My toxic cousin

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    I want to write on here to address all of the problems I usually speak about here. Most of my posts revolve around my low self-esteem (i.e., how I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, social enough, etc). As I’ve grown, I am coming to the realization that most of my self-esteem issues revolve around my cousin. Of course, it was me who ultimately wasn’t happy enough in my own skin, but my cousin really paved the way of my thinking. She would always put me down, and sometimes not even so subtly. A few examples of the things she has said to me are:

    First, when I was 12, she would tell me I wasn’t pretty enough to be popular. To me, popularity wasn’t that important, but once my cousin began to laugh at me for not being pretty enough, I felt like it was. I felt like something was wrong with me, like being pretty and popular is the norm. She would laugh at me, LAUGH. She thought it was funny. She thought it was funny that I wasn’t pretty, she would look me up and down, laugh, and say, “no offense Katie, but you’re not pretty. I know you’re not popular because you’re just not pretty enough.” I felt as though my lack of beauty and popularity (in my cousin’s eyes – not reality because many of my current friends said their first impressions of me in middle school was that I was both pretty and popular) was something to be ashamed of. All of a sudden, those things were important. Not my happiness, not my own comfort, but this random standard that someone who was supposed to be my best friend set for me. I began to slowly eat less and less food to be skinny and started watching beauty gurus on youtube to try to be pretty. I weighed myself every day as a 12-year-old.

    Then, when I was 14, my cousin told me my eyebrows were too thick. She told me my legs are too fat. She began to tell me my nose was too big. I took all of it in, truly believing that I needed to wax my eyebrows until they were “normal,” starve myself until my legs looked good enough, and try to hide my nose. I truly felt so ugly. I felt like my natural beauty was nonexistent, and I had to do anything possible to make myself appear good-looking. My disordered eating patterns kicked back in and I began to count my calories, go on military diets, and exercise as much as I was able to.

    But then, when I turned 15, I started to gain confidence. It wasn’t a lot of confidence since people still described me as awkward, shy, and unsure of myself, but hey it was an improvement from before when I would avoid all social situations because I couldn’t even speak without going red. I began to make friends and things were going really well for me. All of a sudden, I got a lot of attention from boys. Boys would purposely try to talk to me and completely ignore my cousin while she was with me. One time, she had a birthday party and all of the guys she invited talked about only me the entire time. I know she was upset about it because one time I overheard her talking to her friend saying, “I feel like guys just want to talk to Katie and not me”  It was the first time I actually got validation for something from her. SOMETHING. Like, she thought I was ugly, fat, stupid, and weird… but for the first time… I was better at something than her? She always had something bad to say about me, but for the first time, guys were more attracted to me than her. Looking back, I laugh at it because it’s so stupid. Like, who cares about attention from boys. Even back then I didn’t care!! But my cousin cared, so it became important. It was something.

    Now, I don’t care about boys (some of them would hit on a rotting piece of pizza if it had a hole), I care less about fitting in or being social, I believe I am smart enough, and I am starting to accept myself for the way I am. I still have issues about parts of my appearance (like my nose, since my cousin would laugh at me saying I desperately needed a nose job), but I am trying my best to overcome them.

    I also realize why my cousin says this stuff to me. It’s because her mom tells her those things. Her mom tells her she’s not pretty enough, smart enough, cool enough, etc. It’s sad. But my cousin always tells me “I am not angry at my mom for telling me those things, she just wants the best for me. She knows my confidence is high enough that it won’t hurt me.” But in my opinion, I think it does hurt her. And I think she repeats it to me either because it’s all she knows or because she wants to take it out on me. She knows my self-esteem isn’t very high, but she doesn’t care because her mom tells her horrible things so she is going to tell me horrible things.


    Coming to these realizations has helped me accept myself for who I am. Before I thought I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t smart enough, social enough, skinny enough, etc. But now, I like the way I look. I have developed a habit of being extremely critical of my appearance, but overall, I like the way I look. I also believe I am smart enough. I am me and that’s enough. I do my best, so that’s all that matters. I know I put my all into everything I do, so if I don’t get an A, don’t do this, don’t do that, it doesn’t matter.


    Hi Katie,

    Congratulations on learning on your own that you are in charge of your opinion of you.  You are and always will be enough in any regard, because you are responsible for your own self-image. Those boys were responding to your confidence.  The choice to be confident will get you far in life.  Keep at it.

    In regard to your cousin and aunt, those belittling comments do count as verbal abuse. Your cousin absolutely could be hurt by her mother’s choices.  However, remember that it is your responsibility to take care of you, not fix her.  There are a couple of important choices you could make:  Decide whether or not you want to maintain a positive relationship with your cousin by being kind, supportive, and communicative with your cousin if you would like. Also, if you ever decide to consult local adults about how your aunt treats your cousin or how your cousin treats you, make sure you report it to a school psychologist, counselor, or social worker (These are the staff that can maintain anonymity).

    Also, though this is a great community of support, please remember that users, such as myself, and this site are not intended to provide and do not constitute medical, legal, or other professional advice. Nothing here is designed to replace medical or psychiatric treatment.



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