Friday, 20 August 2010
Are young girls really insecure about their appearance?
So you’re telling me that a high percentage of young girls feel unconfident about their appearance? Are you kidding me?! Try telling that to the giggling, glammed-up girls in tiny, lycra skirts and mega tight shirts that pile onto the bus outside my local school. Or the slap-laden teens in the city centre clubs, squeezed into tiny glitzy dresses and throwing themselves at anything male in the vicinity. You’re telling me that they have body issues?! C’mon. Give these girls any more body confidence and they’ll be standing on the street corners at night looking for business. There is no way on God’s little green earth that these girls have body confidence issues.
Dissatisfaction with our appearance is in vogue
Teens appear to be very confident and yet 70% of them claim that they have little or no body confidence. Why is that so? Here’s the thing; we have become so obsessed recently with embracing our bodies warts-and-all that it has become cool to emphasise our shortcomings and lament that we are unsatisfied with our appearance. It’s cool to point out our lumps and bumps and whine that we need cosmetic surgery or complain about how much makeup we need to pile on each morning before leaving the house. No-one wants to be the smarmy, self-confident girl who says ‘well, actually, I’m quite happy with the way I look, thank you’. If you are truly satisfied with your appearance then you are a social pariah. That’s why a class of schoolgirls all raise their hand when asked how many of them lack body confidence. If each of those girls looked like Megan Fox then they would still complain that they were ugly!
The embarrassment of confronting the problem
It is clear, however, that within any focus group there will be a small percentage of girls who have genuine body confidence issues. But I’m not sure that Gok’s campaign will be of any help to them. In fact I think it might cause them to feel even more insecure. When I was a teenager I suffered with the same insecurities about my appearance as every other girl in my class, regardless of whether they were drop-dead gorgeous or out-and-out ugly. Everyone went through the same phase. Now if someone, like Gok, had gushed at me that I looked beautiful then I would have been very offended and most probably punched him in the nose for being patronising. And I would certainly have been absolutely devastated if we had been forced to take a class on the subject! It would have been classroom based, teacher led bullying! I would have been so delighted to make lists of my insecurities on the board in front of my classmates! And I would have been thrilled to sit in small groups and discuss them in-depth with my friends! Why not go the whole hog and have a class exploring why some kids are thicker than others?!
The truth is that girls with genuine body confidence issues do not want their shortcomings pointed out in front of their peers.
Insecurity as a natural part of puberty
What is the problem with letting a natural stage of human development take its course? Childhood and puberty has entailed wrestling with body confidence issues since the dawn of time and the human race has somehow managed to prosper. We haven’t all withered away in caves afraid to go out in public and find a mate! We all grow in confidence naturally without the need for an artificial shove along the track.
Learning to accept what nature has given us
When I was at school there were attractive girls and there were unattractive girls, in the same way that there were smart girls and dim girls, or athletic girls and unfit girls. We accepted that life had dealt us our hand. We knew that we couldn’t all go to University or be picked for the basketball team. Everyone knew their place and life ticked along pretty fine.
If truth be told, the sooner that we realise that nature will always be been kinder to some more than others, accept that and come to terms with it the better. Gok’s campaign smacks of the school rule that all kids must win a prize at sports day so that no-one feels like a loser, or government drives that all school leavers must get a place at University so that no-one feels that they have inferior intelligence. Life doesn’t work like that. We need to know our strengths and failings before we hit adult-life and get a horrific wake-up call.
Encouraging our kids to grow up too fast
We’re constantly being scolded for encouraging our kids to grow up too quickly. We criticise shops for selling bras to very young girls but we never question where the demand for these products originates from. Is it the evil shop salesperson or stock buyer? Or is the media putting the idea that young girls need cosmetics, high heels and bras into their parent’s minds? I understood that society was trying to prevent this growing trend? And am I the only person who finds telling a teenager that she is attractive a little bit creepy?
Maybe the lack of body confidence that accompanies puberty is Mother Nature’s method of ensuring that young girls do not turn into the ultra body confident, tarted-up jailbait flirting with the boys at the school gates that is rapidly becoming the norm. Maybe Gok should ask himself whether a lack of body confidence is nature’s way of safeguarding our children rather than repressing them after all?