dear sharideth: Just Trying To Help Her Out

Dear Sharideth,

Aside from the fact that I don’t know you well enough to call you dear and probably shouldn’t use use such a term, I have a question regarding a girl. That should be obvious, considering I’m a guy and your blog and… Well, I’m rambling, so let me ask the actual question.

I’ve been in a relationship with a great girl almost half a year now, and she was miss insecurity when I met her. She was fed a lot of lies throughout school, and thanks to a lot of people feeding her a lot more truth in the last year or so, she’s no longer carrying the weight of the world around. She’s great now, and vastly improved. She has a sense of self worth, respects herself, and even smiles.

It’s not really that I have an issue with her because things are good – don’t get me wrong on that. She just lacks self confidence. It comes across as her constantly apologizing for little things like telling me she had a rough day (she calls it a rant, but it’s just a mild, three sentence retelling really), constantly worrying that she’s a bother, or that she gets in the way, that she’s being controlling, and such. None of it’s true, and I always tell her so, but she keeps coming back to it, and I think it’s a lack of self confidence. She doesn’t believe in herself really…

I’m not being driven up the wall by any means, and I know enough about the opposite sex to know that they’re not like a machine where I can sit down and just fix something that’s not working right, so what would be your advice on boosting her confidence? I compliment her, encourage her, tell her how awesome she is, and it’s all the truth, but she’s still expecting to fail a lot. I tell her that she doesn’t need to apologize so profusely and that if she honestly is a bother, that I’ll tell her and not just be mad, but it’s not helping.

So, knowing that I can’t just magically fix this, how do I help her towards being confident? Have my friends kidnap me and have her come charging in with an airsoft gun?

Thanks,

Just Trying To Help Her Out

dear JTTHHO,

i dig the airsoft gun idea.  however, it might be important to note that bravery and self-confidence are two different things.  for girls like this, it’s easier to put themselves in harm’s way in defense of another than to take a compliment.  sounds weird, but it’s true.

as to how to help her, you’re going to have to hit her where it hurts.  hang with me because i know that sounds counter productive.

every time she apologizes for something she didn’t actually do, stop her.  don’t let her do it.  tell her “apology not accepted” because an apology is not necessary.  of course, she will apologize for apologizing and you’re going to have to shut that down too.

it’s going to be hard to get her to stop, but it’s going to be even harder to take the next step that will have to come right on the heels of making her shut up.

give her a minute to calm down because her stress level at being apology blocked is going to freak her right out.  you’ll need to breathe, too, because what you have to say next won’t be easy for either of you.

you’re going to have to expose her behavior for what it is. 

a lack of trust in you. 

ouch.  i know.  but i’ve been this girl and without some straight up truth, you’re not going to get anywhere with her. 

by constantly obsessing about disappointing you in some way, she is telling you that she doesn’t believe you when say she’s not doing that.  of course, she doesn’t see it that way.  at all.  which is why you have to be gentle but direct in how you say that to her.  you are also going to have to explain it to her by telling her that if she believed you when you say she’s not ranting/getting in the way/being a bother/controlling, she wouldn’t feel so compelled to apologize all the time.

she believes those things about herself because someone else made her believe them.  if she’s going to get better, she’s going to have to put her trust in the people who know that none of those things are true.

and obviously, when you say these things to her, she’s going to try and apologize and maybe cry and definitely freak out because you are telling her she has hurt you.

do. not. let. her. apologize.

take her hand or put your arm around her and let her know in no uncertain terms, that it’s okay to not be perfect and with you, even if she has moments when she is ranting/getting in the way/being a bother/controlling, she is safe.

ask her to trust you to tell her if there’s something she actually needs to be sorry for.

and last, but not even close to least, make sure she knows that you will stand between her and anyone would try to take advantage of her or make her feel like she has to make unnecessary apologies.  even if, or maybe especially if, it’s her own family.

she is going to have to ride in the wake of your confidence until she finds her own.

hope that helps.

oh so sincerely,

sharideth

any other suggestions for JTTHHO?

have you been the one trying to help with confidence or the one who needed the help?

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14 comments on “dear sharideth: Just Trying To Help Her Out

  1. kp says:

    I need to make my boyfriend read this.

