I’m told directly or indirectly, in some way, there is something unbeautiful about me every single day, and you are told the same. A screaming voice on the radio asks, “Do you have dark unattractive spots on your face? Is your tone uneven? Suffer no more!” I never realized I was suffering. I just wanted to listen to some music. I have become acutely aware of the insistent messages I am filtering, directly related to how I look: my hair is too curly, my skin too blotchy, my nails too dull, and, for added measure, I stink and need a stick of this and a bottle of that. So, when I came across a newspaper clipping dated a year ago, highlighting You Tube videos by preteen and teen girls asking, “Am I Pretty.” I wanted to do some more investigating. After one year, would the video pleas continue, and how did our young women really feel about their self-images?
Without empirical data, intuitively, I knew women, young and old, struggled with positive self-images (and esteem). Out of an unconscious place, we often practice self-deprecating talk, shaping our self-portraits. You and I know and love women who insult themselves, and it makes my heart cringe when I hear the loathing. The statistics are much greater and harsher than I had imagined. Dove® Research key findings from their latest research include:
• Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (up from 2% in 2004)
• Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves
• 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful
• 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful but do not see their own beauty
• More than half (54%) of women globally agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic
The numbers are high on how lowly we see ourselves. The impact for women is huge, because, 60% of girls cease doing what they love because they feel bad about their looks and 75% of girls with low self-esteem (poor self-image) report negative activities, such as eating disorders when feeling bad about themselves. Our society’s obsession with “pretty” quells the spirit and defiles the wonders of the human anatomy. Just consider the life and death risk factors when having plastic surgery. Yet, The American Society of Plastic Surgeons report 14.6 million cosmetic plastic procedures performed in 2012, a 5% increase from 2011. Out of those millions, thousands of women are being wheeled into the morgue in search of beauty.
Curiosity must have killed the cat- or it’s nerves- because, I subjected myself to watching and listening to naive and innocent girls beg in question, “Am I Pretty” but really stating, “Please, say I am worth something.” The same videos from a year ago were still posted, with possibly censorable parameters, considering the extreme foulness of comments. But, from what I could gather, there was no uptick in similar postings. Perhaps, girls were learning lessons from those who exposed themselves to the ugly elements of the world. Last year, one girl had a whooping 4 million hits, and, this year, to date, has 7 million, with a slew of emotional beat downs in the “comment below” box. I wonder if she thinks, she is pretty.
With such an overwhelming emphasis on what we look like bombarding us each and every day, I have to admit it’s a question young and old ask themselves, usually privately. Now, the polar-opposite question is being streamlined on video, “Do you think I am ugly?” Talk about opening yourself up to emotional Russian- Roulette! The cries for attention and the truth displayed by their question reveal an obvious diagnosis of low self-esteem and poor self-image. But how do we encourage and build positive images of beauty? In an excerpt from Kathryn Stockett’s book, The Help, the author brings forth a truthful and powerful answer to the question on beauty our young girls are asking via live from YouTube:
“The first time I was ever called ugly, I was thirteen. It was a rich friend of my brother Carlton’s over to shoot guns in the field. ‘Why you crying, girl?’ Constantine asked me in the kitchen.
I told her what the boy had called me, tears streaming down my face. ‘Well? Is you?’
I blinked, paused my crying. ‘Is I what?’ ‘Now you look a here, Egenia’-because Constantine was the only one who’d occasionally follow Mama’s rule. ‘Ugly live up on the inside. Ugly be a hurtful, mean person. Is you one a them peoples?’ ‘I don’t know. I don’t think so,’ I sobbed. Constantine sat down next to me, at the kitchen table. I heard the cracking of her swollen joints. She pressed her thumb hard in the palm of my hand; something we both knew meant Listen. Listen to me. ‘Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision.’ Constantine was so close; I could see the blackness of her gums. ‘You gone have to ask yourself, am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?’ She kept her thumb pressed hard in my hand. I nodded that I understood. I was just smart enough to realize she meant white people. And even though I still felt miserable, and knew that I was, most likely, ugly, it was the first time she ever talked to me like I was something besides my mother’s white child. All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.”
There needs to be some virtual and personal thumb-pressing going on for our young ladies, conveying the message of personal choice, not, “Yes, you are pretty”. Constantine did not soften this girl’s state of mind by telling her, “No, you aren’t ugly. You are the prettiest girl in the whole wide world.” Wisdom knew better– her opinion would be irrelevant. If this little girl believed she was ugly, then no words would convince her to believe otherwise. According to Constantine’s definition on ugly, there are some seriously-hideous folks out in this world, and they need to be called out on their ugliness.
7 million people could have told our YouTube girls they were gorgeous but would they believe it? The choice is always yours to make when it comes to being pretty or ugly, it is not in the eye of the beholder- it is in your own eye.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
*SOURCE: Dove Research: The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited