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Topic: 14yo son struggling with self worth

5 posts, 0 answered
  1. Sunflower73
    Sunflower73 avatar
    3 posts
    14 April 2018
    Hi, I’m after some advice on how to help my 14yo son. I believe he suffers from anxiety and in particular social anxiety. He believes he’s worthless, ugly and a failure at everything. The reality is he’s achieving highly at school, people like him and he’s certainly not ugly!! He has gotten to a point where he avoids all situations where there are people, and when he can’t hes very very self conceious and uncomfortable. He wants to play the Xbox all the time and he’s says this is because he hates his life and is a failure so this provides him a place that he can do and be anyone. When it comes to school work he stresses so badly that any work he does isn’t perfect. An example was a maths test where he got 98% (1 question wrong) and he threw it at me and said “see I’m useless at maths”! He seems to either go completely over the top with homework or avoids it at all costs because he will fail. He has been seeing a psychologist for 12 months but it doesn’t seem to have gotten anywhere and I really think it’s because he’s given up. He says he wants no help because he’s a failure and he hates his life and he’s used to it so why change. No matter what I say he refuses to want to change!! To add another layer to it, his father has severe PTSD and MDD. His father has often lost control and yelled at him that he’s going to be a loser and failure at life. His father is trying hard to not do this and it is happening a lot less but I have no doubt that this has added to his beliefs. So my question is, does anyone have any advice as to how to convince him to want to change and accept the help. I really feel at a loss to do anything unless HE wants the help and to change. Or is there anything I should be doing to further support?? Thanks
  2. smallwolf
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    smallwolf avatar
    5894 posts
    14 April 2018 in reply to Sunflower73

    Hi and welcome to beyond blue. It definitely sounds like you are in a tough space.

    I have 2 teens. My daughter is a bit of a perfectionist. However she does not give up. Good, but can drive you crazy sometimes.

    I am not saying that your son does not have social anxiety, but rather the perfectionist traits are affecting other aspects of his life. It is an all or nothing tendency. A cognitive disorder/distortion. And it sounds like it is reinforced by the responses he gets from his father. Maybe trying to get some praise from his dad.

    On the support side of things... Maybe have positive statements on post-it notes. Maybe put them into lunch box or pencil case. Or around home. Can you get him to say the statements out loud. For example "all I can do is my best". Repeat this enough times and you might start to believe it.

    I have an app called virtual hope box, recommended by my psych for different reasons. One of the distraction tools is a word finder puzzle. Thing is, it only contains positive words. Eventually you start to believe what you read.

    Could you also introduce him to famous people that made mistakes. For example the number of attempts Edison took to create the light bulb.

    There are also quotes that talk about success through failure.

    On the psych sessions... Unfortunately it is not a sprint to the finish line. It takes time, and sometimes it will be 2 steps forward and 3 back. And that might also be viewed as failure. That is from one perfectionist to another.

  3. Sunflower73
    Sunflower73 avatar
    3 posts
    14 April 2018 in reply to smallwolf
    Thank you for your reply. Yes there are definite perfection traits. I like your ideas my issue is he completely shuts down and shrugs off anything that could be considered praise or positivity. I can only hope that some small part is getting through at times as it really doesn’t feel like it. Thanks again
  4. Croix
    Community Champion
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    Croix avatar
    10565 posts
    15 April 2018 in reply to Sunflower73

    Dear Sunflower73~

    I'm sure you are right and his father's words and attitude have had a big impact. Plus it is very hard to convince someone that they are doing fine when the internal voices of anxiety and self doubt keep repeating the opposite. Like you I'm sure Smallwolf is correct raising the idea of perfectionism. As a perfectionist with anxiety I can definitely relate :)

    In addition to other measures is there any possibility of increasing his self-esteem though actions? Deferring to his judgment and letting him take the lead in some things. I don't know your circumstances or what is possible of course. An idea that might be silly is for him to regularly cook a meal (buy the makings and serve it up too.) Then you and the rest of the family wash up. He may need help, if so working companionably and with enjoyment might be the way.

    Going with him to things he has enjoyed in the past, even movies you find simply alien:) might be another thing to try. His choice becomes important and acceptable.

    What do you think?


  5. Sunflower73
    Sunflower73 avatar
    3 posts
    15 April 2018 in reply to Croix
    Thanks Croix, yes I think that is a good idea to try and find small things he can be successful in and for us to keep pointing out his successes. He always disregards any praise saying it’s not true but I guess al I can hope is that it is getting in even a little.

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