In a culture where society attempts to dictate the barometer of being “liked” or not “liked” enough on social media, it preys on the vulnerable, insecure and fragile young minds. As if that’s not bad enough, parents are listening to their tweens and teenagers questioning their appearance, academics, social and athletic abilities. As a parent, your first instinct may be to deny your child’s feelings. “You’re perfect the way you are”, or “that test was ridiculously hard.” With all good intentions, it’s important to validate your teen’s feelings, but completely denying them sets them up for not trusting you.
While you think you can solve any problem your teen has, the truth of the matter is, teens often just want their parent to be that safe person, where they can express how they feel without having their feelings denied. Just like with social media, when kids are scrolling through hundreds of posts, images and photos, the ideals of flawless beauty are running rampant through their minds. Advertisers and the media portray those ideals through photoshopped, filtered and re-touched models. This is why 90% of girls in high school are on some sort of diet, and more than 80% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat. 60% of girls compare their bodies to YouTubers or celebrities, and 75% of girls who struggle with poor self-esteem turn to self-harm, bullying, drugs, drinking or eating disorders.
Teens struggle with eating disorders, anxiety and depression because they desperately want to fit in and be accepted. So, the attitude of both boys and girls change instantly because of the standards that the media puts on them. Teenage girls worry incessantly about what boys think of them and often compromise and give in to what they think boys will want or like. Without thinking, they have no idea how detrimental their actions can be on their overall health and well-being.
The root of all evil is like a double-edged sword. As parents, we aim to give our teens a healthy representation of self-esteem and confidence. Yet, parents tend to pass on their own insecurities when they display self-loathing behaviors in front of their own kids. The only way to speak to insecurity is to let go of the external pressures that teenagers are confronted with. Easier said than done. It’s up to us as parents to help educate our kids on what’s real and what isn’t.
Here’s what our teenagers really need us to tell them:
- Perfection doesn’t exist. Friends use filters, just like celebrities do. Don’t be fooled by everything you see that appears flawless.
- Don’t focus on what random people do. Their lives may appear to be the most exciting and adventurous. But, really, you have no idea what kind of personal life they have outside of what a video or picture shows.
- Stop the cycle and support your friends with real feelings. Don’t put the focus on “likes” and “comments.” You’re just perpetuating the problem by feeding into it.
- Even beautiful people have deep insecurities. They also have feelings of anxiety or depression.
- Be careful with the words you use to describe yourself, especially in front of friends. Your words can be self-destructive and powerful. What you say, you believe.
- If you’re struggling with self-image, set a short term goal. Rome didn’t get built in a day. Make a workout routine attainable and achievable. Start slow. Don’t think you have to run a 5 mile marathon right away if you dislike your body.
- Don’t buy into the media. They want consumers like us to buy their products. The idea of what you see is not what you should be.
- Don’t ever compromise your values. Never. Ever. Not even for a boyfriend or girlfriend. When you do, you’re giving up who you are. The last thing you want is to be like everybody else.
- I love you no matter how you feel about yourself. I will never judge you.