanks to the radiant and patient NessieMonster, who let me come to her city and follow her around, burbling insensibly about this post, for far longer than most people would have.)

So recently, I went on a Stress and Mood Management course, and I thought that you all might enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.

This post is something of a correction/update to Adulthood is a Scary Horse, a post for the Captain which I was never quite satisfied with. It really crystallized for me on this course, in our discussion of the Low Mood Cycle. It’s a concept described in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I thought it would be useful to share.

I am not a mental health professional (more caveats on that at the end). But I felt that if these resources had been usefully presented for free on the Internet – especially during times where taking a train and a bus and a taxi to get to a day-long course seemed like organizing a picnic on Venus – it could have helped me that little bit sooner. Maybe it will help others.

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Superman flying above a city.

“Saving the world is just what I do; save your many synonyms for ‘amazing’ for someone who cares.”

2/11/13, 7:30 pm, comments on this thread are now closed.

 

Dear Captain Awkward:

How do you non-awkwardly handle compliments and being thanked?

I’ve always hated being praised or thanked, even as a kid. I never know what to say.

My mum constantly thanks me for stuff that is a normal part of being a housemate. She really does not need to thank me for hanging the washing or doing the dishes – its what people who want to live in cleanliness and household harmony do. Not something extra. How do I say “you’re welcome” three times in five minutes while sounding sincere?

Also, how does one make being thanked for buying gifts less awkward? I know it was nice to do, thats why I did it, I don’t need to be given more than a cursory thank you and perhaps an update as to how they enjoyed it.

I loathe being praised, so much that as a child I would hide good marks on assignments so my parents wouldnt praise me. If I’ve done good, generally I just enjoy the thing well done.

But since I know thats my issue – how does one graciously accept praise and what are ways to quickly change the subject?

Yours,
Awkward Turtle

Dear Awkward Turtle:

The answer to this is always “Thank you” or “You’re welcome” or “It was my pleasure,” and the subject will change itself.

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Dear Captain Awkward –

I have a happy life with awesome friends and partner and offspring. I use my words on all kinds of things, as recommended. This generally results in lots of good talk about everything. But I am halted when my friends launch into self-criticism. “I am fat” or I am so stupid” or “I will never understand…”

So when this friend says “I am fat” and she doesn’t look it to me, what should I say? How, in general, do I respond to any friend’s statements when those statements look like self-criticism? I hate trying to reassure them what they think is not the case – that way lies madness. I don’t want to cut off something that might be important for them to talk about. Can you help me find good words to use?

with great respect –

temporarily wordless

Dear Temporarily Wordless:

Here’s an answer you can apply in many, many situations:

When you tell me things like that, what would you like me to say or do?

(wait and listen to what they say)

(Respond accordingly, possibly with the following script)

Because I can listen and empathize, but I don’t like hearing you say unkind* things about yourself like you expect me to agree with them.”

The beauty of this is that if they’re fishing for compliments, it forces them to admit/stop it. If they’re cycling inside their own head and don’t even know that they’re doing it, it forces them to admit/stop it. If they actually want something specific from you, it gives them permission to ask for it. Bonus: Asking a kind, sincere question in response to something you don’t understand is rarely the unmannerly response.

*Though with “I’m so fat” the answer might be “Yup, you’re awesomely fat. Want to go roller-skating?”

A big bowl of self-esteem

Chow down.

Dear Captain,

My question is two-pronged: I have serious self-esteem issues, in particular concerning my looks. I just don’t think I’m very pretty. My hair is frizzy and awkward and takes a considerable amount of styling to look even remotely presentable, my skin is greasy and tired-looking, I had a tooth smashed when I was small and, even with the best replacement money can buy, something still looks off about my smile, and the rest of my features don’t really shine through either. To the extent that I’ve been able to delve into the psychological origins of my anxiety over this (and I get *very* anxious over my looks) I think it’s (predictably) related to my up-bringing: my old psychologist (who was marvellous and I loved) had suggested that I didn’t get enough attention to build up my confidence in my early teens (which is totally true as my mother was battling a drinking problem at the time, that also absorbed most of my father’s energy and time). Anyway, my hair and skin are also practical concerns for me, in that they are very difficult to live in/with: instead of being the carefree girl who jumps out of the shower/swimming pool/sea, flips her hair back and looks, if not amazing, then at least, you know, presentable, I’m the girl who puts on her grumpy face as soon as a drop of rain lands on her, because she knows it’s frizz/greaseball onslaught time. It doesn’t help that I now live in the Netherlands (not where I grew up) where a) it rains a lot and b) everybody is gorgeous (like seriously, it’s scary and disconcerting and *very* bad for my self-confidence). Also, generally speaking, my whole family (or at least the family members that it makes sense to compare myself to, i.e. my mother and sister and female cousins, not my old bald uncle) are all of the “effortlessly pretty” persuasion and I feel like the ugly duckling/black sheep.

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