The Ugly Question: Am I Pretty or Ugly?

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.

IMG_0098I 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.

Ted Talk with Meaghan Ramsey


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.

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Sharing sights & insights captured with diverse angles. Ex-corporate, now my own boss. Cycling, hiking, cooking, reading, yoga, writing and photography, are no longer only hobbies listed on my resume. It's what I do when I want.

18 thoughts on “The Ugly Question: Am I Pretty or Ugly?

  1. Is this foreal? I seriously don’t know why kids these days have such low self-esteem. As for her question, she’s NOT ugly. Perhaps she needs bangs, but other than that, she should take a good look at herself in the mirror but what will make someone ugly isn’t their physical appearance, but they way they act towards the others and (especially) themselves. SMH.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sadly is real. There are many more videos like that. if you scroll down the page you will see what people tell her. That is the worse part. You’re very right but these kids have low self-esteem and become an easy prey for bullies. Have you read the link to Reddit? Scary. What do you think could be done?


  2. This is good topic for teachers and anyone who works with kids to bring up in class or discussions. I heard a lecture by a teacher from UCLA when I was in my teacher credential program a few years ago. He had a program working with youth in the barrio. One part of his program was discussing the images in the media of young women and how the media affected the girls self image or concept of beauty and femininity. It was to help the girls become more aware of media influence and to be more critical of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How disturbing. . . . I would not have thought something as simple as a google search could be so dangerous. Thank you for this thoughtful post (I admit I didn’t click on the video link–might do it later). It’s something to think about as I communicate with my two daughters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am happy that you found it useful. The idea is to create awareness and spread reflection which can turn into action. As a mother you can play a fantastic role by communicating with your daughters about that and other mothers of your community. Thanks for participating, Sandi.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This makes me sad. True beauty comes from love and kindness. I know this every time my boys dive into my excessively flabby, chicken wing right arm, and say it’s their favorite place to snuggle. How can we teach our children to feel that same unconditional love for themselves? I think only by loving them unconditionally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing this Andrea. You’re surely a beautiful mom, and your boys are lucky to have you. Watching a few of those videos made me wonder what else was fundamentally missing besides attention. You gave the answer. Unconditional Love. Thanks.


  5. This is Pandora’s box and this stems from many freedoms we have. It’s so much deeper than I realize but this is a first world problem. I have traveled to other countries and anorexia nervosa does not exist. The poorest of countries do not suffer these ills. And the first reply “perhaps she needs bangs” I think he or she missed the point altogether lastly this view of I’m ugly begins in the home. Please not I yet to see TED but I will now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting, Adrianna. You have a point there and I am wondering if this is not becoming a world’s issue – if you take into account the spread of the internet, and the melting pot we are living in. From a close friend of mine, I heard that an astonishing number of the youth in Africa uses carcinogenic products to bleach their skin, and straighten their hairs, as to be more accepted for jobs. My friend is a top French executive working for a global firm; She is black; She doesn’t straighten her hair nor bleaches her skin. When speaking with those young women and men, they were surprised to see her, just as she is. What did you think of the TED movie?


  6. Reblogged this on A Momma's View and commented:
    Well said. This is an issue which really concerns me.
    You know, I think we all already struggle with our appearance and it shows and our kids pick it up. We might think we try and we hide it but we actually don’t.
    I had a conversation about the “ugly” or “fat” issue with a friend of mine recently. And she told me that in her home they do not talk about how someone looks but rather what the strength of this person is. I love the approach and I want to incorporate this in my home.
    Nevertheless… it is not easy. I grew up with a mom who struggled with her body. She was beautiful and she still is, but she always thought she is not pretty enough and she always struggled with her weight. Although she always told me how good I look, how pretty I am, it still had a huge influence on me. Yes, she also told me to be careful with what I eat and so on. But it was more what I witnessed than what she actually said to me that influenced me.
    Being a role model is really hard. And scary…


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