We Are Failing Our Children

So I stumbled upon this story today: ‘Am I pretty or am I ugly?’ In disturbing trend, pre-teens ask YouTube to be the judge  – NY Daily News.

she kinda reminds me of my cousin. which means also me...

she kinda reminds me of my cousin. which means also me…

First of all, I’m not surprised in the least that teens (especially girls) are seeking validation. This is what we do in our development cycle, so no worries there. What *does* worry me, however, is exactly what the story said: teens are exposing themselves in a very dangerous way.

Reading the story sparked this rant of mine:

Yes, I said I felt ugly coming up. I got teased about it ALL the time & didn’t actually think I was decent looking until some time in college (maybe even after). Adults would tell me all the time that I was “such a beautiful child,” but I always felt like they were obligated to say that. Mama J tried to help me feel better by enrolling me in beauty pageants, bu tthat made things worse, since I never made it beyond the first round. (She couldn’t really afford to be doing all that in the first place, let alone go to the extremes those other parents went to.)

i used to model for zcmi

the guy on the left was a classmate i invited to the shoot b/c i was low key crushin’ on him…

Things got a little better around jr. high when a neighbor asked my mom to take me to her modeling agency. I was excited about that, but then I started feeling badly because I thought I should be getting more work. (Mind you, I was in Utah at the time…) Then, in high school, I was selected to be one of my school’s two representatives on the ZCMI teen fashion board. That wasn’t good enough, either, since there were only two of us who applied from my school. Of course, I know better now; I mean, look at me!

But back then? Nawl… I got a wee bit of support from my peers, but most people were quiet or just low-key shady about everything. The last thing I needed was to put my face out to billions of people for them to get bold and spew hatred!

I eventually started to realize I’m kinda cute when I hit my late 20s. Yes, my late twenties. It’s überdifficult to overcome being called ugly by all of your peers from kindergarten through 5th grade. And that was just what? A few hundred people over the course of six or so years. Imagine thousands of people telling you how ugly they think you are, all in the span of a few days or weeks. The human spirit was not built for that.

So what do we do?

  1. Love ourselves.
  2. Love our children.
  3. Love our communities as a whole.

Even though it took me so long to heal, part of the reason I was finally able to do so was because I had a few loving peers and a TON of loving adults over the years. There is no reason young people should feel the need to turn to the internet to find out what people think of them. We need to be telling our kids how great they are every day. EVERY DAY. Even when they piss us the hell off. Instead of yelling, let’s call them out on their behaviour & discuss what that means for them, us, and the other people around. Let us be constructive in how we criticize our children so that they know they can trust us when we tell them that we are beautiful. Let us teach our children how to find validation in themselves, even though it’s in their nature to seek that validation from without. That, my friends, is how we win this battle. Not by buying them stuff, not by trashing their tastes in music (horrible choices though they may have these days), and not by beating them down for what they wear.

We are the adults here; let’s act like it.

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