This Week's Teen Flaunt: Maria Talks About Body Image

recite-26129--1790658317-olrfm9Let's say a boy's beloved uncle makes a comment about his "big belly," or a girl is teased about her "frizzy hair." How can that single criticism take on a life of its own?

It's an issue Maria, now 17, explores in her Teen Flaunt essay this week. After one of her 4th-grade classmates commented on her "hairy arms," she became self-conscious of a difference she never realized she had—and from that point on, there was no turning back. She started seeing herself as she imagined others saw her: hairy, unattractive. "I had never been more disgusted with myself in my entire life," she writes. So Maria set off on a multi-year mission to get rid of that hair.

A funny thing happened, though, once Maria finally convinced her mom to help her remove the hair this past summer. She had an epiphany, which provides an important lesson for all teens struggling to make peace with a physical insecurity:

After showering off the remaining lotion...I would eventually go look at myself in the  mirror. It was then that I realized that my skin looked smoother, but nothing really changed about me at all.

See, when we're made to feel bad about our bodies just once, it's hard to stop seeing ourselves in that negative light. And it's a common trap for teens, who have no prior experience with these feelings, to let that bad body image spiral out until it forms a larger part of their identity. It becomes an all-encompassing problem worth fixing at all costs—a scapegoat for other emotions even. ("If only I remove this hair, I'll be happier. I'll feel different.")

Your job as a teacher or parent is to keep refocusing that attention and self-worth inward, until they eventually reach Maria's place of peace. Sharing her essay—available over at the Teen Flaunt site—is an excellent start.

Some of our other favorite Teen Flaunts:


If you would like to have your teenager or student (age 13-18) write a “Teen Flaunt” that could potentially be published on the Teen Flaunt page, please submit the proposed essay (no longer than 700 words) to: meg [at] megzucker [dot] com.