Girls today are constantly bombarded with messages about how to look and act. This can leave a lot of girls feeling insecure about who they are. Plus, poor self-esteem can negatively impact your relationship. As her boyfriend, you can help your girlfriend see what you see: that she is a wonderful, worthy person. Boost your girlfriend’s self-esteem by complimenting her, helping her feel secure in the relationship, and helping her feel better about her body.
Be aware of her vulnerabilities.
We all have vulnerabilities in life. But those who have low to little self-esteem usually have a higher level of vulnerability and need extra support. As a partner to your girlfriend, much of that support will come from you in the form of empowerment, empathy, compassion, and love. Avoid the urge to judge her thoughts and actions and give her a strong sense of security, as you’re the one she will mainly lean on.
>>Be attuned to her vulnerabilities, but also try to guide her into understanding that she is in control and responsible for her own thoughts, actions, and insecurities. Even with your support, love, and stability, only she can choose to change her thoughts in a more positive way.
>>Try to learn how much love and guided support to offer, how to help when her insecurities crop up, and how to assist her in resolving underlying issues.
Make your compliments genuine and realistic.
Complimenting your girlfriend can make her feel better about herself, and make you feel positive, too. Just make sure you stick to sincere and reasonable compliments. Exaggerating or lying about a feature that you don’t actually like may worsen the problem.
>>The key to a genuine compliment is looking for something good in her and sharing it freely without expectation of getting anything back. For example, you might say, “Your smile is beautiful” or “That outfit looks great on you.”
>>It can also help to not focus too much on her appearance. Tell her she did a great job calming down an irate toddler, or she gave a really awesome answer in today’s history class.
Note positive aspects of her personality
Although your girlfriend will appreciate compliments about her appearance, the best compliments point to someone’s positive traits. This shows her that she is so much more to you than just her looks. Talk about things besides her beauty, such as her personality, her intelligence, or her kindness.
>>You might say, “You know that was really admirable how you helped your friend back there,” or “I can’t believe how giving you are. That’s one of the things I love most about you.”
>>Give her compliments that uniquely describe her. “You’re funny” is a generic compliment that is easy to shrug off. “Your sci-fi satires are hilarious” is much more specific, and is harder to discount.
Remind her of her accomplishments.
If your girlfriend has low self-esteem, she may have trouble noticing her strengths. Make it your job to remind her of your many talents and achievements whenever she seems to forget. Sharing these sorts of compliments will make her feel good about who she is as a person.
>>For instance, you might say, “I think it’s amazing that you choose to spend your evenings and weekends volunteering at the shelter,” or “Algebra is so confusing to me. I’m glad I’m dating a math whiz who can help me understand.”
Tell her she’s beautiful on regular days.
Your girlfriend probably expects to be showered with praise when she’s all made up and dressed up, so reserve praises for when she’s looking like her normal self, too. For example, if you come over late at night when she’s in her pajamas, tell her how beautiful she looks.
Reassuring Her of Your Love
Make her feel loved.
This can be done by giving her little gifts you find when you’re out and about. You might also give her flowers, text or call her randomly during the day, make her food, take photos to say “This reminded me of you,” or plan a special date.
>>Take into account her interests and favorite things. Some girls think that the perfect surprise date is a walk on the beach, others prefer a hike through the woods, and some would rather sit in front of the TV with popcorn and a warm blanket. Figure out what she likes and do it for her.
Be yourself around her.
As simple as it seems, showing her that you’re comfortable around her demonstrates trust and respect. It encourages her to be herself around you, too.
>>Don’t pretend like you’re perfect. If you snort when you laugh, or have weird eating habits, expose them. That way she’ll feel less pressure to be perfect as well.
Take part in her interests.
Engaging in her interests helps her know that you care about her, and also care about the things that matter to her. You don’t have to lose yourself trying to show you’re interested in her pastimes. Taking part in just one of her hobbies or interests is enough to show you care.
>>For example, if she’s in robotics club, ask to come see the robot she’s working on sometime.
>>You might also show interest in her friends, like asking about one friend who was sick or one whose parents are going through a divorce.
Ask her how you can help.
Some partners take it upon themselves to try to “fix” whatever problems their partner is dealing with. Truth is, your girlfriend may not always need you to solve a problem. She may just want you to be there for her. Learning to do this will strengthen your relationship and help her feel more loved by you.
>>Depending on the situation, she may want advice, help fixing the problem, or just someone to listen to her. Ask how you can help by saying, “Is there anything I can do?” Then, really listen to her answer.
