I was plagued with insecurities as a kid. Goofy teeth, frizzball hair, Mr Mcgoo glasses. I was teased and even bullied at times but I could always go home and shut the door on everyone.
I'd lose myself in pressing flowers and making up stories about imaginary friends.
Now there is no more shutting the door. The teasing goes on and on into the night in the darkness of their bedrooms. Through social networks like Facebook, Whatsapp, Askfm and mobile phones.
Add to that the serial bombarding of perfect figures and faces of the rich and famous and we have one very anxious and self conscious generation. That's not to mention regular access to porn.
The net effect is that the youngsters of today are exhibiting signs of stress, depression and deep sadness whether it's nervous habits, anorexia, or worse still, addictions.
The very latest cool fads are verging on the obscene. Young girls are pestering their mothers for a full brazilian wax as boys don't date hairy ones. Or if their inner thighs touch it means they have to go on a diet. Models don't have fat legs.
The new good vs bad is now beautiful vs ugly. Everyone has a point of view on who is or isn't and it's skin deep. Girls regularly post videos playing judge and jury of who's pretty in their school. Next Top Model TV series also add insult to injury.
The question is what can we do.
The obvious answer is to lead by example. Too many mums, older women who can't accept growing old, resort to rejuvenation tactics. Now fillers and botox are considered as normal as a facial. How can our children ever take us seriously if we are so obsessed with external appearance ourselves. That goes for celebs too. They need to campaign for real beauty and self-esteem rather than promote fakeness and beauty illusions. Digitally altered photos, cosmetic surgery and excessive diets need to stop, full stop. Trash mags try to out stars by showing their wobbly bits on the beach or their spotty skin uncovered by make up. But this is the other extreme it shows they are imperfect but ridicules imperfection.
Instead of filling our children's heads with false ideas we need to fill them with oodles of love and self belief. Telling them every day they are beautiful in their own way is what builds confidence.
Every single human has something beautiful about them. The beauty spot on the lip, their hazel golden eyes, their rosy cheeks or big cheesy grin. And that's just on the outside. We need to tell our children they are beautiful but we need to define beauty as inside as well as out.
Beauty needs redefining and recalibrating. Every century it has changed. At the time of pre Raphaelites it was a full buxom woman (we would call it fat today). Then it became a curvy Renoir figure. It has slimmed down and down till there is almost nothing left.
But today we are more than physicality. We exist in virtual worlds and our voices and words often communicate before our faces do. Our souls come through on the internet way before our physical form does. We need to join the dots for children. Saying something kind is a form of beauty. Being funny, being creative being smart. Schools need to get on board too and spend time and effort on educating children about inner beauty and truth.
I have just written three books about a little girl who thinks she's ugly. At night she disappears to a magic night school called Oddbods. There, everything is brilliant, fun and good for you. There are self-esteem classes in the mirror room where you have to see yourself in the truth mirror. It shows you an image of how you see yourself. The main character sees the ugliest little bug. It is a bit like the Dove beauty sketches ad in which we see that we are all more beautiful than we think we are. Every kid there hates something about themselves. Whether big ears, chubby legs, ginger hair, a stutter or freckles.
I was just talking to a a friend who's daughter is the most angelic little thing but she can't stand her curly hair and tries to tame it like I did in a plait. We need to tell our kids how everyone doesn't like stuff about themselves but it is often the very things we don't like that makes us special.
Because they make us stand out, not blend in. Helen Bonham Carter, Drew Barrymore, Taylor Swift are all quirkily wonderful on the inside and out. They are one in a million and that makes them special.
Being different, an oddball or misfit is the new cool. All the geniuses of times past like Einstein, Disney, Steve Jobs, Coco Chanel, were unusual individuals. If we encourage our children to love the very part they hate about themselves, we are definitely a lot closer to creating a future generation of contentment and self-confidence.
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