Flick through any magazine, TV station or website this Christmas and the messages are mostly about perfection. How to get the perfect skin, body, clothes, relationship... life. But underlying all of it is that your life isn't good enough, you're not good enough.
2013 was definitely the year of narcissism, with the advent of the selfie and sadly also of some nasty by products such as cyberbullying and twerking.
But it is the teen generation that are suffering the most. I was teased for being a goofy geek at school and it made me feel alone and miserable. But at least I could go home and shut myself in my room. Today the attack of perfect images and negative messages is relentless. Snapchat is the ultimate show and tell network where people will post anything as it then vanishes. Or so they think as the poor girl in the states learnt when her boyfriend capture the image of her naked on his camera. It's so much easier to bully and mock from behind a computer screen. A friends daughter posted a video recently declaring who is pretty and ugly at school. She couldn't understand what she had done wrong. Tyra Banks does it, so why couldn't she?
Self esteem must be at an all time low which is why 2014 needs to become the year for self-esteem. We need to do what we can, brands media and the world of entertainment to help kids feel better about themselves.
Dove has the led the way with their natural beauty campaign but more need to follow suit. They were the first to use naturally beautiful models, those that represent real women, not painfully thin models who eat cotton wool balls to keep the calories off. Their recent beauty sketches campaign develops he self-esteem issue even further. Women think they are uglier than the reality, as proved the auto portraits of the forensic artist. The viral clip was seen by over 150m people. Lucy Atley from Dove said:
"We know anxiety about looks begins at an early age and holds girls back. Dove has long been committed to creating a world where beauty is a source of confidence rather than anxiety and through the Dove Self-Esteem Project we are helping girls feel confident about their appearance and build their sense of self-worth. We are committed to reaching 15 million young people with self-esteem programming by the end of 2015."
As for media there needs to be a moratorium on airbrushing and fashion need to recalibrate what it is to be beautiful. Movies books and shows also have a role to play, to shift the dial from external image to what's happening on the inside. The pressure is definitely on, with more cases of teen depression and now even celebrities like Rebecca Adlington, Olympic Swimmer, admitted to feeling ugly after being laughed at on twitter.
It is why I wrote the trilogy, The Ugly Little Girl.
I wrote it when I came face to face with my double last summer. She was the spitting image of me at 10. Goofy teeth, frizzy hair tied in a messy plait, speccy four eye glasses and fuddy duddy clothes. The story is about this ugly little girl who, like so many, feels different from everyone else. She is picked on at school, teased by her perfect elder sister and thinks she is plain ugly.
Till one night she discovers a magical night school called Oddbods where freaky kids like her go in their pajamas. It's the best school ever, no one is mean, you can time travel and there are no nasty school dinners, you just jump on the tummyometer that guesses what you'd like to eat. Most important though are the self-esteem classes in the Hall of Mirrors where you get to meet the true you and even talk to them.
However there is another night school, Narcissus where all the beauty obsessed girls and boys go. Its headmaster Imago hates imperfection and wants to make everyone look the same, perfect teeth, eyes, hair and bodies. He also wants to destroy the pure world of Oddbods.
The Ugly Little Girl is intended to accompany kids and teens during the dark hours of adolescence. It is hopefully an antidote to the virus of image obsession that flows through the veins of social networks. It is for everyone, as all of us, no matter what age, suffer from crises of confidence about our looks, our body and our image. We are all more beautiful than we think we are.
The trilogy is now available on all ebook platforms such as Amazon and Kobo, for you, your daughter or anyone who has suffered from poor self-esteem.