It’s no secret that teenage girls have become increasingly insecure, whether it’s their skin-tone or jean size, the number of weight loss ads has skyrocketed over the past few decades. According to Clean Cut Media, 75% of teenage girls in the US have a low self-esteem, while 44% of teenage girls have already attempted weight loss. This is surprising because as a 14 year old girl, I can safely say that all of my friends are insecure and have tried some form of dieting or body modification.
Growing up black in a white, middle-class suburb, my friends and I learned to laugh at the over population of stick thin, soccer moms who obsessed over list-serves and spoiling their children. When we reached middle school, we decided to keep that same mentality. We separated ourselves from our classmates and made sure we understood that where we were was not an accurate representation of the ‘real-world’. It wasn’t diverse, nor had everyone reached their full potential in intellect. It was, however, what surrounded us.
In a lot of girls’ minds, being popular was a top priority, as well as having a good body and a boyfriend, all this at the age of 13. Although, looking back, I have to admit not all girls were like this. Some actually focused on their school work and making friendships that would last. However, these girls were so rare, they were deemed outcasts and ‘weirdos’, and it became easier to push them aside.
For me, 8th grade was characterized by an obsession with smaller thighs and a smaller waist. Being surrounded by white girls who fit the supermodel mold and had boys (and fashion magazines) cooing over them, the pressures of being popular and accepted had gotten to me. But being a black girl with hips, the chances of me blending in with the ‘it’ crowd were… slim. Don’t get me wrong, I was proud, and have always been proud, of my race and who I am, but it seemed the only solution to being truly happy at school was to be thin and have my hair relaxed. But in a way, it extended beyond that.
Throughout middle school, I had subconsciously seen being skinny as a part of being successful. When I wanted to be a lawyer, I knew I needed to get into law school, have great debating skills, and look good in a peplum dress. When I wanted to be a doctor, I knew I needed to get into med school, work well with people and tone my legs so my butt wouldn’t look big in scrubs.
As I look back with more wisdom, I’m in 9th grade now, I realize that my middle school experience was all too common. Especially for the black girls and boys, surrounded by the same impossible expectations, and the same lack of praise. I managed to do well academically but always to the surprise of administration, hence my numerous African-American Awards.
I’m lucky to have learned to love myself a lot more, and for that I’d have to thank my family, but this won’t be the case for many of the students who are in my position. It’s just something we as a society have to continue to work on; making sure that black girls and boys don’t just know how beautiful they are, but also how much they can (and are expected) to make a difference in this world.