Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted a link to some Youtube videos. In these videos, adolescent girls were asking the viewer whether or not they were attractive. My friend was (appropriately) horrified by this, as was I. But our point of view differed. She was horrified because these young girls posted the videos, only to be told by perfect strangers that they were ugly, or fat, or stupid, or what have you. I was horrified because why would you post something asking what a perfect stranger thought of you? And why would you care?
We both came to the same conclusion. The self-esteem of these girls must be impossibly low to even WANT to ask that question.
Now, my question is why? Why is their self-esteem that low? How do I prevent my daughter from feeling this way? Friend and I grew up in similar circumstances, though she is almost 10 years younger than me.
Same socio-economic status, same religion, similar expectations, similar mental health issues. But she suffered from a very low self-esteem. I did not. Where lies the difference?
I grew up poor, in a less than stellar part of my town. There were a lot of drugs and alcohol, most of the violence in the town happened in the area in which I lived. Wrong side of the tracks, if you will. I grew up Mormon. High expectations when you are Mormon, by the by. I struggled (and still do) with depression. But I did not, nor have I ever, really, had issues with self-esteem.
Do I credit my parents? My genes? What? Is it nature or nurture? I don't know, I really don't.
Not being privy to the details of the home life of my friend, I cannot really gauge what her parents did with regards to that.
I am not sure that my parents were deliberately trying to build up my self-esteem, or if it was just a by product of their parenting style.
Whatever it was, it worked. And it worked for most, if not all, of my siblings. We think we are pretty damn awesome.
I think this irritates people sometimes.
But why? What is wrong with thinking we are awesome? We are awesome.
In my home, it was assumed that if you wanted to do something, you could. It might take a lot of effort, you might fail a few (or several) times, but if you wanted it, you could get it.
I grew up thinking I could be anything I wanted to be. I just had to do it.
I grew up thinking I was incredibly intelligent. I still think that.
I didn't grow up thinking I was particularly physically attractive, but that didn't really matter that much. I wasn't interested in a guy that was more interested in how I looked than how I thought. If my brains and personality weren't enough for him, he could stick it.
But why? Why, when I was surrounded by girls who were so concerned about whether or not someone found them attractive, did I not particularly care?
Honestly, I cannot really remember whether or not my parents told me I was pretty. I don't think it would have meant much to me if they had. (They probably did, but the fact that I can't remember it says something.) I do remember that they told me I was intelligent, and clever and witty and determined (which is a polite word for pigheaded). And that mattered to me. I wanted to be all of those things. I LIKED that I was all of those things. But aren't most of us those things? Why do we want to be something that we aren't?
My dad told me a few years ago that he used to worry about me because I wasn't popular and he was afraid that had bothered me as a kid/teen. I was shocked. I couldn't for the life of me understand how he could have thought I wanted to be popular. Why on earth would I want to be one of those people? I thought they were pathetic. All sorts of obsessed with their money and their clothes and how pretty they were and if they were dating the right person, blah, blah, blah. Really? I had no desire to be part of that, one of them. I had no respect for them at all. I am sure they were probably lovely people, but they certainly weren't MY kind of people.
My kind of people were geeks. Nerds. Whatever. I still love geeks. I still am a geek. But, you know what? It's the geeks that rule the world. Not the popular people.
Maybe my parents tried to steer me into the popular crowd and it didn't work. I don't know. I certainly wasn't popular crowd material. I was poor, I wore weird clothes (I had eclectic tastes back then, too), I had this crazy mane of frizzy red hair and lots of freckles. I didn't wear makeup much. I was smart. I was in Drama. I had nerdy friends. All these things added up to NOT COOL.
But I liked my weird clothes, especially since I made most of them. And I liked my crazy hair, it made me different from everyone else. And I didn't really care about makeup most of the time, because no one was looking at me anyway. And I liked being smart. And I liked drama. And I liked nerds. I would have had to give up all of those things if I wanted to be popular and why would I do that?
Maybe it has something to do with having your eyes on the prize. I knew, had always known, what I wanted. And I knew how to get what I wanted. And once I decide what I really want, dammit, I WILL get it. Nothing is going to get in my way.
In junior high and high school, where I think attacks on self esteem are the worst, I had already begun my quest. I was making a beeline for my goal, which at the time was college.
So, is that the difference? Is that why what other people thought didn't much matter? I don't know. I do know that other's opinions of me were peripheral to the goal.
Did I get made fun of in school? Sure. Of course I did. I was a weirdo, a geek. But, when you think the person making fun of you is a pathetic, dim-witted ass, what they think doesn't have much affect.
And in my way of thinking, if you don't think I am smart, or funny, or awesome-well, you are probably dumb, or an ass, and I don't really care what dumb asses think of me. Why would I? Why would anyone?
See, this is where I get confused. Why would anyone care what some dumb ass thinks of them. Seriously, why?
The reason this question gets to me is because of The Small One, of course. I don't want her to be one of the girls that relies on the opinion of others. I couldn't bear it if my daughter was hurt by the opinions of some mean non-entity.
So, how do I raise her to be like me?
I know, it sounds terribly prideful, but I do want her to be like me. I want her to be able to throw off the unwanted opinions of others, I want her to know she is smart (she is), I want her to know she is clever and funny and witty and strong and determined. I want her to know that she is just as good as anyone else, and possibly better. And I want those things to matter to her. I want her to know that she can be anything or anyone she wants to be and that no limitations need hold her back. (The Small One is also pretty and has lovely hair. But I prefer that not be the important thing to her.)
Trust me, I know that I am not perfect. I know that I have flaws. Everyone does. But I also know that I am great. I like the good bits of me. I try to fix the not good bits about me. The not good bits that are out of my control, well, I accept them for what they are and try to not let them take over. I would certainly rather be me than most other people.
In my family, one is awesome simply by virtue of being one of us. DeGreys are smart. We are witty. We are clever. We are funny. We are determined. We can do anything we put our mind to. If you are a DeGrey, or born of one, you are amazing. (Other people are amazing,too, but that is neither here nor there.)
Is it nature? Is it nurture? Is it hubris?
I don't know. But whatever it is, I want to make sure my daughter has it. Some people don't like it, but I don't care what they think.;)
Thoughts? Opinions? Success stories? Throw your comments my way, I love to hear from you.