I have this friend who is constantly degrading herself and her body. Saying things like “I’m fat” and “my thighs are so big”. When she starts complaining and fishing for compliments I usually handle the situation by telling her that she’s being crazy and that I think she’s beautiful.
I know that everyone can be insecure (I myself struggle with it) but it’s getting to the point where she’s making me and all of our friends feel bad. I just don’t know how to tell her that it’s starting to make us all feel really uncomfortable without the situation escalating. Would really appreciate some advice.
Ahhh, this is actually a verrryyyyyy common thing that happens so I’m glad you asked!
Your friend isn’t happy with the way she looks. This is something that constantly bothers her and it’s always at the top of her mind. She wants someone to confide in and she wants to normalize talking about it. To her, saying these things don’t feel “degrading” to her because she might believe that the things she is saying are true.
When people share information like this, typically they are looking to either create connection through shared experiences (i.e. you would respond and say, “Ugh I despise my thighs, too!”) or through validation (i.e. you respond “No, you look amazing – I would do anything to have your body!). And, of course, sometimes people do want to genuinely dive into a deeper conversation. More on that in a sec.
Now let’s talk about you! You’re a dedicated and loving friend who wants to support your friend. When you hear her use negative language, you feel worried. You don’t see her thighs as “thick”, you see them as strong. When something you see in a positive way suddenly gets a ton of negative light shed on it, it can feel really shocking. When you continue to hear it over and over again, it starts to affect you. It may affect how you feel about your own body and ultimately your relationship with your friend.
So, how do the two of you come together to find a happy medium?
You need to talk to each other from a genuine place. I’m not saying that it won’t “blow up”, but approaching it with good intentions can help her see what you see. The truth is, you don’t need her to be happy about her body all the time. That’s not realistic. But you have to let her know that when she brings it up every single time you see each other, it starts affecting you, too. You want to work with her on helping her find happiness instead of ruminating on the negative.
And most importantly, listen to what she is saying. Ask her where this all comes from and think of solutions of how you can support her. Be there for her, because chances are, this is rooted in something a little deeper.
Oh and one more thing – make sure it’s just the two of you. I know you said some other friends might be bothered, but having a group of you talk to her will feel like she’s being cornered and well, that’s definitely not going to feel good.
Lastly, remember that friendships aren’t perfect but they should feel like safe spaces to talk, share feelings, and be supported. You got this!
PS – If you have a burning question you want to ask me, I’m taking questions via text at 510-692-4556. Currently this only works for US and Canada. If you’re outside of those countries, you can leave a question below.