From a teen in the U.S.: No one ever outright called me names or bullied me over my appearance when I was younger but soon after becoming a young adult I feel like I’ve developed a relatively unhealthy view of my appearance. I look at myself a lot and have such a hard time not noticing imperfections. I feel so conceited and it feels like a curse. Little mannerisms like looking at myself in reflective surfaces constantly, rear view mirrors, my phone, turned off laptop screens, bathroom mirrors, windows, basically any reflective glass surface, etc.
Sometimes I watch myself talk in videos and feel so disgusted, like, that’s what I look and sound like to other people. It leads me to cover my mouth a lot and avoid photos and videos. I wish I wasn’t like this, that I was more outgoing and careless. But I take comfort in wearing makeup, though even then I notice things wrong. I feel so trapped and I don’t know what caused this. Pretty girls make me self conscious and sometimes I look at them and cry.
I was recently at a party and I was standing next to one of my attractive friends in a mirror and felt so ugly next to her. I hate my face even though I have received compliments and comfort from my friends and family. I usually think they are either lying or exaggerating. Even when I accept the compliments, the validation only makes me feel good for a few days, then it wears off and I feel hideous again.
I know teenagers are known for being self-conscious about their looks but this feels abnormal. I don’t see what other people claim to see so I feel like I don’t know what I actually look like because it’s so confusing since what I tell myself regarding my appearance differs so much from what my friends and fanrden.
You’re right. Teens are known for being over-concerned with their appearance. Most suffer in silence so other kids don’t know they have lots of company in their misery. It makes everyone feel even more alone. We can thank a culture that has become increasingly focused on looks and less and less on substance. People feel more judged for what they look like than who they are or what they do. It makes me sad and mad. But none of this helps you, does it? You still feel awful in spite of what your good friends and your family tells you.
You didn’t share with me what you are doing when you aren’t looking at surfaces to check out your face. I hope, I hope you are using your time to do well in school and to participate in doing something to make the world a better place and to make people less shallow. Kids are doing important work to fix problems handed to them by prior generations.
Look at the Parkland kids and gun control. Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg is spearheading student strikes against inaction on global warming. Teens organized a protest in Paris. Roske-Martinez, who is 16 like you, is on the front lines of climate change activism. She has even been a speaker on climate change at the United Nations General Assembly. Melati and Isabel Wijsen founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags in 2013 in Bali when they were only 13 and 15. By January 2018, the entire island of Bali was declared plastic bag free.
The best way to conquer your self-consciousness about your looks is to shift your attention from what you probably can’t change (and probably shouldn’t) to something where you can make a difference. Doing good is the best way to feel good. Look around your town. There may be other kids who are doing important work already. Offer to help. There are never enough volunteers for any work that counts. If you don’t find a cause that suits you, create a group yourself to take on something important that isn’t getting enough attention or money from the adults. You dan do it. Your are as smart and creative as any of the kids I listed above. Just stop being distracted by appearances to put all that time on doing something you feel passionate about instead. It won’t change your looks. But it will change your priorities!
I wish you well.