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Failed Media

Low self-esteem is so common in teens that it’s practically a graduation requirement. That you were never an official high school student unless you were insecure at some point. It’s a big thing, stereotypically, in teen girls. You will probably never meet a girl that loves everything about themselves; that says, “Yes, my appearance is amazing, my grades are spectacular, I’m so talented, and I’m perfectly fine with everything about myself.” Apparently there is a statistic that says only 2% of women will call themselves beautiful. And how sad is that?! Has it changed over the years? If so, this has to be the worst time for that subject, what with high expectations and people in the media. Where we only allow people who are unrealistically super model-beautiful on TV. It tells girls that these are the only people that are allowed to have that fairytale ending like in that movie. That you have to be stick thin, big boobed, bleach blonde, tan, and wear a lot of make-up to be noticed or go anywhere. And no, when you have the ‘nerdy girl’ in those movies, just putting glasses on them and making them wear ironically dorky, hipster clothes doesn’t make them realistic. It doesn’t matter anyway because in the end she gets a beautiful makeover and the hot, dreamy leading man falls desperately in love with her. (Usually BECAUSE she changed herself.) And teen girls everywhere eat that up! They want that fairytale. They want to be noticed and have their dreams come true. And they can get so desperate for this to happen that they change everything that makes them… them! It’s really sad because what if there was a perfectly nice boy who loved the way you were before and just didn’t get the chance to tell you and then you go and change his dream girl? Now a lot of girls wouldn’t believe in that kind of logic because it’s just downright crazy to think that someone would like them. And THAT is what media and pressure has done to today’s youth. Made them think that since there are so many ways to change yourself, to make yourself ‘better’, that who they really are couldn’t possibly be appealing to anyone. It’s so sad.

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Unrealistic Comparisons and Warped Mindsets

Now if only we could get across the fact that we don’t need to compare ourselves. That we don’t need to try to match up to everyone around us. But let’s be honest, if anyone ever tells you that high school isn’t one big contest, they’re lying. Whether we like it or not, intend to do it or not. No matter what, you’re always being compared to someone or comparing other people, yourself. The worst is when you compare yourself to a particular person or even a group of people. Which is ridiculous when you think about it because how are you supposed to match up to more than one person? And the people you choose to compare yourself to are mind-boggling. 

For instance, you could score a 90 percent on a test and you feel pretty good about it. Then you see the person to your right got a 70 and you think to yourself, “I studied and got what I deserved. They must’ve slacked off. I’m obviously a better student than them.” You look to your left and they scored 100 percent. And just like that, your thoughts do a 180 and you’re perception changes. You think, “Oh wow, well if they got a perfect score I should’ve been able to. Why didn’t I study more. They must be smarter than me. I really need to be more like them.” 
But that’s not the worst part. It’s a whole different mindset when you start comparing yourself to your friends, the people you are supposed to be able to talk to about this. The ones that tell you you’re pretty, that you should ask him out because he’d be lucky to date you. That no, of course that doesn’t make you look fat and yeah, that girl was wearing too much make-up and she does look kinda slutty. But no matter what you hear come out of their mouth, you’re just sitting there thinking, “My best friend is so skinny. What’s her secret?” “I’m so jealous of her hair.” “How does she keep her complexion so clear?” “Where does she get all of her cute clothes? I’m stuck shopping at Wal-Mart.” And, “Oh my God, she’s an entire cup size bigger than me. I hate this!” And that’s just appearance. We also scrutinize and compare our: Grades, jobs, social status, how many people we’ve dated, sexual experience, how much money we have, athletic abilities, morals, and everything in between! 
And even if you’re not comparing yourself to anyone, you’re still never satisfied with yourself. I can look at a picture of myself and find 20 flaws and when someone points out one aspect that they think is good, I’ll reject it immediately. And that’s the thing: when you’ve always had low self-esteem and you’re not used to being given compliments, you start getting angry when you get one. Because you’ve had plenty of time to build up this conception of yourself that you start to believe it to be true. It really is horrible but true.

