I have been watching an article on BBC 1 this morning stating that girls as young as 11 are so conscious of their looks they are posting airbrushed images of themselves on their own Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The apparent cause for this unnatural behaviour is the media, fashion magazines and social networking sites which make youngsters feel they are somehow not normal unless they look and dress in a certain way. This has resulted in children, because that is what they are, feeling the need to alter and enhance the way they look in order to fit into their social world.
Like many people I find this very distressing and worrying and would like to offer my own perspective based on my life and experience.
To this day my mother, much to my embarrassment, tells of how I was not a bonny baby! I had a shock of black hair sprouting in all directions and apparently I was not the prettiest baby! what a negative start to my growing-up process!
I grew up on a farm which probably contributed to my ability to put material looks to one side because together with my two brothers we all had chores to complete early in the morning and again in the afternoon when we returned from school. This meant I did not have the time to spend examining every spot and pimple in front of the bathroom mirror. I also did not have a mobile phone let alone a camera with an airbrush facility to send altered images of myself to my mates.
I did however have a strong family and social support which enabled me to concentrate on the important things in my life such as how well I did in something and when I did well they would praise me for my efforts. I quickly learnt skills and attributes that would far outweigh how I looked and as long as I could do my best at something it did not matter if my physical appearance did not fit with fashion models portrayed in adverts and magazines.
My confidence was encouraged and developed around aspects of my life that would stand me in good stead.
When I lost my hearing at the age of 12, my parents continued to support my aspirations and goals even though they must have worried a lot about the challenges I would face. Looking back I can see their help was invaluable in creating the person I have become.
Over the years I have experimented with different hair colours, makeup and fake tans but have always been able to return to the real me and the real person I need to be in order to continue to work in a very eclectic business. I work for myself so I cannot afford to be pushed and pulled by other forces, least of all demoralised by the way I look.
A few years ago the inevitable grey hairs began to appear and I was dismayed, however I stood my ground and let them grow and now I am complimented on how lovely and shiny my hair looks and I am proud of my decision not to succumb any longer to the pressure of fashion.
If I were asked to give each young person a bit of advice I would say “We are all different and beautiful in our own way. Don’t fall into the trap of exchanging your own unique identity for someone else’s idea of what you should look or behave like. Always be true to yourself because that way you are in control of your own destiny. Do the best you can in everything you do and dwell only on your achievements”.
I would be very interested to read your thoughts on this subject and what your advice to youngsters might be?
Image: © Philipp Rathmer/Brigitte (used by kind permission)
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