Quito, Ecuador – I am sure every teenage girl will relate to this image: you and your friends are spending some time together, you are watching a movie, looking at Instagram or YouTube videos and pointing at different girls – usually models, singers or influencers.
You’re saying, “I want to look like that.” Or, “Why am I not that perfect?”
Another scenario: you are getting ready to go out and look at yourself in the mirror for just a little too long until your face and body start shifting into some ugly shapes.
Then you turn around to your friend and ask, “Do I look ugly?”
Only after a few friends have repeatedly told you how nice you look, and you don’t really believe them yet, you manage to leave the house.
The list goes on: comparing what you eat and how much you work out with your friends, tugging at your shirt in front of the mirror trying to look different.
It’s an endless list of insecurities.
That’s because society expects girls to lack confidence.
Now, I could talk about how women are faced with unrealistic beauty standards. And there is no doubt that women have a lot of pressure to look unrealistically good all the time, but I want to focus on another thing.
I want to talk about the toxic mindset that young girls have.
It is not normal for a young woman to be secure of herself. It is perceived as unusual, even scary.
We are not used to a young woman who accepts herself and isn’t constantly putting herself down and wanting to change.
Somehow, when you are talking to friends, it is normal for us to, every once in a while, throw in a: I look so bad today, I hate myself, my life sucks.
Isn’t it almost a natural instinct to say, “I am ugly,” when you look at yourself in the mirror before you even get a chance to think about it?
When we speak, we immediately follow it with, “But I am not sure, so don’t take me seriously,” or just “Sorry.”
If you look at a model on Instagram and your immediate response isn’t, “I hate myself,” or “I want to be like that,” you are kind of weird.
Girls put themselves down so many times a day we don’t even realize we are doing it. Why has it become normal for us to hate ourselves?
I could even argue that nobody likes a girl who isn’t self-conscious. Nobody likes the girl who is confident all the time.
I am expected to want to look like a model. I am expected to never be proud of myself.
To fit in with everyone, we have to hate ourselves just a tiny bit.
Maybe it’s overwhelming to imagine the power a young woman would have if they would not spend so much time gazing at the mirror and putting themselves down or making a mental list of things they hate about themselves.
Imagine if girls would not feel guilty or out of place because they feel good about themselves. Imagine them simply being confident.
But this could go a step further. What if we stop seeing confidence as an act of rebellion and instead see it as something normal?
What if we stop pointing out that one girl who is confident enough to speak up and walk with poise and instead encourage everyone to be confident?
Few people want to spend their life fighting and sticking out, so what if we could for once make it normal for girls to be secure about themselves?
Let’s stop normalizing hating ourselves and start celebrating our achievements and who we are.
Aileen Cevallos is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International. She wrote this essay.
Parnian Shahsavary is a Senior Illustrator with Youth Journalism International. She drew the illustration.