Beyond the surface
Students struggle with self-acceptance
February 13, 2015
The negative voices fill her head, as the words stab into her like knives. She wishes it would all stop: the mean comments, the hurtful words and the endless amount of hatred. As she looks her enemy in the eyes, she realizes there is nothing she can do when she is her own worst critic. Her reflection continues to mock her as she realizes the war is going on inside of her.
According to the Dove for Real Beauty campaign, only 11 percent of individuals worldwide feel comfortable using the word “beautiful” to describe themselves. Junior Jaselyn Campos says that this low number can root from several places, including the pressures of media and the hurtful impact of others.
“It’s hard to keep a positive self-image when the media is constantly sending mixed signals and people are saying hurtful things,” she said. “Even though it’s hard at times, it is important for people to stay positive and focus on the good things about themselves. It’s important to be confident.”
Make her thinner.
But not too thin, make sure there are curves. But not too many curves.
The skin on the face must appear perfectly smooth. Make sure to get that acne out of the picture.
And now, for make-up. She has to look flawless— not a single pixel left untouched —with every detail, carefully edited to perfection.
According to a study done by Dartmouth University, this has now become a common process. The study reports that images that are physically impossible are being created in this new form of digital plastic surgery. With these images, comes an extreme pressure to be perfect, which leads to low self-esteem. The Dove for Real beauty campaign reports that 80 percent of individuals feel an extreme pressure to be beautiful. Sophomore Mollie Taylor sees this pressure daily and said that it has a major effect on the way individuals view themselves.
“There’s the magazines, the TV shows and just everything the media companies put out there,” Taylor said. “It makes people think, ‘Oh, I have to look this way’ or ‘I have to act this way,’ and it makes it really difficult for people to accept themselves.”
She admits that for a while, the photos on the magazine covers began getting to her. While she was lucky to keep herself positive and confident, she said she understands the negative effects these pressures can have.
It’s best not to listen to the negative things that others say and to focus on the positive instead.
“For a while, seeing the models on the magazine covers made me think negatively about myself,” Taylor said. “I was thankful not to struggle too much because my mom always reminded me that I was beautiful no matter what, but I know others who have struggled a lot and I think a lot of that low self-esteem roots from society.”
Campos agrees, saying that the role models that society puts out are often harmful for the self-esteem of individuals. She said role models should carry traits such as confidence, courage and kindness.
“Some people base their lives on celebrities, trying to look, talk and act like them, and it bothers me,” she said. “Trying to be like someone isn’t worth it, because everyone is special in their own way. I think it’s important to find positive role models to look up to, but it should be about more than physical appearance. It’s not always looks that matter, role models are so much more.”
Taylor agrees and hopes to see a world that promotes more positive media representing every individual, body-type and personality.
“People need to realize that everyone is beautiful, no matter what their shape or size,” she said. “I would love to see a world where the magazines are more diverse. If magazines had more natural faces, it would help more people realize they’re wonderful the way they are.”
She still remembers the negative words people said to her. The thoughts still linger through her head and when she’s feeling down, the words still come back to haunt her. According to Campos, her low self-esteem often rooted from negative things said about her in the past.
“People told me not to worry about what others said, but it was honestly hard,” she said. “The things others said about me used to bother me a lot. It was hard for me to keep a positive self-image when people were constantly bringing me down, whether it was at school or someone in the family.”
Sophomore James French had a similar experience and feels the words others say can have a negative impact on self-esteem.
“When people are constantly being put down, they’ll see themselves how others see them,” he said. “People have judged me in the past. It’s best not to listen to the negative things that others say and to focus on the positive instead.”
French said that being around people who are constantly saying negative things can lead to low self-esteem and the best that thing a person can do is to surround themselves with people who only have positive things to say.
“I mostly hang out with people who are pretty positive,” French said. “I think it’s extremely important for people to find friends who accept them for who they are. It’s important for people to realize their worth and not let the opinions of others affect them.”
“I felt ugly,” Campos said. “There was a point when my insecurities got really bad. I couldn’t get ready no matter how hard I tried, because I didn’t feel pretty.”
This was the everyday reality that Campos faced for months. The Dove for Real Beauty campaign reports that 60 percent of individuals stop doing what they love because they feel bad about their looks. Campos said this needs to end soon. To her, beauty comes in many different forms, and she wants others to realize that.
“Everyone’s perfect in their own way,” she said. “Life’s so much more than that one insecurity that brings people down. They need to learn to embrace their flaws and realize their true beauty.”
Taylor agrees with Campos. After seeing one of her good friends struggle with self-esteem and hit rock bottom, Taylor feels that those struggling should reach out for the help they need.
“It was hard to see someone I loved struggling,” Taylor said. “I had a friend who went through self-esteem problems and she was always so hard on herself. The best lesson I learned from all of that was that it’s extremely important to get help, no matter what the problem. The people who care are always willing to help.”
To Taylor, the journey to find confidence is an ongoing one. She feels that no matter how difficult the journey becomes, at the end of the day, the battle is worth it.
“It’s so important to always speak up,” she said. “It’s not good to keep it all on the inside and constantly hide from others. One of the only ways for people to get out of the state of low self-esteem is allowing others to help them, but more importantly, it’s learning to help themselves.”