When I was 12 years old, I idolized Mariah Carey. I wanted to be super skinny, and have perfect makeup and hair all the time. I did endless sit ups trying to shave off that little pooch. I was by no means an overweight child. Most would say I was on the thin side, but I wanted to be like her. When the sit-ups didn't work, I stopped eating whenever I could do it without drawing too much attention to myself. I attended a very small private school so I had to wait until the teachers and my friends were preoccupied to throw my food away. I was careful to make it look like I was eating to avoid getting turned in. I nibbled at my dinner and when no one was looking, I slipped the most fattening foods to my dog. I kept this up for 3 years and every day I thank God that I didn't do any irreparable damage (I'm healthy - I made a perfect, healthy, beautiful baby, smart - I made the dean's list in college). I did all of this: anorexia, crazy workouts, depression, lies, deceit... all in the name of "beauty".
Although it has been 18 years since all of this started, I still battle with my self-image. As hard as it had been for me, a woman of 30, to come to terms with the fact that beauty and worth do not strictly lie in a number on the scale, but in how you feel about yourself, it's got to be that much harder for girls todau. I went through this in the 90's when the internet was still so new that it was basically a means for checking email and looking up definitions-basically a glorified encyclopedia. The only place to get new idol worship material was tv or the newsstand. I can only imagine what is like to grow up in today's world. Today, girls not only have their idols on the newsstands, but they are in their pockets...available 24 hours a day on twitter, Facebook, YouTube...it's that many more opportunities to see what they have built up in their minds as perfection-they then make the inevitable jump that all women have done at one time or another...she's prettier/skinnier than me. And this thinking tends to snowball when these impressionable girls read what other girls are saying about their idols. I read a comment on a YouTube video that said something to the extent of "I'm going to go cry myself to sleep. She's so perfect and I will never be even half that". Yes these people work hard, yes they are beautiful and in great shape and yes they are talented...but I don't think 1 single celebrity would want a young girl to think she's inadequate and worthless because she's not like her.
Now this is by no means an indictment on anyone-except maybe the paparazzi. It is simply the result of the way our society works. We place a great deal of emphasis on beauty.
When I finally conquered my demons, I thought this is it. I was free and done with trying to be something else, something better and just be happy being me. But then my best friend had a little girl...and then I did too. I realized that no matter how much I tell my little girl that she is beautiful and she doesn't need to change a thing to be beautiful, she will still struggle with insecurity. While there may be nothing I can do about that, I can at least try to make a difference in how celebrities are portrayed. Again, this is by no means an indictment. It took me well into my 20s to realize that actors and models make their living by their appearance - and of course talent :) Its like an athlete. Staying in shape is just part of the job. My job is bookkeeping...working out and getting glammed up is not part of my job.
So here's what I'm proposing...a photo shoot, black tie event, behind the scenes of what it truly takes to look that perfect, or even just 1 or 2 days a year where everyone goes without makeup. I think this would show that these idols are still beautiful without all of it. I'm also proposing a charity event to help raise awareness of teen eating disorders, depression and suicides.
The hardest part of this is that we can't see it like drug use or behavioral issues. It's so easy to hide-at 12 years old, I did...for 3 years. To this day, my family does not know what I went through. it breaks my heart to think that perfectly healthy, beautiful girls are feeling down on themselves because our society has told them they're not good enough unless they look like the faces on the magazines. They don't understand the hours of preparation that went into making them look that good and they think that if they don't look that good all the time, there's something wrong with them. Let's show them that their idols are people too and that beauty is not in perfection. Beauty is a part of being human and especially of being a woman.
Self-induced conditions like eating disorders are not the only things that come from low self-esteem. It can also make these women more likely to be targeted for violent crimes. I once read that women who are self-conscious are more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than women who are self-confidence. Please check out this study: http://www.kon.org/urc/v5/greening.html
Thanks for reading and please pass this on. I hope that we can make the world a better place for my baby girl and everyone else's little girl.
I would be more than happy to donate my time to help this cause in any way possible. Right now it's just me with a computer but that's all it takes to get started. Please help me out and spread the word. I know we can save lives and build a generation of confident girls ready to take on the world.
Thanks again for reading!