*This post was written by Madison Jaffe, a Ventura County young adult.
Flawless. Perfect. Sexy. Invincible. Each of these words plague the minds of modern society, plaster the magazines lining grocery store shelves, and diminish happiness, self-satisfaction, and confidence. In today’s media enveloped world, which insists upon a perfect body, perfect GPA, and perfect significant other, it is becoming increasingly challenging for all of us – especially teens — to live a healthy life filled with joy and self-love. Instead, it pushes us to acquire unhealthy relationships with food or illegal substances, a hatred of one’s physical appearance, and an insatiable craving for more, more, more.
The following statistics portray the disturbing results of low self-esteem. According to eatingdisorderhope.com, “50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives to control their weight.” In addition, “50 percent of teens feel pressured in regards to sexual relationships” (teenhelp.com). The fact that the majority of teens in our country have fallen victim to negative pressure and the vicious cycle of perfectionism and self-hatred calls for immediate action.
As previously observed, feelings of low self confidence, worthlessness, and incapability cause even the best of us to succumb to negative influences, which falsely rid us of pain: excessive drinking, drug use, self-starvation, reckless behavior, withdrawal from our loved ones, or loss of ambition. These frightening truths evoke immense concern, sadness, and a strong desire for change. Therefore, we must foster an attitude of hope and encouragement towards those around us, and create a world where happy is the new beautiful. This value system will allow us to move towards a society that embraces each individual’s unique qualities, strengths, and weaknesses, allowing everyone to find true joy through self-actualization and self-love.
While this focus would truly make the world a better place, it is no easy feat. However, there are a few steps each individual can take to move us in the right direction. Something we can all do is make a physical or mental list each day –or even just a couple times a week– of things we love about ourselves — especially traits that reach beyond just appearance. If we repeat these things over and over to ourselves throughout the day, then– despite the initial awkwardness– we will eventually shift our focus to embracing our best parts instead of obsessing over our weaknesses. By also practicing this strategy with others, we are able to further spread the kindness and joy needed to combat society’s negative values.
Another simple step each of us can take to live a more fulfilling and positive life is to spend time with uplifting people who offer love and support. Wasting time with people who compete with us, tear us down, or pressure us into doing things that make us uncomfortable only leaves us feeling empty and regretful. Being with friends and family who brighten our day allows us to further appreciate what truly matters: happiness, kindness, loyalty, honesty, and love, not appearance or social status.
Finally, we must follow our heart, no matter how cliché that may sound. While this does consist of spending time with people with similar values, it also means participating in activities, groups, etc. that make us smile even on the worst days and that allow us to appreciate the little gems life has to offer.
As we all know, life can be hard – especially during the teen years. Living in a world where the need for perfection is practically inescapable is tormenting. However, I believe that we can take a stand. We can make a change one day or one relationship at a time. And, most importantly, we can overcome our thoughts of self-degradation. We too can be happy and we too can transcend the small-minded, unhealthy values that envelop so many. So, with this in mind, I challenge everyone reading this to join me in reclaiming our lives and remembering that happiness is ours for the taking.
Thanks so much for reading! Please check out more of Straight Up’s amazing blog posts and follow and visit my personal blog on WordPress (fearlessgirlsblog.wordpress.com), Instagram (@fearlessgirlsblog), and Twitter (@fearlesgirlblog).