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Terrible Teens: My daughter is obsessed with her appearance

Ellen Coy is a mom to three teens and wife to a husband of many, many years, but she married young so she still thinks she's pretty hip. She's written a lot of things for a lot of places but she can't tell you where or what. Terrible Tee...

Don't be so quick to judge your vain teenager

My 15-year-old daughter looks at herself in mirrors a lot, and it bothers me.

When she's exploring her reflection, it's not a quick check — she scrutinizes. I don't understand why she has this intense need to stare at herself. What is she looking for? Imperfections? Perfections? Is she simply just that vain? It's frustrating to watch my daughter do this and not know what she's thinking about.

Recently, during one of these mirror investigations, she mentioned she's going to stop wearing makeup.

"I'm already not wearing foundation anymore," she told me.

"Good, you don't need foundation," I said.

I haven't worn foundation my entire life. Guess who taught her about foundation? Commercials, magazine ads, YouTube and other social media outlets and her friends taught her about foundation.

"Yeah," she said, "First I'll stop wearing foundation, then it'll be eyeliner, then mascara and then lipstick. Then I won't be wearing any makeup anymore."

I told her she could still wear a little mascara and lipstick if she wanted to. She stared at me. (At least then she wasn't staring at her own reflection.) That's when I realized I said the wrong thing.

I should have said that I thought it was a great idea that she wanted to go with a natural look. I should have told her that she was beautiful the way she is and that she should do what felt right for her.

Why did I tell her she could still wear mascara and lipstick?

I should have asked her an open-ended question. I should have asked her why she felt that way. I should have let her talk to me. Maybe she had just watched that music video "Try" by Colbie Caillat and was inspired. But I didn't ask her anything. I basically told her to still wear mascara and lipstick.

I wish I hadn't done that. I feel like I missed the opportunity to have a really great conversation with her about some important things, like self-esteem and vanity, and feeling beautiful on the inside, and I blew it. But here's what I'm going to do the next time the subject matter comes up. I'm going to let her talk to me, because I'm pretty sure that she was trying to tell me more than just, "I think I don't want to wear makeup any longer." I need to start listening more.

Why is it so hard to hear what our teenagers are trying to say to us, and why is it so hard to know what the right things are to say to them? It's definitely a stage in our relationship where we have to find new ways to communicate.

When they were babies, we taught them how to talk, and now we both have to learn how to talk and listen to each other.

More on teens and self-esteem

Girls ask YouTube viewers "Am I Ugly?"
Would you let your teen have plastic surgery?
How skin affects self-confidence

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