Why Sarah Cuts. (The ugly side of low self-esteem)


My interview with a 16 year old cutter.

She is a 16 year old girl with the lowest self-reported self-esteem of any girl I interviewed for my book.  She had tears in her eyes the entire interview and she nearly broke my heart. I found myself struggling between interviewing her and counseling her. She didn’t see herself as smart or pretty, good at sports or anything else really. She suffers from a very bad case of negative self-talk that’s alive and well living inside her. She told me that whatever she does, she hears an inner voice telling her she isn’t good enough and to quit, which she does every time. Because of this, she can’t stick to anything long enough to get good at it, experience success and then build confidence. This is a huge factor contributing to her very low self-esteem.  It has a paralyzing effect on her and has perpetuated an unnatural fear in her for anything new. She says her friends are starting to get tired of her negative attitude and they think that she is constantly fishing for compliments. She is pushing her friends away, which makes her inner voice (or saboteur) very happy. We talked about how she was bullied in middle school for being over weight, having braces and wearing glasses… all at the same time. She has never fully recovered from the way she was treated back then, even though she has blossomed into a beauty swan. She acquired an eating disorder freshman year of high school and based on our conversation, it seems that she still struggles with anorexia. She still sees that girl from middle school when she looks in the mirror and still hears the kids calling her names. More upsetting is the cutting. She told me that she “used to cut” herself, as a way to deal with stress in her life and probably because of the self hate. In her words, it’s a way to release stress and anger. Not to mention, the inner saboteur tells her to do it. She doesn’t have a close relationship with her mother and feels it’s partially her mom’s fault for her being bullied in middle school.  She feels her mom is the direct reason why she was overweight. In addition, they fight about school work. In her words, homework seems more important to Sarah than it does to her mother. The more mom pushes her to join the family, the more this teen pulls away.  Sarah is looking for independence, but is being challenged with family pressure to be  more like them. These pressures lead to more cutting. Getting good grades seems to be the only way she feels good about herself right now, although it’s generally fleeting. Her mom doesn’t understand the sadness and negative thoughts that circle her mind, so Sarah has stopped trying to tell her about them. This is a difficult relationship brewing between mother and daughter that is far from over.

Helping Your Teen Survive Freshman Year of College

My parents taught me many skills in life to prepare me and keep me on the right path.  As the youngest of seven, I had the advantage of observing trial an error by my older siblings.  By the time I came around, my parents had fine tuned their parenting skills.  Among the most important skills I learned from them were responsibility, hard work and dedication/discipline.  My parents did not believe in handing out money simply on demand. I had an allowance that I earned, was always told ways in which I could earn extra money around the house and I had my first job at thirteen. As a family, we had weekly responsibilities within the house that were to be completed on time or evening/weekend activities were forfeited. There was no whining or questioning, we knew the rules and simply obeyed or disobeyed and paid the consequences that were enforced on a consistent basis.

More importantly, from that responsibility, hard work and dedication came a sense of “independence” which I feel was the glue that truly helped me (and my siblings) succeed in college.  I could balance my check book, change a flat tire, get the most bang for my buck at the grocery store, think quickly on my feet and maintained an emergency fund all before freshman year of college. All thanks to my parents. That way the only unknown factor that I really needed to adjust to was the level of work expected of a new college student.  I watched many students and friends crumble around me because they couldn’t manage their time, money, relationships, and the daily pressures of day-to-day college living.  I truly think teaching children to be independent by way of responsibility, hard work and dedication/discipline is part of that check-list of life skills necessary for a successful transition to college.

How to Help Your Teen Succeed in College

My parents taught me many skills in life to prepare me and keep me on the right path.  As the youngest of seven, I had the advantage of observing trial an error by my older siblings.  By the time I came around, my parents had fine tuned their parenting skills.  Among the most important skills I learned were responsibility, hard work and dedication.  My parents did not believe in handing out money simply on demand. I had an allowance that I earned, was always told ways in which I could earn extra money around the house and I had my first job at thirteen. As a family, we had weekly responsibilities within the house that were to be completed on time or evening/weekend activities were forfeited. There was no whining or questioning, we knew the rules and simply obeyed or disobeyed and paid the consequences that were enforced on a consistent basis.

More importantly, from that responsibility, hard work and dedication came a sense of “independence” which I feel was the glue that truly helped me (and my siblings) succeed in college.  I could balance my check book, change a flat tire, get the most bang for my buck at the grocery store, think quickly on my feet and maintained an emergency fund all before freshman year of college. All thanks to my parents. That way the only unknown factor that I really needed to adjust to was the level of work expected of a new college student.  I watched many students and friends crumble around me because they couldn’t manage their time, money, relationships, and the daily pressures of day-to-day college living.  I truly think teaching children to be independent by way of responsibility, hard work and dedication is part of that check-list of life skills necessary for a successful transition to college.