You are not thin enough. You’re too muscular. Your arms are not slim enough. Your eyelashes are too short, your ankles too fat, your nose is crooked, your hair too curly, you’re too short..you’re simply not enough. It’s different for everyone — because our bodies are so different — but the message is the same: Something needs to be fixed, we are not enough.
On Instagram today I shared a post titled #anote2mydaughter which maybe should be more like "lessons from one woman to the next” because let's face it she’s slowly becoming a woman.
Over the past few weeks at work I’ve been working and researching some very interesting and insightful topics as it relates to the young teenage girl and their lives on social media. (its pretty heavy) Often times I catch myself mid track and mid research having to stop for a minute and reflect on the conversations and social pressures my daughters will have to face as they navigate through life and the world today.
At some point last year you may have remembered or heard about Essena O’neill, a young teenager from Australia who shares a very disturbing and real insight to social media today and her own experiences with her growth of her social presence. In November of 2015 she stirs up the pages of every teen online publication that she quit social media and even re-edited her photos with captions of the true authentic story behind every photo.
Here’s the thing, as a parent in this generation, we were never taught nor armed with the right resources and education to have these conversations with our kids. How do tell your children that “social media is not real” when what they are introduced to is the innocent idea that all their friends are simply sharing and documenting their simple day to day lives? What type of ways do you protect your child’s identity on the internet and what ideals do you teach them as they begin to explore who they are becoming in this stage of their life?
Middle school is when a person begins to truly define themselves as a person. They are exploring the weird avenues of love, sexuality (ewww!), and building friendships that may last a life time. In these years the lessons that life teaches them are ones that will mold and shape their thought processes and values when they become adults. Vulnerability is at its peak in these years as well. Especially as they start to build a voice for themselves in the areas that are of high value: friendships, relationships, fashion, body image, and even their life long career goals. Although their dream job or career will probably be the last thing on their minds.
I’ve said it before in a post of mine: we need to teach our young women how to be brave not perfect. Women have been socialized to aspire to perfection and now we have become cautious in taking risks, making changes, and being brave because of the fear of being “imperfect". We’ve programmed our women to live below their potential because we have socialized them to fear failure instead of facing a challenge. Women have become afraid to disrupt a system in the professional world and turn down leadership roles because of our fears of becoming less of a mother or wife in doing so. Women have become afraid of trying something new in the fear that we will look “imperfect” in the eyes of society if we fail at our own attempts.
Now I’m not going to make any sort of stand against social media here, thats not my intention. But what I will say is this, let’s reminder ourselves simply of the audience and who really is absorbing all the things we say and do in our day to day lives. Yes a huge part of that is our peers, but a larger part of that is the young women who are simply trying to define who they are meant to become as an adult. We all have the ability to influence change and a generation who is listening with wide open ears and eyes waiting to take in all that life and the people around them are willing to share.