  2. Abby says:

    Bless this guy for wanting to encourage and support (and not just “fix”) his girlfriend!

    I fit the description of a “keeper” but am still mining a deep vein of “miss insecurity” tendencies and beliefs, gradually getting them out of my life. It’s a process.

    I think I have a fear of not being valued. I fear my worth is not very high in others’ eyes and that they will abandon me when the inconvenience of being around me outweighs their value of me. (Ironically, I grew up in a relatively functional family with loving parents and siblings.) I think this is a challenge I was born with but I do not have to keep living with it.

    What has helped me:
    – Filling myself with truth (by praying, reading the Bible, memorizing verses, and honestly asking myself what facts I am ignoring when forming low opinions of myself).
    – Taking intentional “risks” in building friendships. I risk [what I perceive as] rejection every time I ask friends to get together. I now have a standing monthly coffee date with two close girl friends and love to bask in our mutual validation, humor, and encouragement.
    – Realizing there are people who love and enjoy me for being myself, not for what I do for them.
    – A boyfriend who consistently demonstrates that his affection grows as he gets to know me better. I was initially surprised he wasn’t scared away by my weird quirks (he actually likes them) or my lively, intense family. I believe him now when he says he isn’t going anywhere.

  3. shamwowmarie says:

    So this was me, and still is sometimes. Looking back now, I realize it was due to physical and emotional abuse from some not so great guys in my life. I would literally cry over spilled milk, even water, because I would get in trouble for it. My wardrobe was even decided for me.

    So my point, years of this made me think that this was normal. I was always going to have to apologize for something I didn’t do, usually it was to avoid a fight because they would make sure I was always wrong. So I learned to “play dead.” When I met my husband I had to start over with a brand new concept of love.

    My husband is absolutely amazing, he is patient and encouraging and would go back and beat up all those horrible people if he could. He does exactly what Sharideth recommends, he doesn’t let me apologize and says he doesn’t accept it. Then I apologize for apologizing until I give up. I have been better at not apologizing so much or not assuming all blame for a situation, but I still do it sometimes. Some of our friends have caught on to my husband’s tactics and also won’t let me apologize (I wonder if he told them). My husband is very honest with me, but also gentle, loving and patient while he waited for me to be secure in his love.

  4. skinbycarrielorrain says:

    I would say find an activity that she loves or does well and encourage her to do that more. Sometimes just a boost of “owning” a skill or hobby can bring out confidence in people. Just a suggestion. 🙂

  5. andilit says:

    Beautiful wisdom here, Sharideth. I’ve been this woman – and oddly more this woman in the last few years than early. Lots of reasons, but I’m learning.

    I’m with SkinbyCarrieLorrain – help her invest herself in something she loves, something that she is good at it. Then, encourage her to carry the feeling she has about that thing with her all day. That’s what I’ve learned to do, and most days it scares off the “no one really loves me” feeling that can creep up.

  6. So does this work when the genders are reversed, or should a different approach be taken when the same question is asked with ‘he’ in mind, rather than ‘her’?

    • i would think so. any guys who can help her out?

      • Michael Vuke says:

        I can’t answer directly, but I can talk a little about my experience.
        For much of my life, I hated myself (that is a whole different story though); anyways, after not hating myself anymore, I still had extremely low self-esteem and no confidence in myself. I’m still not super confident or anything, but for me, it has been a slow process of doing something and discovering, “hey, you know what? I just did that! I guess I’m not as big of a failure as I thought”

        So, how can this be applied by a girlfriend? I guess provide opportunities for the guy to step out BY HIMSELF and fix/do things. Now, don’t be obvious about it–“Hey Bob, can you come do this?”–that will just make him feel like he needs someone telling him what to do, and he won’t take credit for doing it; it makes you a crutch. Instead of pointing something out, let him work through things on his own, and point out his successes/occasionally be a cheerleader for him. Don’t work with him on it–once again, he will give the credit to you instead of gaining confidence in himself.

        I can’t guarantee that this will work, but I think it will help! Best of luck.

  7. Lauren says:

    Ohmygosh a guy who is funny and can write and is sweet and everything!!!!! Marry me? Just kidding that’s creepy. But seriously.

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