Am I Pretty?

SAGE got a request to speak on a local Sac Radio show KFBK, about the trend among teenage girls looking for affirmation and self-esteem from total strangers on the Internet via YouTube  (videos called “am i ugly? “tell me if i’m pretty”), and asked us to offer a solution for parents on how to counterbalance the peer pressure and help build a young girl’s self-esteem.

Jezebel reported on this distrubing trend awhile ago, and I just wanted to share my thoughts before we go on the air!

I think these videos certainly stem from a normal desire for affirmation, but they are going about it in a painfully damaging way. These videos are generated mostly by pre-teen girls, at an extremely vulnerable time in their adolescence, when they’re constantly confronted with coming to terms with ideals of beauty, value and normalcy.
Suggestions have been made that parents monitor more closely their children’s internet use, but I think this is masking the problem. These are real issues and girls need to feel there is a safe place to explore these questions about identity and belonging. And, with the false sense of safety in internet anonymity and the perversion of some internet users, YouTube is a very dangerous and cruel place to explore self-identity.
This is a reflection of a much bigger, cultural problem – one that stems from a society that encourages very young girls to play with Barbies, paint their nails, wear high heels, and bare their midriffs. As teens progress, their parents play a smaller role in influencing their perspective, but there are still some steps they can take. I think it starts with initiating dialogue in the home early on – have conversations about what it means to be beautiful, and focus on healthy traits of attraction such as intellect, compassion, and creativity.   Parents can encourage their girls to explore the arts and sciences, and verbally praise in healthy ways, ways that focus on positive messages that laud achievements and boost qualities other than their looks.  And they can expose them to positive role models–women who are achievers in a wide variety of areas whose achievements have nothing to do with physical attraction.
Thinking about this subject in my own life, I am frequently around my mom and sister, and take notice of their interactions. My sister is beautiful, and hears it all the time (at school from boys, and envious girls) but she is also very smart (a freshman in highschool taking classes that i failed 3 times in college!) And my mom is constantly affirming her (and me) – every way
“hi pretty girl”
“goodmorning beautiful”
“you look so pretty”
but also affirming our intelligence
“you girls are so smart”
“i am so proud of you”
“you are so clever”
…i literally hear these things on a daily basis- and no they really dont get old. because she means them, and I have started to believe them, and only pray that my sister has too.
so my point is, we are powerful beyond our measure, and its time to affirm that – in ourselves, and in each other.
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