March 17, 2016

My Family Criticizes My Appearance!!

Ask Nikki Advice column March 17

Today’s question comes from Amy, who writes…

Sometimes I just don’t get my family. My parents and siblings nag me about my looks (how I do my hair, how “dirty” I look even though I look totally clean, etc). Usually, I wear a ponytail, clothes that are more comfortable than fashionable, and shower every 2-3 days. But lately I’ve started to take a little more time to look good. I even search for hair tutorials on YouTube so I can try something new! A few days ago, I tried a new hairstyle and I asked the oldest of my little sisters (she is 11, I am 13) what she thought. She laughed and said I looked ridiculous. I’m not sure if she realized it, but she really hurt my feelings! Please help me, Nikki!

Hi Amy! Thanks for writing to me! I’m SO sorry that you’re dealing with this! It sounds like you’re surrounded by CCPs!! What a NIGHTMARE!!!

Let’s talk about your parents first. Since we were tiny babies, our parents have been bathing us, dressing us, and making us look how they think we should look. As we get older and have our own opinions, they have to let go. But, it can be hard!

When your parents criticize your appearance, I think it’s about wanting you to look neat and cared for. That’s because parents feel like how you look reflects on them – if you’re dirty and raggedy, people might think they’re not doing a good job taking care of you.  So, hopefully your parents don’t really care if you’re fashionable or have fancy hairstyles—they just want you to look reasonably put together. It sounds like you’re already doing that, though you guys might have different definitions of what “put together” looks like.

Maybe you could sit down and talk to your parents about this issue. Let them know that when they focus on your appearance, it makes you feel self-conscious. Ask them if there’s something specific they’d like you to do that’s about basic hygiene – maybe they want you to shower every day, or they don’t like ripped jeans. Try to be open to those sorts of comments, but also let them know that you’re thirteen, and you’d like to make some of your own choices about your appearance and feel like they support you.

Your siblings, though…well, they’re siblings. Of course it hurt your feelings when your sister said your hair looked ridiculous! That would hurt anyone’s feelings! And if she doesn’t realize that’s a hurtful thing to say, she SHOULD! There’s a certain amount of sibling teasing that’s just a part of being in a family. You have to judge the moment. Next time something like this happens, you might respond with a joke, or just shrug and say, “Thanks for your input.” Or you might say, “That really hurts my feelings.”

Here’s the main thing to remember – aside from basic hygiene, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says about your looks. You shouldn’t change those things unless YOU want to. If you DO want to—great!! There’s nothing wrong with enjoying fashion or spending time on your hair. But if you’re doing it so you can fit someone else’s expectation, STOP!! That’s just letting the CCPs win! (Even if the CCP of the moment is your little sister.)

The world does a great job of telling us girls that we have to look a certain way. We get it all the time from magazines, and TV, and the Internet, and kids like MacKenzie Hollister, who insult us to build themselves up. We shouldn’t have to defend ourselves from those damaging ideas at home, too.

If the people around you aren’t doing a good enough job of making this clear, I just want to say that you are AWESOME! You’re smart, thoughtful, and concerned with the feelings of those around you, while also being true to yourself. Never forget that, and always let your inner dork shine through!!!

What do you guys think? How should Amy respond when her family criticizes her appearance?