During gym class I walked out of the girls’ locker room with a friend who started insulting her body and commenting on how she looked in her outfit. Then, later that period, I listened closely while all of the girls changed out of their gym uniforms and into their regular outfits, and I noticed the negative comments filling the air.
It is no secret that people in high school suffer indescribable body image issues. Videos and social media posts meant to empower people that blindly call all of the viewers beautiful don’t really change what people think about themselves. So what will?
Social media has changed the way people can present themselves. When you feel beautiful, you can send a picture of your beauty to your streaks. Then, you’re expected to have pictures to send daily. When you don’t feel beautiful, photoshop and filters can change you.
Teenagers should not be seeking a way to change their appearance, though. The primary reason teens feel insecure is because they’re changing and developing in a society where everyone seems so sure of themselves. But in reality, most are far less than sure.
Sydney Klein, a student in 10C stated, “A huge part of having body image issues is living through adolescence. But even as a teenager, I know that when I feel bad about myself it’s because I’m a sixteen year old girl in a public high school, and literally everyone feels bad about themselves sometimes as well.”
So how can we teach teenagers that their insecurities are the fault of their surroundings rather than their own bodies?
Everyone faces insecurities, but people turn them into insults about themselves or others instead of bringing it up in a more healthy way.
For example, let’s go back to the girl who I walked out of the locker room with. She spoke so negatively about the way she looked in her outfit, rather than speaking about the way she felt. I felt inclined to add to the conversation by insulting myself, but I realized quickly that it would not be productive and would only feed the fire. However, that’s how a good amount of conversations about body images play out. One person will point out something about themselves that they don’t like, and someone they’re with will quickly shoot down their complaint with an insult that they create about themselves.
There is a scene from Mean Girls that is a perfect example of girls casually insulting themselves. Three characters casually look in the mirror insulting particular things about themselves from the size of their pores to the size of their hips to the quality of their calves. They then look over expectantly to another girl who seems content with her appearance, who proceeds to quickly say “my breath smells bad in the morning.”
What if the conversation was around them feeling insecure about their bodies in general rather than specific insults? Perhaps instead of adding to a list of things teenagers don’t love about themselves, we can generally accept that everyone faces body image issues. People will feel less alone, and will rightfully blame their mindset on society as opposed to their actual pores or hip size.
I challenge you to be conscious of the way you discuss your body. In the locker room, if you’re feeling unhappy with the way you look, pose to your friend how you’re feeling uncomfortable with your body image, rather than the size of your thighs, or any other specific insecurity. They may just agree with you and say that they feel insecure as well, rather than frantically feeling like they need a specific insult to respond with. Then, instead of adding negative ideas about your body to then be built upon by more negative ideas about someone else’s body, together you can discuss the completely healthy and solvable problem that is your insecurities, which can be fixed with the mutual understanding that you’re not alone.