The Back Story of a (Supposed) Gay Girl

Coming from a family that was composed of a beautiful, could-be model, older sister that was a mom at the age of 18 and mother that lost her virginity at the age of 13, my self-esteem was always below average. Not that I strive to make the choices my mother made. I really don’t, not the bad ones anyway. But when your mom is so used to associating with members of the opposite gender and expressing her sexuality, you get somewhat high expectations brought on you. Take my sister, for example. Ever since I can remember she was always the outgoing, pretty one. Being three years older than me, I’m bound to get jealous of her anyway. But she always dated guys throughout middle school and high school. She was the one people gawked at when we went to the pool or out of town. She even got offered a modeling career and turned it down. I never really took it to heart. I was still the shy one back then. But then my mom made a comment that was probably supposed to be nonchalant but it stuck with me for years. I can’t remember who she was talking to or how they even got on this subject. Just that I was probably about 13 or 14 years old. She said that I had always been known as the smart one while my sister was always the good looking one. What also makes me believe that she meant nothing by this is the fact that I look almost exactly like my mom. (This also pisses me off because since we look alike and she’s had many boyfriends and I haven’t, then it MUST be my personality that’s lacking.) But nevertheless, it stung and it stuck. What else can make a young teen girl feel bad about herself? Well, that year I tried to work really hard in school because if I couldn’t be the pretty one, I was gonna live up to my name… And then I started failing math. I had always been good in math, that is, until they mixed the alphabet into it. Now you’ve got a young teen girl who is only known for her brains and good grades who was failing a class. I felt like I didn’t have an identity. My mom really didn’t know how to help because she only really identified with my sister. They would be pretty much the same person if they were the same age. She was so used to one thing that, by the time I was a Freshman (who had never dated before), she started thinking I was ‘different’. 

Now, I try to go out of my way to be different. To stand out from the crowd and never blend in. I pride myself on my originality and want to leave an impression on everyone I happen to meet. So, why my mom was shocked that I wasn’t like her, my sister, and a lot of other girls, I don’t know. And since I had been the only shy one in the family; the one who hadn’t dated in middle school like the rest of them, my mom started getting curious. Automatically jumping to conclusions. Thinking the first thing that popped into her mind: that I was gay. I find this incredibly ironic given who she was talking about here. To jump to conclusions about a person who is unpredictable is kind of foolish in my opinion. It was like she was saying, “Hey, since she’s not following this social norm she must be following the next most normal thing I can think of.” And as much as some people hate to admit, being gay is becoming a social norm. We accept it a lot more now than we have in the past so it’s more common to see out in public. And my first reaction, when I had heard this from my sister, was to be automatically defensive. Like, how could you think that? JUST because I can’t get a date I HAVE to be gay? What is your problem? Now don’t get me wrong, I am completely for gay rights and I find everyone who feels the need to attack this idea to be very close-minded. I am in no way a homophobe or dislike homosexuality in any way; quite the opposite. But for some reason I was offended. I think it wasn’t so much for what they thought I was, than for why they thought that. That since I’m not just like them, I don’t date every guy I like or even talk to that many guys, then I must not be attracted to them. I think this is a common misconstruction for many people, actually. But honestly, looking back, I really had no reason to be offended. In a way, I’m kind of proud that that was one of the first things they came up with. Because I know some parents just don’t want to accept that into their family. Not that they’re against the idea, exactly, but that it makes them uncomfortable. And if this had been 20, 30, 40 years ago it wouldn’t have even crossed their minds. That no one saw me with a guy because I was secretly dating the town’s bad boy and didn’t want anyone to know. Or I was seeing a 30 year old man and it was scandalous. Or even, I was pregnant with some boy’s child and now my parents don’t want me to hang around any others. These assumptions would have come up way before the concept of homosexuality. So I am proud that we have come a long way in opening our eyes to new things.