Okay, I realize that this blog is supposed to be about life and growing up and adoption but I feel I must rant about this one particular thing that has been bugging me FOREVER.
When I was growing up, maybe I was just a super sheltered kid, or I cared not to take part in typical teenage girl insecurities but I never really once doubted how I looked and how others thought of my appearance (okay, I might have a couple of times). This was probably because I did sports and wearing sweat pants and a sports bra was a far better outfit than squeezing myself into a dress that could double as a shirt. There was one particular year when I sort of had a mental breakdown in the car with my father because it was the fourth year of having braces, and I had had like a million eyelid surgeries (not opening that case up!). For that one time, and one time alone I felt incredibly un-pretty. But, other than that I was comfortable in my own skin. Girls my age I believe were fine too. However those “girls” also happened to go to a gifted school much like myself, where compared to other public middle schools we would have probably been the outcasts that everyone made fun of, that is until we would kick their butts and graduate before them :-) The point is, now that I am surrounded by girls who are younger than me I am noticing a terrible trend. Either girls think they’re ugly, or girls know they’re pretty but deny it. I realize those who read this blog are probably over this phase, so take a second re-adjust your brain and imagine this:
My instagram homepage (so NOT my page, people) is full of people’s selfies (yes, guys take selfies too), you know, the picture somebody takes in the bathroom posing awkwardly, or a super blurry, cheap cellphone snapshot taken in the mall or something?
A facebook page with a whole album dedicated to the face. Zoom in shots, smiling faces, the classic “duck” face, the kissy kissy, the surprised face, the super dramatic look off into the distance.
Because these two networks work with Twitter, imagine these same pictures in a “tweet”, and let’s go for broke and add them into Tumblr too.
Accompanying each of these pictures (not just the album as a whole but EVERY INDIVIDUAL PICTURE) you will find a stream of friends who deem it necessary to remind their friend that they are “pretty” or maybe they will add some sexy innuendo, “damn gurrrrl” or “that’s my babe”. Okay, so they are pretty repulsive especially if these comments come from 11 to 15 year olds. But that is not even my beef. NO. My beef is the fact that now that these people have been given these ummm… “compliments” per say, the receiver finds it necessary to reply with, “No, you’re definitely prettier” or “Thanks but I’m far from perfect”.
If you’re past middle-school you probably know exactly what’s going on. It’s a simple fishing excursion. Who doesn’t want to go out there and catch some compliments?
So why does this happen? I really have no idea.
All of the courses I took in childhood development and teenage behaviour did not cover selfie syndrome. It covered self-esteem issues and body image, but not denying ‘pretty-ness’ or ‘rate or date’ activities. So how do I, as an older person and a role model to younger girls approach this situation. I’ve posted before about body image and self-esteem, so I can guarantee that I will not be holding a “feel good” conference or lessons in plucking eyebrows. I have never really told a girl that they’re “beautiful” oddly enough, unless it’s their first prom or graduation or something. I admit I have said, “Oh your hair is pretty today”, but when I am asked to describe somebody, I know that I always leave out descriptions that define their physical appearance. Why is this so hard for girls to do now? When I was younger and was asked to describe my friends or vice versa, you heard, “She is intelligent (they wouldn’t even say ‘smart’ because there is a difference between the two as well!), passionate, strong..” or “She is confident and she is gentle.” Oddly enough, the girls who took pictures of themselves (very few at the time) were known as the middle-school try-hard’s and were just as lonely as what you would call the “outcasts” today. The “rate and date” Facebook status did not even exist, mostly because none of us had Facebook…but nonetheless, the kid who won a scholarship or who could run the fastest was seen as a God, while the self-absorbed kid was simply a goner.
I guess where I am going with this is that people need to start telling their kids to accept compliments about themselves. People will call them “beautiful”, you cannot avoid it. It is not a bad thing to be complimented once and a while about physical appearance. But kids need to stop fishing for compliments. Kids need to stop deflecting what is meant to be a nice comment. Yes, sometimes the giver is simply telling them what they want to hear but that is not the point. Denial of the message in the compliment does not make anybody look modest, especially if you’re familiar with what they’re fishing for. It just makes them look needy and insecure.