VERBALLY ABUSED?

Question:

I used to see this guy for about 2 yrs. We weren’t together, but we slept together and talked on the phone for hours. Anyway he did say I was pretty, but he would ask “Why do you wear your hair that way”? When we were having sex he asked “Did you used to be fat”? (In reference to my stretchmarks.) I was quite thin in college about 99lbs. He told me somebody called me a crackhead, I said “Who says?” He said “I do” He would say these things at different times, I never knew when they were coming. He also pointed out a”cellulite” wrinkle and said “You might want to get that taken care of before you’re 30”. He said he was trying to help me out. He also called me weird, more times than I could count. These things would make me feel horrible. Also whenever I wanted to talk about our relationship, he would always blow me off say I was whining and accuse me of always being a victim. This and other things have made me feel so low, unattactive and just gross. I am I being too sensitive?

Signed,

Feeling Unattractive


Answer:

Dear Feeling Unattractive:

We aren’t a personal site, but rather a workplace site. However, I will respond to your question, because you need to feel better about yourself than you seem to do right now, and perhaps I can assist in some way.

Apparently you are out of the so-called relationship now, or I hope so. If you are not, get yourself free as soon as possible! If you look at your message with the eyes of an outsider, you can see that the man you spent time with was not in love with you, did not respect you very much, and didn’t care whether he hurt your feelings or not. That is not someone you want to be sharing your body with, or your life and future! So often we (both men and women) fall for someone who is attractive, or sexy, or who has some trait we like and are afraid we’ll never find in anyone else. When that happens, even if we care more for them than they do for us, we want to hang on. And, if they DON’T care as much for us, we start wondering how that could be. One of the first reasons we come up with is that we must not be attractive or sexy or good enough in some other way. If they indicate that as well, it can be devastating.

I have a female friend who still quotes a man from twenty years ago, who told her she wasn’t sexy enough for him to be seen with at clubs. She STILL feels bad about that! I thought he was a jerk then, and still do, but to her, he was special and she desperately wanted him to care as much about her as she did about him.

Ironically, she has a much better relationship with someone else now, and is very happy with it. But I think in her heart, she will always feel a little embarrassed over that man’s remarks to her. I hope she eventually gets over it. But she is the only one who can do it. Just as you are the only one who can find a way to replace those negative messages with something better.

Here, however, is where my advice may be much different than Dear Abby’s might be! I don’t think you are being too sensitive, in that the things this guy said to you were rude and did nothing to help you, only to tear you down. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t being honest about his views, and it doesn’t mean he was completely wrong. He may have been, but not necessarily. Sometimes our friends won’t tell us about personal issues, but those who don’t love us will! We might be hurt, but perhaps they are doing us a favor, even though their motivation was mean.

In the case of my friend, she might not have been particularly “sexy”, whatever that meant to the guy, but I do know she didn’t take very good care of her hair, nails, makeup or clothes, and she looked much less attractive that she could have and should have. I should have said something to her, but I didn’t. HE didn’t care for her as much as I did, so he didn’t mind saying it!

I think you should consider two kinds of advice: One from a professional counselor who can help guide you through much of this. Honestly, I think you would find that very, very helpful. You may have health insurance coverage for that, or perhaps could find a counselor through your community resources, or a church.

In addition to the counselor (not in place of a counselor, just in addition to one) consider this: If you have a friend who really IS your friend, and whom you trust, consider asking him or her to give you a honest, but not hurtful critique about your behavior and appearance–you’ll be limited to your appearance with your clothes on, of course! 🙂

Don’t tell them what this man said and ask if they think it’s true, just say this,”I’m always working to improve myself, but I know none of us see ourselves like others do. I’m not asking you to tear me down! But, I would appreciate it if you would think about me as someone you’re professionally advising for their personal and job development. I may be going to make some changes in a lot of things about me–I may not, but I might be–so I’d like you to tell me what you think I should do. Start at the top of my head and work down, and tell me this: What should I keep the same. What should I change a little bit. What might be a good thing to change a lot?”

Guide them to all the things that you might wonder if you need to work on. Just listen and take notes. You don’t have to agree and you don’t have to change anything. You’re just asking.

Then, you might say, “Thanks so much! That will give me some things to think about. Now, one more thing you can help me with. I want to have a happy, positive outlook and share it with others. If I want to do that, what are some of the things I do now that I should keep doing? What are some of the things I should tone down a bit? Are there some things I shouldn’t do ever again?” Those kind of questions are the very same I suggest to employees who want to know how they are doing at work. Over and over they let me know that it was an effective approach. I think it would be helpful in your situation as well. They won’t be easy to ask, and might not be easy for your friends to answer, but they might be useful. If you don’t want to ask your friends, ask someone in your church, or a club, or ask a former co-worker or teacher. (A current one might not want to tell you anything they think would be upsetting.) Ask a sister or brother, or aunt or uncle. Or, go to a department store–not the make-up section, because they just want to sell make-up!–and find a clerk who isn’t very busy and ask her!

KEEP THIS IN MIND: I’m not saying there is anything at all the matter with you, with your appearance, or with your behavior. But I can tell YOU wonder. And all I could ever say about having confidence and pride in yourself, won’t mean anything to you until you feel certain that you are getting the truth from those who know you.

In the meantime, focus on the things you have absolute control over: Your health and fitness, your mental and emotional well being, your behavior with others, your concern for them and their feelings, your work and being effective at doing it, your faith or an organization in which you’re busy. Get outside yourself and put your energy into others. When you are helping others, they will think you’re beautiful in every way!

I think it will take you awhile, maybe months, to get over feeling low and unattractive, because of the hurtful things that poor-excuse-for-a-man said! I wish I could promise you that you’d feel better right away, or at least soon, but you might not. What you can do though, is to promise not to let him hurt you fresh, all over again. Don’t let him into your world and if you must talk to him, put a Teflon coating on your mind and heart, so you can let everything roll off.

This much you know: No matter what that guy has going for him, the fact that he is hurtful makes him ugly and gross himself. You deserve better, and he deserves nothing. One day he may grow up and you may see him again–but it shouldn’t be any time soon. You need the break from the emotion, sadness and anger you feel toward him and toward yourself.

The best way to spend that break is in nurturing yourself, caring for others, and looking around you to find the things that make you happy and provide you with peace. You can improve your work skills, gain new knowledge and find things to interest you. You have the inner strength for that, I’m certain. You just need to draw on it all day, every day, until this passes and you feel better. And you will!

Best wishes with your life and work. I hope these thoughts were both honest and helpful!

Tina Lewis Rowe