Neither. People are not all good or all bad. People are a beautiful kaleidescope of color and shades of gray, interwoven to highlight various aspects of individual personality.
It’s okay for Karen to believe she’s beautiful, creative, talented, and smart. She’s not conceited to believe that, it helps her to be confident and they are true traits she embodies!
Now, if Karen thinks she’s more of those things than other people and the world owes her good things because she embodies those traits, that’s something to look at correcting – but in a loving way. Cutting someone down by calling them names like boastful and full of themself is not a communication tactic that traditionally works. It creates resentment and confusion as there are conflicting beliefs floating between the two people without any real communication or relationship happening while they’re out there.
If you resound with Karen and you feel like you have unsupportive family, I want you to realize that they might be parroting things said to them when they were young, and they truly think that those statements “brought them back down to reality.” It’s okay to say, “hey, I don’t know why you’re saying that to me, but I also believe that you are beautiful, creative, talented, and smart. We can be those things together, it’s okay.” and see how they respond. At first it probably won’t be with a smile and thank you. They likely haven’t learned how to own that for themselves either, but it will be the first step in building the relationship in a way that honors positive traits to be acknowledged and owned.
Another response if you feel akin to Karen, is to say, “that was hurtful and unnecessary,” and then leave the conversation. This teaches people to see what they say has an impact on whether they will be allowed to continue to engage in relationship with you at any given moment. Over time, they will learn that they will be on the receiving end of your healthy boundaries and they may be more willing to hold their tongue. Eventually, the relationship grows as you each have an understanding of the dynamics in the relationship that are sustaining.
Both of those responses are hard at first when you’re used to being confused and hurt. It’s hard to stand up for what’s right: consistency.
If you read this article and you can hear yourself in the voice of Karen’s parent – don’t fret too much! There’s still time to course correct. If you think your loved one (eh hem, especially teen) needs to realize that they are a well-rounded individual and you’re worried that they might really become conceited, then instead of reminding them of their flaws point out the parts of their character that are also kind, giving, generous, compassionate, self-effacing, charitable, etc. Point out how well-rounded they are.
If you can’t see anything to point out, then it might be time to start engaging in new activities together. Join a group together, so you can see her/him in action when other people are in need. Does he/she offer to help when they’re in groups, but you don’t notice because you’re not in group situations together much? Can you volunteer once a month together? Maybe being part of cultivating those compensatory character traits will draw you closer together and help you see a side of this person that you previously hadn’t known, and that’s why you may have seen them as boastful, conceited, or full of themselves?
Or maybe they are… and through these relational experiences you can help them grow out of it. Either way, relationship will move people more than pointing out verbally will – and you’ll have amazing memories to boot!
Jessica Wilkerson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #104464 and is registered with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.
She was once a teen who was on the receiving end of confusing statements, and now she has not only raised her own teen into adulthood, but she works with teens, young adults, and families. These messages are usually passed down generationally, and she really loves helping people find new ways to interact and new ways to view themselves as well-rounded, whole-hearted individuals who live in relationship with the world.
If you would like to make an appointment with Jessica, please call (530) 809-1702 or email firstname.lastname@example.org