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What to do if people say hurtful things about the way you look

It can be difficult if people say hurtful things about the way you look. Here are the best ways to react.

If you look different, you may have heard people saying hurtful things about the way you look. Some people might talk about how you look without thinking about how it might feel for you. Others may say horrible things just to upset you.

This can be difficult – but there are things you can do when this happens. Here are some of the best ways to react when people say hurtful things to you.

Walk away

When people say hurtful things to you, it is often best just to walk away. This is powerful. It tells the other person you are not going to take any notice of them. A person being unkind is not worth your time – and you’re “telling” them this by not giving them any attention.

You may still feel angry and upset. That’s normal, but it is better to take yourself away from the difficult situation and find someone you trust to talk to about how you’re feeling.

When people made horrible comments to me about my eyes I would ignore them. I just thought, if they are cruel enough to make comments like this, they aren’t going to take any notice of what I have got to say and they don’t deserve my energy. I also didn’t want them to know they were bothering me, so I just carried on with what I was doing.


Plan a response

It can help to think about some responses in advance – and have some of them ready.

When people say hurtful things to you, you can show them you don’t like what they have said by:

  • Looking at them with a serious face, for about a second, then looking away.
  • Looking at the person and raising your eyebrows to show you have heard.
  • Looking and frowning to tell them you are not happy.

You might decide you want to say something to let the person know you are not happy. Here are some things you might say to someone:

  • “It isn’t nice to say things about how someone looks.”
  • “If you want to know why I look different just ask me.”
  • “I don’t think you would like it if someone said things about how you look.”

“People used to say horrible things about how I looked. The most common one was ‘frog eyes’. Sometimes I would just leave it and not say anything but other times I did say something back. I’d say something like, ‘I don’t know why my eyes are such a problem for you’. Most of the time people would leave me alone once I had said something. I think they were surprised I had responded. But I was always careful who I responded to because I didn’t want to make a situation worse.” Kerry

How to prepare for other people's reactions

Whether someone asks a question or makes a horrible comment, preparing how you might react can help to make the situation a little easier for you. Here we give four tools to help you deal with reactions from other people.

Try our tools

Maybe you already have things that you say when people say hurtful things to you. Or you might find it helpful to talk to your friends and family about things you could say and get them to help you think about how you might answer.

As a practice, try this out:

  1. Write down two comments people have said about you that you didn’t like.
  2. Write down a reply for each comment.
  3. Now, say your replies out loud using a strong voice.

Reassure yourself

People can be hurtful and unkind because they don’t understand why you look different. It is not OK to make unkind comments to someone, for any reason. When people say hurtful things to you, it can help to be ready with ways to make yourself feel calmer.

Some things you might want to say to yourself in your head are:

  • “It’s their problem not mine.”
  • “If they don’t want to get to know me and see I am more than how I look, then I don’t need to think about what they say to me.”
  • “I am more than how I look.”
  • “It’s not worth me getting upset over unkind people.”

If someone has been unkind and you feel sad or angry, find someone to talk to about how you are feeling, like your mum, dad or carer, teacher, friend or family member.

When people say hurtful things to you, remember…

Try not to let the person see that you are upset or angry. They may even be trying to get a reaction from you. The best thing is not to react.

It is better to calmly show the person you heard them and you’re not OK with their comments. This shows you as a strong person who is not going to let them get to you.

It may not feel fair. This person has been really unkind to you and you might want to tell them exactly what you think of them! But if you get angry then the other person will probably get angry too and be even more unkind to you.

It is best to find another way to cope with the anger you are feeling. Speak to family or friends or write it down. Maybe write down what you wanted to say.

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