We all want to change something about our appearance. Sometimes that's healthy, sometimes it's not so healthy. Read what our Mentors and experts have to say in response to kids' questions about this subject.
Advice Questions about How You Look:
- "I don't really have the best fashion sense in the world and I guess you're probably going to say that I should just be myself and people should like me for who I am. But, being a teenager (or pre-teen in my case) isn't about being out there, it's about fitting in. I see my friends wearing good clothes, and mine are OK. It's not that I want to be like them, I just want be in the same fashion zone. Any advice?"
- “I am really tall for my age, And I mean REALLY TALL. Almost everyone I know is shorter than me and can do everything better. And because I am tall, I weigh more than others, It makes me feel fat too, because I couldn't jump on a trampoline with a friend because the max weight is 300 lbs.! I’m 130! Can you help me?”
- “I have a "beauty mark" (as my parents call it) on my right cheek, and some people say I look beautiful, but I'm starting to doubt it's true. I know that it's what counts on the inside, not the outside, but sometimes people who are too judgmental make fun of me and call me "moley" or "mole face" and it really hurts my feelings. Sometimes I even come home crying. In 6th grade, even a 5th grader made fun of me! How do I just brush it off?”
- “I hate wearing shorts and tanks because I'm hairy all over and my mom and dad won't let me shave. I am 13 and everyone else is doing it. I feel very ugly. How should I go about this?”
- “I think my thighs are huge. I'm pretty, have a lot of friends, a boyfriend, and a lot of people like me. I'm a size 4 or 5 in jeans, and I want to be a size 2 again. When I go swimming, I always wear board shorts. I exercise, but only in gym, and I have that twice every day! What can I do to be smaller?”
- “I'm sort of hesitant about wearing makeup. I used to think makeup was totally stupid and fake looking, but now I think that if applied sparingly I could maybe improve my appearance. However, I don't want to overdo it. How much makeup can girls my age wear to school without looking like they're trying to be provocative? Sometimes girls get gossiped about because they wear too much all the time, and they also look a bit silly. Also, people sometimes wear makeup because they're insecure. I'm not insecure, and I don't want people to think that I'm uncomfortable in my shoes. I adamantly dislike eyeliner and mascara, but I sort of like eye shadow and lipstick. Can you give me any advice about how much to wear?”
- “I'm really skinny. I mean REALLY! My parents call me 'ottery', and ifyou've ever seen an otter, than you can probably imagine how skinny I am. But the bad thing is, my friends are larger than I am! I think when I wear tight shirts and jeans it makes them feel fat. I like wearing tight clothes, but I don't want to insult them (as in make them feel fat). What should I do?”
- “I have the biggest nose in the whole world! It's all fat and big! I don't know what to do! See, I used to have a lot of problems. For example, I used to be fat, so to fix it I started doing exercise, I used to be weak and couldn't defend myself, so to fix it I got into karate. I used to be short and I got really tall. Everybody says that I'm pretty and the most perfect girl but now I have problem I can't fix. What should I do? At what age can I get a nose job?”
- “I have been called ‘short’ since first grade. Now I’m in 5th grade, and I look like I'm in kindergarten! My 6-year-old cousin is as tall as me! What do I do?”
- “Okay, I am kind of gothic, and wear the whole black clothes thing and hot pink bracelets. I think it’s killing my chances of being asked out by guys, and that is a drag. I mean, all the people I know are dating and I hate feeling left out. What do I do?”
- “I'm very big-chested for my age. A ‘C’ actually. My friends always give me positive comments about my bust, but I'm not so sure if having them that big is a good thing because I feel I'm not ‘one of them.’ What should I do or how should I feel?”
- “I don't think I'm very pretty. There are all these girls at school who have awesome hair that's curly, or is done really neat, while I have red hair that's extra long and is always in a braid. There are also girls who wear make-up and nail polish, when my parents say I can't, but I don't know why. Pretty much everyone I know has that stuff. Could you help me?”
- “I know this is pretty odd to talk about to a person that you don't really know. I don't have anything on the 2 upper parts, if you know what I mean, and I am always embarrassed! Just today, I tried to look for a bathing suit
in the Juniors department, but none of them fit me. In the little girls section, they are too babyish!!! What should I do?”
- “I have a party coming up and we are going to be swimming, but I don't want to take part in it because I think I'm fat. All my friends are going to be there and I like swimming, but people make fun of my weight. What should
- "I have a sports day coming up, but I really don't want to take part. I think I'm fat because I have stretch marks on my legs. What should I do?"
- "My dad doesn't want me to shave [my legs], but my mom will let me if I'm up to it. What should I do?"
I have a party coming up and we are going to be swimming, but I don't want to take part in it because I think I'm fat. All my friends are going to be there and I like swimming, but people make fun of my weight. What should I do?”
Parties are fun, but they can also be stressful. The amount of peer pressure and self-esteem issues is so great that you can practically feel it in the air! Your body is your body. You decide how you look and how others should see you. You shouldn’t let others put you down, and it especially shouldn’t keep you from having fun. Personally, since I am overweight, I find that wearing a T-shirt over my bathing suit helps a lot with the self-image thing.
