Teen Toxing?

Do the words "teen toxing" mean anything to you? It wasn't until I was flipping through the New York Times Style section the other day that I discovered what this meant either. The title of the article "This Teenage Girl Uses Botox. And, No, She's Not Alone" caught my eye. As I read the story, not only did my jaw continue to drop at the information that I was absorbing, but I became shocked and disappointed in parents and doctors for their lack of judgment. Teens getting botox to change their "too gummy" smiles? Or teens using botox to change the shape of their face and jaw structure? Seriously?!?

About a month ago, I read somewhere that 18 year old singer and actress Charice Pempengco was getting botox to appear "fresh" on camera for her appearance on Glee this fall. I can't say that I was shocked by this information, but I was saddened that she felt the need and pressure to do that to herself especially at such a young age. When I read this article and saw that last year, botox was "injected into Americans ages 13 to 19 nearly 12,000 times, including some teenagers who got multiple doses," I nearly cried. Why is this happening? And more importantly, what are parents thinking allowing their children to persuade them to get facial injections? While many are in shock at the increase of this number of injections compared to the years before, we must be aware that it is in fact hard to decipher how much exactly is being used for medical purposes versus how many teens are just using it to look more "refreshed." To be fair, some teens are using botox for medical reasons such as eye twitching or crossed eyes, which I think is valid, but other than that I find this trend troubling. The bottom line is that teens and women in their early twenties are getting a variety of different cosmetic surgeries to alter their appearance to feel better about themselves. I have friends who have gotten nose jobs, boob jobs, boob reductions, botox, lip injections, face fillers, extensions, teeth shaving and whitening, continuous fake tans, and much more. Yes, maybe it is because I live in Los Angeles that I know so many people who have gone to such extremes, but the fact is that its happening all over the country and will continue to happen as long as our society remains so image conscious. For my generation and those following me, plastic surgery is becoming common and accepted, and that is what truly scares me.

Parenting expert Michele Borba, said it perfectly in her blog when she told parents to reply to the request for botox with a hard and firm "no" but to also follow up with questions about what is at the root of their request. People get botox because they don't like the way they look and they think that they will be more popular of accepted if they get botox and change who they are. The fact that there are young teen girls that feel that they can ask for botox to cure their insecurities at school shows what a skewed society we live in.

When I was in elementary school I was first made fun of for my teeth. I always knew that I had a big smile and I was often told that it was one of my better qualities, but when this boy at school told me that I had "big fat beaver buck teeth" I was nothing but shocked by his comment and in turn, embarrassed of my smile. I of course cried after school that day and my mom sat me down to remind me that yes, my teeth were big and white, but that they were beautiful and they made me who I am. I can't say I went to school the next day flaunting my teeth, but after a few days I knew that that boy was just jealous and that my teeth were great. I bring up this story because I look back on it and think how insane it would have been if I came home crying after I was made fun of, and instead of my mother kindly talking my feelings through with me, she offered me botox to relax my lip to hide my teeth, or to take me to the dentist and have my teeth shaved down. Not only would I not have known what botox was at that age, but I think to myself, what kind of a message is that sending to your child?

In today's society, teens are so consumed with their looks and feel such a huge amount of pressure to look perfect and to look better than what they naturally look like. We as a society have reached an all time low by having teens using and requesting botox, which is paid for by their parents, who instead of encouraging their kids to love who they are, are paying for them to look better. When you agree to giving your child botox in the hopes that they wont be made fun of anymore, are you telling your son or daughter that they should change who they are to fit in? Are you telling them that when they are made fun of, they should change or get cosmetic surgery? I was always under the impression that we should build up young children and let them be whoever and whatever they want to be even if they get made fun of on the way. After all, it is the hard times as a developing young teen that make you the person you are.

My view: everyone will always be made fun of! There is nothing that you can do that will ensure that you or your child will never be teased or feel insecure again for as long as they live. If your child's smile is too gummy, their jaw too square, or they complain that they need botox to prevent them from aging, botox is not what they need and botox is not what will help them. What they need is supportive words and love to urge them to be the unique person that they are. Self-esteem is what is at the root of all of this. How do we as a society, and we as women, help to instill good self-esteem in young women today? This is a constant struggle and an ongoing conversation for girls and women as well as their parents. One way that I have found builds young girls self-esteem would be through school sports, school activities, service and various other activities that they can become passionate about. When a girl feels good from the inside out and she is preoccupied with something she has fun doing or that she has a passion for, she most likely won't have very much time for botox or let alone think about it. For me, having my first job at 15 working in a local retail shop, and being passionate about horseback riding, helped me build self-esteem.

Young people changing who they are to fit in is devastating and truthfully heartbreaking. Whether it is your weight, your size, or a physical characteristic you dislike, try not to focus on it being negative. In my new book, Rock What You've Got, I try to remind people that we are our own biggest critics. What we need to do is to find the positive in all of our so-called flaws and insecurities. When one learns to own and love what god gave them, that is when your true self shines. No needle or knife or pill will help you, whatever age you are, with your self doubts or your poor body image; self reflecting, self love and acceptance will get you to the place that you desire. It might take a little longer than a visit to the doctor's office, but it will be a lot less painful and lot better for you and your soul in the long run. As my mother always tells me: remember, there will always be someone prettier, taller, thinner, stronger, and smarter than you, so you should just focus on being the unique and beautiful person that you are. Life's not a competition, so let's stop competing and start living.