Editor’s Note: This is a collection of Wheeling Park High School senior voices about art and beauty and how social perceptions affect young people in the 21st Century.
Starting in middle school, my mind began to spiral into a place of self-harm. The malicious environment of unsupportive peers led to a full-scale war against my happiness. Unfortunately, I am not the only human being to suffer from this staggering negativity. Our outlook on ourselves is more negative than how others perceive us because of self-critical thoughts, the fear of being average, and social comparison.
In a world of pessimism, our worst enemy can be the voice inside our heads. Self-critical thoughts have the ability to hinder development and lead to mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety. We beat ourselves down with judgement before anyone else has the opportunity to praise us. This can be influenced by the parents and their own self-esteem. Mental illness runs in my family, so I’ve been more susceptible to self-critical thoughts. Sometimes you don’t even realize it’s happening, because of how soothing and convincing the thoughts can be, but it’s important to fight back with compliments.
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We struggle to be unique in a world of similar faces, and the fear of being average plagues much of the population. We’ve been taught to blend in and fit the social standard while also being individual enough to stand out and do something great. I’ve spent my years in the educational system focusing on being different and remaining the best in my class, driven by the phobia of similarity. This pressure to push ourselves to greater heights can injure even the most ambitious of spirits.
Much of our self-defeating negativity results from social comparison. We compare ourselves to others to magnify our flaws. I make the mistake of analyzing the people around me, and I beat myself down for the differences. The concept of beauty should not lie in what you see in other people; it should start with what you see in the mirror. It takes a lot to overcome the urge to compare yourself to another person, but it is possible in time.
There are a variety of ways that we lower our self-esteem, and the list of causes increases every day. We must combat negativity with positivity. Give a compliment to a stranger. Help a friend with the smallest of tasks. The war against ourselves ends with determination. I don’t want to hate myself anymore. I have more to offer to someone than what the thoughts in my head are telling me. It’s a struggle to overcome the burden of a negative perception of yourself, but it’s important to remember that just because you don’t see yourself as attractive, doesn’t mean someone won’t be attracted to you.