--Stephan, IML Mentor
I know all too well how you feel. I had the same problem when I was younger. There was a party for my whole grade at a local swim club, and I was feeling very self-conscious. I decided that moment that I was going to eat healthier and get exercise. Of course this didn't fix the pool problem, so I got a bathing suit I felt comfortable in, one that covered up my self-conscious areas, and from getting healthier I FELT more confident. All that matters is how you feel, and the people who make fun of you are only taking out their own problems out on a wonderful girl like you.
--Jessica, IML Mentor
I was always known as the "skinny kid" throughout elementary and middle school. I was always embarrassed about my size in gym class, but I realized that my looks don't make me who I am. It was my personality and skill that set me apart from my looks. Impress your friends by showing them your swimming talents in the pool, and remember to have fun!
--Dexter, IML Mentor
I'm really sorry you feel so uncomfortable about your weight. The swim party sounds like a tough situation. Your feeling bad about the way you look doesn’t mean you should exclude yourself from having fun with your friends. Maybe you can tell your mom how you feel about your body and ask if you can go shopping with her for a bathing suit that you think flatters your body. Good Luck!!!
--Jenna, IML Mentor
I have a sports day coming up, but I really don't want to take part. I think I'm fat because I have stretch marks on my legs. What should I do?
From Paul Horowitz, MD, FAAP
Hello there. I know that you're concerned about the stretch marks. But what you might not realize is that they are extremely common. In fact, 15% of boys get them and more than a third of all girls get them! Nobody knows what causes them exactly. The most important point is that stretch marks are not a sure sign of being "fat." I would like you to spend a few minutes thinking about why you feel concerned about the stretch marks. Please keep in mind that although the pink coloration will probably go away, it will look a little different from the rest of your skin. I want you to try to realize that the appearance of your skin is much less important than what kind of person you are. Your real friends know what kind of person you are and they would never judge you based on your outward appearance. Johanne's suggestion about covering them up with clothes might help at first. But try to become comfortable with your body as it is and remember to make healthy choices. If you think your stretch marks are more serious than what you see on some other people your age, please speak with your pediatrician.
The way you look is very personal and I can understand how you would feel on a day like that. I think it's best to just be yourself and be comfortable with the way you are. If you feel like it's affecting your life, then change is always possible, but until then, being yourself and being comfortable is the most important thing. I would advise going to the sports day as long as you're comfortable.
--Mikey, IML Mentor
Everyone is beautiful just the way they are, including you. You should feel happy about how you look and proud to be alive and healthy, and not let any doubts you have keep you from participating. Even if you don't feel as beautiful as you could, that should never keep you from doing all the things you want to do. If you don't go to your sports day, it should be because you're busy that day with other plans, not because of the way you look.
--Elizabeth, IML Mentor
I can relate to the stretch marks...big time! When I was in the 4th grade, I noticed that I had stretch marks on the backs of my knees! Not to mention on my hips, too. I tried to wear long pants and stayed away from two-piece bathing suits for a long time. But you know what? There are a few things that helped me (and still help me) feel better about my stretch marks:
As for your sports day, if you are really self conscious about how you look, ask a family member to take you to a sporting goods store where you can find some nice sweats, tights and shirts that'll keep you lookin' good!
- You don't have to be overweight to have stretch marks. My cousin, Shirley, who is as skinny as a twig, has stretch marks, too.
- Boys can get stretch marks! Especially guys who like to work out and have big huge muscles. They usually get them on their upper arms.
- Stretch marks are often a sign that your body is changing into your adult body, not because of your weight. You might notice them on your hips, thighs, arms, back, chest and yes, even your butt! So ready or not, if your body is changing, they are coming!
- For most people, stretch marks start to get darker as you get older, basically blending in with your regular skin tone and making it impossible for anyone to see them!
--Johanne, IML Mentor
Many of my friends shave their legs but I don't. I'm often made fun of because of my legs. I feel like the "odd man out." My dad doesn't want me to shave, but my mom will let me if I'm up to it. What should I do?
Since your parents disagree, it might be a good idea to sit down and talk to them both at once, so an argument won't break out later. Explain how you feel and why you want to shave your legs. Remember that "everyone else does it" is not usually the best argument. Talk to your parents maturely and good luck!
--Elizabeth, IML Mentor
I didn't start shaving my legs until I was about 13. Like you, my dad wasn't thrilled about the idea of me shaving, but my mom was more supportive of it. I was made fun of because I didn't shave my legs and that hurt my feelings. But I decided that it was up to ME to decide when I was ready to shave, not my friends. So as hard as it was, I waited until I was 13, then I was ready.
--Leah, IML Mentor
I was also about 11 years old when I first wanted to shave my legs. A few of my friends started doing it and so I wanted to do it too. I talked to my mom about it, and she wasn't thrilled about the idea. She said that once you start shaving, you can't really stop. I didn't want to believe her, mostly because I didn't care, so I continued to nag her about it. Finally she said "Okay," and bought me a razor! I was so excited and that day I shaved for my first time. It was really exciting, and I loved the soft feeling on my legs. Unfortunately my mom was right: the hair grows back quickly with stubble, so I had to keep on shaving all the time! It can get frustrating if you want to wear shorts and realize, "Oops, I need to shave before I wear these!" My experience with shaving made me realize that I don't need to grow up so fast. There's plenty of time in the future to start shaving and things similar to that.
--Jenna, IML Mentor
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