Am I pretty? People tell me I'm ugly. I just want to know. Answer in the comments below.
One beautiful teen girl after another appears on screen in a Dove #Beautyis video asking the question. The desperation in their voices is heartbreaking especially considering they're asking complete strangers to weigh in by commenting below. What they seem to be really asking is - prove to me that all the people who called me ugly are wrong with a "YOU'RE PRETTY" comment below. In that instance, I'm transported back in time to that 9th grade middle school student.
I was an awkward teen - glasses - braces - the body of a boy - my hair feathered flat against my head. I had been told by a number of boys that I was not particularly beautiful. It leaves a strong impression - one that heavily shaped my self image back then. Back in the 80's boys asked girls they liked "to go with them." It was was my dream scenario, only when I saw it happening I envisioned myself as beautiful.
One particular day, I stayed after school to help decorate for the dance that evening. I looked up and saw the super cute, ever popular Steve Brown walking across the room toward me with a smile. Surely he was walking toward someone standing behind me. I look around, but there is no one else - just me. My heart drops as he grows closer and closer. He stops. Is he flirting with me? YES! At least I think he's flirting! Without warning he says those five little words "Will You Go With Me?" Instead of feeling elation, I feel total panic! I want to run away and hide.
I look around to see if there are kids hiding behind the curtains on stage - lying in wait for me to fall for this crazy joke. I imagine when I say yes - they'll run out bursting with laughter that I've fallen for their ruse. I never actually see them. My need to protect myself takes over and I say "No thank you."
As young girls we are quick to put OUR power in the hands of others and continue to do so as women. Underlying themes: Am I pretty? Am I valuable? Am I loveable? Steve thought I was worthy of being asked to "go with him," but I didn't believe in myself - deem myself worthy that someone would seriously ask me to do so. So instead of thinking all the boys who called me ugly were idiots, I assumed Steve must have nefarious intentions.
If the internet had been available back in the olden days who knows if I would have resorted to asking "Am I Pretty?' online. What I do know is that at 14, when I looked in the mirror I didn't see a beautiful young woman.
So how can that be possible when I grew up in a traditional, happy home with parents that loved me and told me often? Ya know, the ideal scenario. Could it be that whether we raise our kids are in a traditional, blended or another dozen family scenarios, we as parents love our kids and tell them every chance we get. Yet, how often do we look in the mirror and say I Love You to our reflection? Flaws and all? How often do we encourage our kids to do so? I'm going to say it's very few of us, myself included. Perhaps the missing link is simply showing our kids how to love themselves?
We need to take our power back. Until we do so, the fate of our self esteem and those of our children will continue to come from outside influences that are not always correct or healthy. The bad stuff will always be easier to believe without a strong sense of self. It starts with you, as the parent. Your actions will speak far louder than any words you use encouraging your kids to do so.
If we start here, maybe, just maybe, we can stop girls, perhaps your daughter - my daughter - my step daughter - your step daughter from going online seeking a strangers word as to whether they have beauty and worth. They won't go looking because they already know the answer when they look in the mirror.
I AM PRETTY - I AM VALUABLE - I AM LOVED.
What do you see when you look in the mirror? It starts with you.
Thanks to Dove's #Beautyis Campaign and Mom 2.0 for inspiring this post.