By: Elizabeth Kesses
When I was a kid and teen, I was bullied mercilessly. My pigtail was pulled, my knickers pinged and all sorts of names were etched on my wooden desk. I was tied to trees, sent to coventry and at 18, I couldn't wait to leave school and never see those horrid cows again.
But the wounds remained, the constant feeling that I was never pretty enough, that no one liked me and that I would never be one of the cool crowd.
But today the situation is a gazillion times worse. Before, bullying happened to me in my school and that was it. Now it has gone viral. It is mass torture, global humiliation. Being called a nasty nickname is one thing, having it plastered over your wall for hundreds of friends to see is another. Or having all your friends slowly "unfriend" you must be one of the most isolating cyber experiences. I recently saw a video of two girls pretending that they were in some form of top model show and voted who is beautiful and who isn't in their class.
But the worst bullies are now the anonymous ones -- the cowards whose words uttered from the safety of their bedrooms have driven teens to take their lives.
It is not just kids behaving badly adults are responsible too. Journalists, beauty marketers and fashion houses crush young girls every day with their perfect beauty icons, skinny models, cosmetically enhanced superstars and digitally enhanced photo shoots. The recent one of Beyonce shrunk to a size 6 version of herself as a case in point. Only Dove has stood apart with their campaign for real inner-beauty. But they are lone voices.
We have talked about generation X and Y in the past, but what of tomorrow's generation? Will they be defined as Generation L -- "Lost"? Materially richer than ever before, more technologically savvy but with the heaviest hearts.
A few days ago Christina Huffington bravely spoke out for the first time about her cocaine addiction, that had come from anxiety and low-esteem. She proved that even the rich and famous can feel unworthy or unlikeable.
No one is safe anymore from this modern day disease of self-doubt and at times, loathing.
It is high time we put a stop to all of this. I am not sure how, but I know that teens need our help. We all need to reach out in whatever way we can. My contribution is personal experience.
When I was little I would dream of disappearing to another magic world, to a boarding school where the children were nice to me.
I had forgotten about that dream till two years ago when I was at a cafe and on a nearby table was the spitting image of me at age 12. She had the same fuzzy hair, Mr. Macgoo glasses and buck teeth. She was an ugly little girl just like I was.
That very day I began writing a story about her miserable life and how at night she escaped to a night school -- Oddbods -- for misfits like herself. I have just finished my third book.
It's a childlike dream of how it could be.
It's not an answer but it is a companion, a friend, a light in the dark. So that you feel less alone, for so many of us go through the same agony.
It's time for schools to build confidence as well as brains, for parents to talk about these issues instead of worrying over the symptoms, whether it is alcohol, anorexia or drug addiction. For us writers and artists to use our skills to connect with children. This is a crisis of self-esteem -- of a basic human value -- and we cannot ignore it any longer.