Kids are becoming dupes of unscrupulous people.
Watching the Ted Talk with Meaghan Ramsey – Unilever’s Global Director of the Dove Self-Esteem project – on ‘Why thinking you’re ugly is bad for you”, hit home. About 10,000 people a month, mostly young girls, Google the phrase, “Am I ugly?”
They get many answers, but most are despicable, impacting these fragile youngsters’ self-perception in devastating ways. These ‘online advisers’ are contributing to an increased amount of youth’s eating disorders, drugs and alcohol abuse, low self-esteem, depression, self-mutilation, suicide, early sex, abuse, and more.
I Googled and hit 177.000.000 entries. I watched this girl’s video on YouTube and read also chat thread ‘amiugly’ on Reddit; many young boys are asking the same question to strangers, who ‘willingly’ answer to their call for help.
Most of us has long passed adolescence, while others are fresh adults. We know that when hormones rule over our body and emotions, we become uncertain and may want to stay a kid instead of becoming an adult. But there is no way back.
Our self-identity is under construction, and many things will influence its development. From the opinions of our parents and friends, to the imaginary ‘opinion leaders’ out there at school, or the role models we follow – singers, movie stars and sports heroes, who may negatively or positively influence our self-perception.
The bad news is that of the many aspects forming self-perception, appearance has been the driving force behind this ugly question.
Has appearance become a problem of our times? I don’t think so. It has always been there; what has changed are the ‘models’ people conform to. One just needs to visit a museum and see if Mona Lisa looks like someone who would run marathons, or if she was holding kettle-bells while Leonardo Da Vinci painted her!
Let me make a point here. Obviously there are many hundreds of thousands of people with justified appearance-related concerns across the world. These are people who were born or became disfigured through accidents. It can be that some of these kids are part of these group. But I am afraid that there are many who have unfounded body image concerns. Either way it is very relevant to know and understand the undeniable psychosocial and cultural aspects of appearance and use it to guide our actions.
The calls to fit in a model of beauty are out there staring at these kids’ faces at every single moment of their lives.
If we focus only on blaming societal values and the evil of marketing advertising, we don’t help these kids as fast as we can. We should though not lose sight of these aspects, and find which companies and products promote unrealistic beauty values, discrimination and misogyny, and ban them from our shopping lists. As consumers we have the power of choice, and our online presence has much more monetary value than we may think to influence and promote change.
This is a complex issue but there are key players who can create lasting change.
It involves careful consideration and action, from parents, families, friends, and educators, as they are present at these kids daily lives. They can see the effects of the bodies transformation in kids’ behaviors, identifying any early signs of dysfunctional attitudes, and acting upon them. It is necessary to read any subtle cry for help through their ‘tantrums’, regardless of the real or perceived anti-social nature of their behaviors. There might be a ‘sunk titanic’ – full of unhappiness, stress and anxiety – under the hidden iceberg of their thoughts, waiting for a reliable GPS to resurface.
As a former teenager, daughter, sister, cousin, current stepmother, aunt and friend of friend’s kids, I learned that using sensitivity, non-judgmental attitudes, openness and empathy, can help understanding concerns – from other people’s standpoints – and give us permission to enter in their mind’s worlds. This can bring these kids closer enough, to feel safer to talk to us and not with strangers on the web.
One of my fellow bloggers is the psychologist Dr Crawford; she wrote an insightful post describing how she successfully reaches out to kids through music. It is an invaluable advice – which I started to apply – from a professional with incredible sensitivity and intelligence.
I cannot forget to mention the unscrupulous people out there. What can we do about them? I would like to hear from you what you think. How can we help these kids from being duped?
Let’s talk and find out what we can do to change this ugly reality.
The link to the video of Meaghan Ramsey is below; check it out.
WP’s Weekly Writing Challenge theme is: The Unreliable Narrator. This post is my personal take on the topic, on how I feel when someone has been duped — in this case, in life, as opposed by a character of a story.