The world is wrong.
I have several talented, brave, interesting, original, smart 12 and 13 and 14 year old girls in my life. They’re all on Instagram.
This week one of them got lured in by one of the many (MANY) Insta accounts where you get your photo/Insta profile rated. You know, so that strangers can tell you whether or not they think you’re hot or beautiful. They always pitch these platforms and apps as “helpful”. (Get anonymous, honest feedback! As though teenagers aren’t going to go in for the kill …).
Of course at 46 I think this kind of thing is nuts. I can see around corners. I can see that this whole concept of sending in a photo to be RATED ANONYMOUSLY is a recipe for total annihilation. Amal Clooney could send in a photo and be torn to shreds.
But that’s because I’m 46. I know Sea Monkeys are a marketing con. I know that heavily discounted clothing often falls apart in the wash. I know that charming men have big red flags above their heads (after all, to “charm” someone is an action not a character trait). And I know that once you divorce opinion from identity all hell breaks loose.
But when I was 13 in 1985, I was desperate for the world to tell me I was beautiful. I wanted validation. I also spent a lot of time wearing lace tops and giant crucifixes and Dunlop Volleys in a desperate attempt to look like Madonna (okay she didn’t wear Dunlop Volleys but whatever …)
Anyway, my young teenage friend sent a photo to this account and ended up being trolled. Of course. Boys and girls came on and called her a c***. A slut. Ugly. All that stuff. Of course. A lot of the kids trolling her with awful, heart-piercing comments (which made my eyes water) were also 12 and 13.
She cried. She told her mum. Her mum took screenshots and managed to get the account shut down. One of the main trolls kept going on his own account encouraging his friends to troll her. He’s been reported.
Welcome to just another day online.
But this is what I want to say. And I know this is hard because girls are getting mixed messages. Every piece of advertising is telling them to be more adult. To be sexy. To be hot. To be skinny. And every message is “YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH AS YOU ARE. YOU NEED FIXING! ”
But here’s my message: the world is wrong.
The answer to loving yourself or feeling okay will never be found in the opinions of others. Learn that now. Don’t wait until you’re in your 30s or 40s for it to click.
Get angry that the world is still trying to tell girls that their self-worth is indexed to the size of their jeans.
You are more than your outside appearance.
You are every joke you’ve told, every essay you’ve written, every kind gesture you’ve made. You are the movies you love and the songs you know off by heart and the things which light you up inside.
You were not put on this earth to be eye-candy.
And you have bigger and better things to do with your time than sit around waiting for OTHER PEOPLE to tell you your worth.
I mean, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
The world is wrong. Stay away from those rate-me sites and pages. They play with your head.
The world is WRONG. You are enough. I promise.
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Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.