In seventh grade, I had this friend Asha. The two of us would have these long agonizing conversations that usually went something like this:
Me: Your (place physical feature here) is so (pretty/gorgeous/thin/etc)!
Asha: Please my (physical feature) is (hideous/awful/disgusting/etc). At least you’re the one with (pretty/gorgeous/thin/etc) (new physical feature).
Me: Oh come on, my (new physical feature) is so (hideous/awful/disgusting/ etc.). Your (yet another physical feature) is so (pretty/gorgeous/thin/etc.)
And we’d go on and on and on and on and on and on like that.
I hear girls my age having these sorts of conversations all the time. They’re horribly unhealthy and when one of my friends tries to start one I try to shut it down, quickly.
I think the desire to have these sorts of interactions come from two places.
The first? Self-loathing.
It takes being in a pretty dark place to constantly shame yourself like that. A few weeks ago a friend—a friend who I thought was basically perfect—told me she seriously hated herself. It really shocked me.
Due to the unrealistic images promoted by the media—goddess-esque Victoria’s Secret angels, actresses with perfect teeth and hair, and models with thirty pounds photoshopped off of them—teen girls are constantly made to feel as though they’re not pretty/gorgeous/thin/etc enough.
Women in general, especially women in positions of power or fame, are constantly taught they need to be self-deprecating in order to remain in their positions of power or fame. Prime example? Jennifer Lawrence. I’ve literally not met a single person who isn’t in love with her, and with good reason. We feel as though we can identify with her—look at her, she’s one of us! You’d be hard-pressed to find many interviews in which she doesn’t at least once mention how much she loves food and eating, or mention how lazy she is, or make a super weird face.
Tina Fey does the same thing. This article talks extensively about how female comedians must renounce all their failed attempts at traditional femininity in order to be funny.
In our daily lives, teens are surrounded by so many unrealistic, unobtainable depictions of women and girls. It doesn’t take long before we wonder why we can’t look like these women, why we can’t be as famous or as loved. We start to come up with these negative representations of ourselves—we have bodies, attitudes, and relationships that we hate and constantly insult…and to what end?
The second reason girls forge these unhealthy relationships is, in my opinion, far more problematic: they come from a twisted sense of vanity.
It’s part of human nature to want validation. In the case of many teen girls, who often spend a lot of time and effort on their hair, wardrobe, and makeup, we want so badly to recieve validation that our hard work has paid off. We want to know that everyone else sees us in the way that we wish we could see ourselves. Beautiful. Powerful. In control.
Due to the harmful way women are often presented in the media, we’re forgetting how to communicate in a healthy, positive way. We crave validation and compliments so we seek them out the only way we know how: insulting ourselves.
It’s a habit we get into—and a bad one. For Asha and me, it might’ve even been an addiction. As soon as I figured out I could get people to love me by hating myself, my whole world went downhill.
So to anyone reading this, especially my sisters, I have one message for you.
Love yourself. Love yourself. Please, please, please love yourself.
And the rest will follow. ♥️