“You know, the pictures you’re seeing on Instagram aren’t always real,” I told her.
“But to me, they are real,” she replied.
It was a Friday night and a young girl had run to the nearest toilets, tears streaming down her face. It’s difficult to predict what will happen on any given day at youth club. You can usually expect to find some kids gearing up for yet another round of Jenga, others taking part in overly competitive games of pool and the ‘cool’ ones chilling on the sofas, ferociously tapping away on their phones while moaning about their disastrous classes at school. When it comes to knowing what’s going on in the minds of the young people, however, it’s a completely different story.
On that Friday, I sat next to a 13-year-old girl called Hannah*. We chatted about her week which had, unsurprisingly, been a bit dead. As we nattered away, a fellow youth worker came over and encouraged Hannah to get involved with that night's drama piece. The final performances are always a highlight. However, it was this request that led to her breaking down unexpectedly.
It wasn’t that Hannah disliked acting, or even that she just couldn’t be bothered. Hannah thought she was ugly.
This was a constant “cycle”, she had said. Hannah would allow streams of negativity to infiltrate her mind and when it all became too much, she’d become overwhelmed, attempt to get herself together and then — the process would start all over again.
Hannah’s story is far from a unique one. Many of us have had to navigate our way through the battlefield of our teenage years, where the monsters of low self-esteem, self-hatred and comparison simultaneously reared their ugly heads, attempting to defeat us before our young lives had really even begun. Yet, in this present age, young girls have another burden to overcome.