Think back, way back, to junior high. You’ve had a crush on one of your classmates all year and one day you get the courage to pass him a note. It reads:

Do you think I’m cute?

Circle:   Yes          No            Maybe

Reminiscing about the good ol’ days is fun. Nostalgia may deem these memories as sweet no matter how many replies of “Maybe” you received in 6th grade. But I’m not so sure if the 21st century version of this trend is quite as innocuous.

On Sunday CNN.com posted an editorial by 15-year-old Teddi Noel Maddox, a freshman at Montclair High School in New Jersey. In the article Maddox discusses the “Hot or Not” YouTube phenomenon. She writes:

“Unfortunately, what’s “in” at the moment is something a lot of girls my age are doing, posting “Hot or not?” videos on YouTube. The whole premise of this is to post a video of yourself and ask viewers if they find you attractive.”

Maddox goes on to say that the problem with these videos is that girls “can look at 100 good comments and if there is one particularly nasty one, that’s the only one that stays in our heads.” And as the Internet allows viewers a certain degree of anonymity the negative comments tend to be quite vicious.

But before completely shunning this trend, Maddox said, we need to understand why it exists. Adolescent girls need more positive messages, Maddox asserts.

And that’s where we come in. As women, I believe it’s our duty to do whatever we can to help build the self-esteem of young girls and encourage positive, healthy body images. But how do we do this?

As an educator I know there’s no easy solution. I can tell my students they’re beautiful every day but if they’re comparing themselves to unrealistic images in the media or sulking over the boy who just dumped them, my words will fall flat. Still, we should try.

Although it’s difficult to rise above the media’s constant insistence that we are too fat, too skinny, too short, too busty, too this or that, we have to try to set good examples for our younger sisters, cousins, daughters, and friends. Their lives depend on it.

This means, in part, not complaining about your weight or your waistline in front of impressionable teens. I believe this also means encouraging an active lifestyle. We need to be the positive, healthy, and realistic images that they’re not seeing on their favorite websites or in their favorite music videos. One lesson I have learned in my 31 years on the planet, and one I try to pass on to the girls I work with at my job and in the community, is that I am the most confident and the most content with my body when I focus on what it can do, not how it looks. So instead of setting goals like “Lose 10 pounds” or “Get back down to a size 6,” I set my sights on other fitness aspirations such as “Run a half-marathon” or “Do 50 push-ups without taking a break.”

Think of the young girls in your sphere of influence and consider how you can go beyond simply telling them about the importance of self-love, but also showing them how you walk the talk.

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  • http://envasa.blogspot.com LuciFreedom

    Great article. Our mission as women must include SHOWing young girls that we are strong, beauty and confident.

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    • Yoshia

      women especially teenagers don’t respect themselves like our grandmas and what not did when they were younger.. give the P away easily..

      Learn how I became LESS racist in 2012 (this is NOT spam) see http://goo.gl/3EAi1 <..wow REALLY??

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  • 2NatuRho

    I completely agree with this article. I just went on a Twitter rant the other day about how young girl’s, even older teenagers (18,19) need guidance on self-love and self-respect. We’re in a day and age where women are dumbing their selves down, revealing body parts as an excuse for liberation and flaunting every body part except their faces because they have low self esteem. Its up to us, the women of the world, to hold ourselves accountable and give these young girls knowledge on respecting their bodies and minds.

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    • QCastle

      @2NatuRho

      Are girls really dumbing themselves down? I just read a few comments on the article about the relevance of black teachers and apparently blacks have a lower IQ, especially black boys as one commentator noted. Maybe these are just some of the few black girls who are just too below average in intelligence to know any better.

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  • jamesfrmphilly

    i find it sad that the most attractive females, (black, nappy hair) are the ones with the lowest self esteem. white women are all out there trying to get a tan. sisters are BORN with tans. black women are the most desirable on the planet. all they have to do is realize that. look in a mirror and be the queens that you are.

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    • nappyandhappy

      dang it @james from philly i never agree with you put today you get a +5000 ….dont let that happen again!!!

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    • LAD86

      No, their physical traits are.

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  • edub

    Sign of the times. Broken families + Social Media is going to wreak all kinds of havoc on society.

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  • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com Perverted Alchemist

    “Maddox goes on to say that the problem with these videos is that girls “can look at 100 good comments and if there is one particularly nasty one, that’s the only one that stays in our heads.””

    I’ve been guilty of this more times than I care to admit…but I did this in real life as opposed to the internet , LMAO!!!

    The funny thing is that when I talk the way I do (which is how I really am in real life), I had no idea there were so many young girls with low self-esteem out in the world Also, it’s not race specific either, as I have encountered a lot of White women who have less than perfect views on themselves.

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    • http://www.georgiamae.com/ javacia

      I completely agree that it’s not race specific. But, most likely because I’m African American, a lot of the girls who come to me with self-esteem issues are black and I feel it’s my duty to help them, especially those who are unhappy with their natural hair and things of that nature. But I do make an effort to help all my girls, regardless of race, and the boys too, feel better about themselves.

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    • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com Perverted Alchemist

      I sincerely applaud your efforts, Javacia, but here lies a pervasive problem- at least in my eyes. How does one go about building up the self-esteem in young girls- and boys as well- when their own parents are mostly responsible for their self-esteem issues?

      Within the last 25 years, I’ve seen parents from all walks of life talk to their children as if they’re full grown adults. To make matters even worse, I’ve heard them say rather disparaging things to their own child’s face!!!! I was wondering how can a child even overcome that problem?

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    • http://www.georgiamae.com/ javacia

      Oh, it’s certainly not easy and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. And I do think parents can have the stronger impact. I have a student whose mother is constantly telling her she wished she had “good hair” and it’s discouraging because I feel it’s negating all the positive things I try to tell her. But I feel like I still have to try. I won’t give up.

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    • Elle Michelle

      @Perverted Alchemist: I wish I would’ve read your comments before I wrote mine below. I agree with everything you said from you being able to relate to that one nasty comment staying in your head to the fact that parents are mostly responsible. Our thoughts are aligned.

      +1000

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