What it Takes to Press the Button

It is extremely difficult nowadays to build your self-confidence based on your own point of view, on what you know you’ve accomplished, on who you know you are; especially for young people. Especially for young girls. And how is it supposed to be easy when we are surrounded by all these plastic mannequins, all these aggressive superficial opinions, all these preconceptions?

One needs appreciation more than ever today and to strengthen this self-esteem, teenagers found a rather mathematical solution in counting the number of likes they have on their social media profiles. Regardless if it is has the shape of a thumb, a star or a heart, this button became the parameter of beauty, popularity, friendship, interest, attraction – an index of life status, our reflection on society. But who presses it? What do they really think? Once the euphoric mood of being given attention loses its charm, questions like these can become an obsession that have the effect on us that is by far not encouraging confidence.

Confusion is even emphasized when silence follows and it is not really about words because today, whenever we are texting, we instinctively add the smiley faces and the content seems so vague when the shallow strings are absent, like there’s no tone, no clue about intention. These may seem to be foolish issues that we should be able to treat with maturity, but in reality there are millions of girls who are kept from developing healthily in all aspects because of this. To fill the gap they go even furtherer. It is heart breaking to see hundreds of first graders filming themselves with phones bigger than both of their hands to ask fervently for honesty to know if they are pretty or not. It gives me excruciating pain to find no trace of puerile happiness in a little girl who has tried so hard to behave like something that she is not. I don’t mean pretty, because she is so beautiful, but like the obsessed, insecure super model hiding dark thoughts that she became a frustrated woman.

Analysing the same disease on a different age range, it comes out that secondary school kids think they found a more respectable way to share and receive feedback regarding their personalities and appearances. All one has to do is to subscribe, sign up and press the button for others as part of a despicable virtual negotiation. In no time, a video wasting long minutes of each other’s lives is posted and somewhere in the long speech following an interminable list you can hear your name and get your personal feedback. As if this virus wasn’t terminal, the language used in these professional evaluation charts is even more dangerous. To hear you are “pretty” and pause, when the one before you was claimed to be “very beautiful, amazing hair”, or “well… I like your full lips” as if this is the only specific thing you can be liked for can be devastating at such a young age.

I wondered how we got here and before blaming education, before blaming them, I questioned my values regarding what I like and what I don’t, what is beautiful for me, for you, for us. How could we have avoided getting here when we are riding this carrousel, being screamed at from all directions, being convinced of certain standards and then getting dizzy from the speed, waking up in front of our blurred reflection? Now what is to be done? Restricting negative feedback to focus on the positive one? I saw the comments – she added a description to her picture, admitting that she hates the way she looks in the picture, but this is life and they told her not to be so harsh on herself, as if it’s true, but not so important – just vital. Then is lying the best option? No, all of these are already lies. It’s the free perspective that sees the beauty of people, all of them different, all of them the same, without being caged by our believed to be true principles. It is not about opening our eyes to see beauty where it didn’t seem to be before; it’s the fight against denying beauty, when it even may be obvious to us. A true loving mother never lies to her children when she tells them they are beautiful.

To win this blood-shedding war, there must be a revolution, not just a click of the button. But before we get there, young girls should be taught to embrace their identities and to sign off from time to time, look at themselves in the mirror, not through the camera eye, and see the essence – a mirror shouldn’t be a girl’s best friend nor her worst enemy.

Written by Raluca Ciubotariu

Edited by Hannah Cook

Cross-edited by Emily Perotti

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