>>If she doesn’t need your help and simply wants validation, respond with empathy, like “I’m really sorry to hear that.” “So, you’re worried about your brother, huh?” or “That stinks.”
Avoid eyeing other girls.
The worst thing you can do in a relationship is make your girlfriend feel like she has to compete with other girls for your attention. She should feel like she’s the apple of your eye, which means showing her respect and not ogling at other girls or engaging in excessive flirting.
>>Doing this can only make a girl with low self-esteem even more insecure. When you’re around other girls, be sure you include her in the conversation and make it obvious who you’re with. Never leave her feeling like she has to compete.
Even with all your love and reassurance, your girlfriend may still suffer from low self-esteem. This isn’t a problem that can be resolved overnight. In the long run, you’ll see that only she is responsible for improving her self-esteem. All you can truly do is try to love her through the process.
Helping Her Body Image
Listen with empathy.
Being empathetic means being able to listen to someone and identify with their feelings, while being aware that their feelings are distinct and separate from your own. Approaching your girlfriend with empathy will make her feel less alone and that she can count on you as a source of stability in times of distress. Try to practice the following empathetic skills:
>>Show her respect and acceptance regardless of what she feels and experiences.
Her thoughts, feelings, and emotions are real and true to her.
>>Be nonjudgmental, supportive, and a tender guide to self-empowerment.
>>Use kind words of encouragement, but also try to gently guide her towards improved self-esteem.
>>Speak less and listen more.
>>When you guide her towards improved self-esteem, make sure that she also understands the decision to change relies solely upon her.
>>Always be a source of stability and support that she can rely on in time of need.
Treat other girls with respect, and don’t trash-talk them.
Being judgmental towards other girls will tell her that judgmental remarks are okay and normal for her to experience, both from other people and from herself. Mind how you describe other girls, and avoid comparing her to them.
>>If you respond judgmentally to other girls (e.g. “girls who plaster their faces in makeup are so fake”), then you’ll just be increasing the insecurity of your girlfriend.
Steer clear of negative body comments.
If you’re prone to body complaints yourself, you won’t be helping your girlfriend develop a positive body image. Avoid body-shaming comments about yourself and others.
>>For example, don’t say, “I look so scrawny. I need to get in the gym.” Saying something like this only brings the focus to things you don’t like about your body. It also reinforces negative body comments.
Recommend body-nourishing self-care practices.
Negative self-criticisms and insecurities can grow in the mind when a person is low on self-care. If your girlfriend is feeling down on herself, inspire her to pour love and compassion back into herself. Encourage her to develop a self-care practice that makes her feel good about the body she has.
>>Suggest that she visit the spa for a massage, sign up for a yoga class, or start journaling about her feelings. You might also spend an evening cooking a healthy meal together.
Challenge her insecurities
Your girlfriend may not be aware of her harsh self-criticisms. By calling her out on them and challenging them, you can help her realize that she isn’t being fair to herself. This can also teach her how to reframe negative thought patterns. Become a kind and gentle voice that defends her from her self-hatred.
>>Contradict her when she says something negative about herself. For example, if she says “Nobody wants to see this in a bikini,” then you can reply, “Really? I would.”
>>Does she think something is a flaw? Challenge that perspective. Tell her that you love her freckles, her gap teeth, her strong opinions, or the way she snorts when she giggles. Explain that because it’s part of her, you think it’s adorable.
>>Notice dangerous questions. For example, if she asks, “Do you think I’m fat?” then cut to the heart of the problem. Tell her that she’s beautiful, and ask why she’s asking.
Share encouraging media.
Girls are exposed to a lot of negative media that makes them second-guess their appearances and their bodies. Shun unrealistic images of bodies in magazines and on TV. Use a critical voice about how “real” these images are. Instead, share media with her that uplifts all bodies, no matter the shape or size.
>>You might share a board on Pinterest, a page on Instagram, or a blog that feature body-positive women with your girlfriend.
Set a good example.
You can help your girlfriend treat herself well by taking good care of yourself. Practicing healthy habits will help you feel good and have the energy to be a good boyfriend. Try to maintain a balanced life, with plenty of sleep, exercise, nutritious meals and time spent on hobbies and other things you like.
>>When you spend time doing positive activities, you will inspire your girlfriend to do the same.
Suggest she talk to a counselor.
Low self-esteem and a poor body image can take a toll on your girlfriend’s well-being. It can even bring down the vitality of your relationship. If, no matter how hard you try, she can’t overcome insecurities, you may need to seek professional help.
>>A mental health therapist or counselor can determine the root cause of your girlfriend’s low self-esteem and work with her to build a healthier outlook.