He’s 20, I’m 19. Every time I compliment my boyfriend or say anything in his defense when he’s being negative about his appearance, he accuses me of lying or he makes comments about my eyesight (I wear glasses). Over the holidays, he apparently (I didn’t really notice) gained back the thirty to forty lbs he had lost in the fall. He’s always been on the heavier side, but I like that about him. He’s very tall, and he has very pretty eyes and a wonderful smile and I think he is the most handsome man I have ever met, but I guess to him, my view of him doesn’t matter. He means the absolute world to me, and I hate to hear him be so self-deprecating. I’m hoping someone might have some insight on what I can do to be a loving partner and help him see himself the way I see him. How can I help him understand? What might be most convincing??Thank you!!
What this comes down to, if we phrase it differently is “How can I change my boyfriend’s low self-esteem?” and to that I would say, honestly I don’t think there’s much for you to do. Let’s quote the Wikipedia article on self-esteem for clarity’s sake:
In sociology and psychology, self-esteem reflects a person's overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs (for example, "I am competent", "I am worthy") and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame.
As sweet and kind and loving as you are, self-esteem really is something that he decides by making evaluations and judgments about himself. As much as you can try to help him and be supportive, it sounds like he needs to go on his own journey of self-acceptance, and that is something he needs to decide for himself. There isn’t much you can do to change someone’s opinions, especially about themselves. It’s even harder to change someone’s opinion when what you’re telling them is the exact opposite of how they feel. You sound like a great girl, and his feelings about his appearance are neither your fault nor your responsibility to fix. This sounds like a problem that he’s been dealing for a long time, and I’m sure that other people have told him that he shouldn’t beat himself up. You can’t convince someone who you think they’re attractive if no part of themselves believes that they could be attractive.
If I knew him personally, I’d recommend therapy, and as touchy of a subject as it can be, I’d recommend you do the same with as much tact as possible. It sounds like he’s moved past the point of using self-deprecation as humor and now genuinely feels as though his worth is tied to his own perceived attractiveness. It’s one thing to say “hey, I’m not the best looking guy” and it’s a whole other thing to beat yourself about it. It sounds like he’s got a pretty serious issue with his self-worth and the best thing I can recommend is therapy. Trying to convince him otherwise may work on a temporary basis, but it seems like his best bet would be to talk to a professional to sort things out.
As for what you can do to help him at least understand your viewpoint, you have to take a very nice, but very firm stance. I want to state, as I often do, that I’m not a mental health professional, so take my advice with a grain of salt and bear in mind it’s based off of my own experiences. With that said, here’s what I’d do in your shoes. Make it a point to set some time to discuss your situation. Say, in no few words, that although he might feel a certain way about himself, you don’t feel that way, and you’d like it if he didn’t insult you or belittle your opinion. You can tell him that how you feel about how he looks isn’t something you just say, and that you really believe it, whether he does or not. I don’t know if this will convince him, or make him understand, but at the very least you’ll be able to speak your piece and hopefully he appreciates that.
It’s hard seeing a loved one in pain when you’re unable to do anything, but this is one of those situations where he has to be the one to decide he needs help. For now, just let him know how you feel, and encourage and support him building a better image of himself.
Good Luck Out There.