When I was younger, the nice comments I received on my clothes and figure reminded me that people were judging my appearance. People asked questions like where I bought my scarf much more often than what I was interested in studying after high school. I spent more and more time in front of the mirror each morning, making sure to apply my makeup just right and checking that I hadn’t eaten too much the previous night. I felt like I was constantly the “before” picture in a makeover magazine spread, and I always worked hard to make myself into the beautiful “after” shot.
I still remember those zits I erased in photos and those days when I just waited for someone to compliment me on my shirt. It took me years of gradual confidence building to realize that I am gorgeous and valuable even when I don’t dress to the nines and look like a model.
We are raised to feel like we are inadequate, that we are not good enough for boys, for attention, for compliments, for acceptance, for success. Teenagers and pre-teens consume an average of 10 hours of media a day. Those images can send encouraging messages, but they can also perpetuate toxic stereotypes. It can show women being sexualized in magazine advertisements, women gossiping about other’s appearances on television, and music videos on YouTube where men treat women as inferior. They are being aimed at a younger and younger girl audience, but we have the power to shape the social culture surrounding us by changing the way we think.