A year or two ago one of my daughters came home seriously upset. On asking her what the matter was she explained that two girls on her bus route were teasing her because her hair was too straight. I couldn’t hold back my laughter which angered her even more naturally. I looked at her and told her how incredibly lucky she is to have naturally dead straight hair and how those same girls in a few years’ time would be spending lots of money to have hair like hers. She was not convinced of course and out came the curlers as she wanted her hair to be curly. I entertained her in full knowledge that no matter how hard we tried her hair would simply flatten out within the hour. After a few hours we managed some semblance of curls in her hair and she seemed remotely content. Her sisters followed, no doubt, which made our day incredibly tedious.
Her joy was, as expected, short lived. Her hair was flat by bed time and not one curl survived the night. I explained to her that she had to learn from a very young age to be happy with whom she was and how she looked. I had to do just that when I was growing up. I hated my nose and to be honest I still hate it. It’s caused me a lot of grief over the years to the point where I struck a deal with my husband that if I stopped smoking I would actually have a nose job done. I did stop smoking and went for my first consultation. I was excited and freaked out at the same time until the surgeon told me to go for the operation in 3 weeks. There and then I decided not to go for it. ‘What if it all went wrong? What if I didn’t like what I looked like? And finally, what would I tell the children? That I hated my nose and went under the knife to change it? Wouldn’t that be contradicting all I have told them? So, I decided to ignore my nose and start accepting it. It doesn’t mean that I like it any more than I did growing up but I have accepted that it is a part of me. I’ve convinced myself that noses are actually quite ugly things and left it at that.
In truth, we are all seeking to be better than we are. We are all paranoid about one thing or another. It’s normal. It is also normal to project ourselves as better than we are. Think about it – how many times have you taken that selfie or profile picture in order to get it perfect before posting it online? Thankfully Facebook doesn’t come with a photoshop function as no doubt it would be used. In essence there is nothing wrong either way. It does however reflect an innate desire we all have with being accepted and validated. How many likes have I managed to get, how many comments etc etc.
The same happens to our children, especially during their teenage years but also earlier. They are conscious about their clothes, hair, the way they look etc. They experiment and look to their peers for validation and acceptance. This often plays out on social media with many experimenting with photos, posts – the bolder the better. In a way social media has made us narcissistic and whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with that it does in many ways distort our sense of balance especially when we do not receive the positive feedback we so wish for. This can lead to cyberbullying and an over sensitivity to what others think of what we are posting and saying. In reality it is no different to a friend of acquaintance commenting positively or otherwise to an outfit you’ve decided to wear for a wedding. It does affect you no matter how strong you are. I remember an acquaintance one commenting nastily about an outfit I wore to a party. The timing was perfect, at the beginning of the party. I was gutted and felt uncomfortable all night – and I’m a grown woman and should be able to brush these sorts of comments off.
In time our children will learn to brush comments off but how capable are they of ignoring the odd comment and others on that comment especially from strangers who can post anonymously?
People do not always think before they comment face to face, even more so when commenting online. Taking this into consideration we should ensure our children understand the difference between comments that matter and those that don’t. It will never be easy but underneath it’s a question of accepting and being happy with who we are and what we look like.
BiographyMikela is a graduate in International Relations from the University of Malta. She holds a post-graduate degree in Management from the Mediterranean Institute of Management, Cyprus, a Masters Degree in Conflict Resolution from the University of Bradford, UK., and a Masters in EU Politics and Administrative Studies from the College of Europe Bruges, Belgium. Her career spans 15 years in the Diplomatic Service during which time she worked on issues related to the IAEA, United Nations, Commonwealth and Sanctions. Other positions held were that of Private Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Speech Writer as well as Assistant Director of Defence and Head of Secretariat of the Strategic Policy Secretariat both within the Office of the Prime Minister. Mikela had a leading role in Malta’s response to the Libya crisis and post crisis planning of Malta-Libya relations. Today Mikela is the Senior Executive for Corporate Affairs at Vodafone Malta responsible for PR, Corporate Affairs, Internal Communications, External Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility. Mikela née Tabone, is married to Eric and together they have five children. Lisa is 8, Anna 7, Sarah 6 and the twins Eric and Rebecca 5. Her hobbies include diving, travelling and reading. (When she has any time left!)