A Huffington Post article today written by Joyce McFadden and titled “Body Image: How Women Contribute to Girls Asking YouTube if They’re Ugly” grabbed my attention and finally convinced me I had to get my thoughts out, thoughts that have been brewing since the first article I saw the other day on Facebook posted by Mediabistro, written by Megan O’Neill and titled “Disturbing YouTube Trend: Teens Ask the World ‘Am I Ugly or Pretty?”
The latter article pointed out–what really goes without saying–that teens posting videos of themselves seeking stranger input on their appearance is just asking for malice, trouble, to be put down farther than before they posted the darn videos. The Internet is laced with trolls who have nothing better to do than say the most vile things…things that you would never be able to get away with in person. Trolls are cowards who have deep-rooted issues. They need counseling…and badly. Because the average person will not have the desire to say the kinds of vile things trolls say. While there may be some nice people trying to convince these teens that they are beautiful just the way they are and at the end of the day it’s not necessarily about physical beauty but inward beauty (teens aren’t so concerned about that as getting approval about their appearance), this innocent–and desperate–plea is surely going to invite the worst comments imaginable from people. There are all kinds out there. We should know that by now.
I understand what these teens are going through. They need validation, approval. Their self confidence is challenged by the physical changes they find themselves undergoing. They can’t go to their parents, relatives, or friends for objectivity; they need it from someone who doesn’t know them and can be truly objective…but they are seeking this objectivity from the completely wrong place. I would call this misguided due to desperation of not knowing where else to turn. It’s a shame they don’t for whatever reason feel comfortable with talking to someone like a counselor, good friend or loved one.
Here are some of the FB comments–from supposedly adults (I say supposedly when in actuality they could be teens posting with a fake profile, or they could actually be adults in which case I say they have absolutely no excuse to talk this way….they probably have children who are bullies as well)– posted in response to the Mediabistro article:
People who ask such questions get what they deserve.
If you have to ask… you’re probably hideous.
She should ask – “Am I stupid?”
[Insert 2 of the commenters’ names], that’s not very understanding of teens who have self esteem issues, now is it….What I want to know is where are the parents in all these examples? If they’re that hands-off and ignorant that their children are doing this, that’s indicative of a more seriously sad trend.
I sure as heck wouldn’t want these commenters as parents, and if they have children, they’re probably some of the ones posting these videos. These comments actually sound just as bad as if they were coming from teens who don’t know better. If they’re parents or grown-ups, they should be ashamed. If they’re teens, they need to grow up. Either way, these comments are completely lacking in empathy, callous (putting it nicely), and obviously said without any concern at all about these poor teenagers. Therein lies the problem with videos like these seeking public opinion. Sure, strangers don’t know you. And they sure as heck don’t give a crap about you.
Anyway, unable to get objectivity from loved ones, they go to the only other place that many of these teens seek solace from….the Internet. After all, we are in the age of social media. But they don’t know the good places to turn to…Twitter folks who are there to exchange tweets with anyone needing support and encouragement, as well as websites like To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA). There are online resources that deal with self esteem, like Kidshealth.org.
If these teens are anything like I was when I was a teenager, they probably don’t have many friends. I wonder whether I’d be on Facebook if there was such a thing back when I was growing up. Nah, don’t think so. I was way too shy for any of that. Even if these teens were to reach out via Facebook to their “friends” (some teenagers these days have 500-1000 FB “friends” due to peer pressure to impress each other on who has more friends or for the semblance of popularity, but at the end of the day, there are only a handful of true friends)–what do you think some of these teen FB “friends” would say in answer to a question like this that appears in their feed: “Hey, just wondering….do you think I’m ugly?” I have no doubt some would try to be funny by saying something stupid and hurtful. Anyway, who’d want their peers in school to know that they’re asking these questions in the first place? This is why I limit my friends on Facebook to a small circle of people….people I know I can trust. The saying “It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality, that matters” is highly relevant here.
I know you’ve probably heard this from other friends and loved ones and out there on the Internet and in books (but surely not the highly unhelpful beauty magazines that focus on none other than physical appearance), but I am going to say it anyway….beauty is not merely about physical appearance. Beautiful physical appearances are made ugly by personalities that are mean, selfish, contemptuous, disdainful, condescending, hateful, and greedy. I don’t know about you, but I believe in karma. I believe that these negative attributes in the long run will come round and bite you in the a$$.
Don’t grow up giving a crap about what other people think about you and your appearance. Ever hear the story of the Ugly Duckling? Well, the duckling wasn’t ugly, just in its juvenile form. But when it went and became a swan?
It was like, wow! All the other creatures around it didn’t think it had it in him to become so beautiful. Just like that ugly duckling, your beauty will also shine through when it is nice and ready. When you find yourself–just like I found myself and started to love myself and know what I enjoy doing and have a better sense of the direction my life is taking–your beauty will shine through for all to see. You need to graduate through various stages in life first. Let yourself bud and mature. As teens, you are only just beginning your life’s journey.
As a teenager, I was quite the ugly duckling. It didn’t
help that I couldn’t afford to wear anything but the 5 or so sets of clothes I remember having to cycle through on a weekly basis, dreading to wear them around the attractive, preppy kids who had all the beautiful fair isle sweaters and the popular kids who wore trendy stuff. I was skinny, unhappy/anxious looking, withdrawn, lacking in self esteem…just downright miserable all around. It took me until my mid 30s to find the road that was meant for me to travel–i.e., find the right guy to marry, move to a wonderful town, start a family, become a blogger and author with a mission (not forgetting to enjoy myself in the process), etc.
Now, as a parent, I am going to do my darndest to ensure that–knowing the inherent dangers of Internet use, the challenges faced by teenagers seeking to be accepted by their peers, the angst teenagers experience as they find themselves and deal with their changing physical/emotional selves a la puberty–my daughter’s Internet usage is monitored, she has a balance of activities she enjoys and studies, and I am ever mindful of her self esteem and overall mental health. I will do the best I can to be nurturing, to parent in moderation (no extreme parenting), and to make sure her school life is a positive experience. I am going to try to make sure she does NOT follow in my footsteps!
You may wonder how all this has anything to do with postpartum depression (PPD). It’s important to remember that many cases of depression surface during the teenage years and follow you throughout life. One of the primary risk factors of PPD is a history of depression. I delve into relevant statistics and risk factors in my book. And you may be interested in checking out my prior posts relating to teenage years:
- Nature Versus Nurture in Relation to PPD
- PMS versus PMDD
- Bullying and Suicide…Teen Angst and Depression
- The Mental Cost Behind a Nomadic Childhood Experience
- Depression and Teen Suicides…It Will Get Better
- You are Perfect to Me, Says the Parent to the Child
Let me end this post with a very insightful passage from Joyce McFadden’s article:
We focus on beauty at the expense of all of the other things we could be encouraging and celebrating. Our girls are having trouble finding their own value because we ourselves struggle with the same. In her beautifully moving article, “Smaller Than Before,” Dr. Jessica Zucker (who trained under Carol Gilligan at Harvard and specializes in mothers, daughters and body image) shows us just how much we limit our appreciation of ourselves and each other with our narrow appraisals of what’s important.
Don’t let what society believes is important make you lose sight of what’s really important here: YOU.