I’ve been rather angry lately. Maverick brought this up a few weeks ago actually, which made my temper even worse, but I think I know the underlying reason why… I want to be pretty. I want to be found attractive. I want to possess all the superficial qualities that the world tells me that I should have in order to live a fulfilled and complete life. If I’m honest, this want and self-obsessed desire is bleeding me dry – happiness-wise I mean.
I have had my fair share of fails over the years when it comes to dating and men, which if I’m honest really hasn’t helped my self-esteem. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m confident when it comes to my character, but my outer shell, not so much. Growing up, and consistently failing with guys, doesn’t really ever make you feel like you are beautiful. In fact it makes you feel like the problem.
Now this thought process of feeling good enough, and attractive enough often peaks and troughs, and as I firmly believe that the universe will always send you signals and blessings within your own personal times of need, one came to me today – when I needed it most. It came in the form of a song by Hailee Steinfeld. Quite by chance on a Spotify playlist her song ‘Most Girls’ began to play. With its incredibly catchy hook and beat – courtesy of music legend Ryan Tedder – naturally I was intrigued, stopped to actually listen to the lyrics, and then proceeded to play it on repeat for the next two hours.
So ironically most girls are all the same, which the sane part of my brain already knows, the overly emotional, hormonal part however, not so much. We essentially all want to succeed, achieve, are all stunning both internally and externally, but what makes us different are our preferences. How we wish to dress, how we wish to behave, how we want to change. So it’s a real song about women’s empowerment.
But why weren’t we taught this growing up? Why were we taught to constantly compare? I’d like to say society is changing this – which it is – we have people like Hailee Steinfeld, Alessia Cara, and Demi Lovato, who appeal to the teenage market, and tell people – girls in particular – to embrace who they are and to own it. However I still feel that there are aspects of life that make us believe otherwise. I’ve fallen victim to this too. Instagram is a social drug, I’m addicted, but it’s also playing with my head. I can now compare myself to a million stunning women with fabulous physiques for at least two hours a day during my commute to and from work, not to mention sitting at home, before I go to bed, first thing in the morning and whenever I find my phone in my hand at work. I fear it may be worse for younger girls, who cannot yet differentiate reality from what they see on social media…
I believe more needs to done to teach kids and teens about self-acceptance, strengthening self-esteem, and self-confidence. Highlighting that there is nothing wrong with wanting to change your exterior for yourself, but if it’s to appeal to everybody else, because what you see on the TV, in magazines or on social media is the norm, and are telling you that you are different, is not. A quick search on Google will show you article after news article about the rising rates of depression in teenage girls – especially – as well as self-harm and general mental health issues. Most of what I have read has also highlighted that those girls surveyed put the rising pressure of perfection down to the pressures of social media.
I write this to highlight that something needs to be done. I’m almost twenty-seven, I’m a good ten years older than the girls I am worrying about, and I still feel the effects of external pressures to look perfect. I can only imagine it being far worse as a hormonal teenager with constant access to the online world. It was bad enough when I was a teenager, and that was with dial-up!
According to an article by the Telegraph, the UK government has committed an extra £1.4bn towards children and young people’s mental health for both sexes. What will be interesting to see however, is how this is spent, and just how much will be done to improve this. We need to make more noise about things like this, in order to erase the taboo. While I may be speaking about girls in this post, as at the end of the day, I am one, and I’m talking through my experiences, we also need to focus on boys and men’s mental health too. It affects both parties, and they are equally as important to talk about.
Perhaps I’ll do some research about male mental health and the rising pressures of social media on boys and see how they feel too. Maverick can always lend a hand… if I ask him nicely, and buy him Nando’s…