Saturday, March 21, 2015

Today I watched the Australian film, In Her Skin. The film is based on the real life crime novel, Perfect Victim by Elizabeth Southall and Megan Norris. Southall is the pen name of Elizabeth Barber. In March of 1999, Barber's fifteen year old daughter Rachel disappeared after leaving her dance class. Local police did little to help find Rachel in the beginning, believing the young girl to be a runaway. Tragically it turned out the Rachel was murdered by her neighbor, Caroline Reed Robertson. Caroline was a very troubled young woman who saw herself as ugly and unloved. She was incredibly jealous of Rachel's beauty, and the life she wanted for herself.

Watching the film I couldn't help but think of how much pressure society puts on young girl's today. Media images show the popular girls as being thin, beautiful, dressed in the latest fashions. Models, musicians, movie stars - the majority of them are paper thin wisps that look like a strong wind could blow them down. Thanks to digital imaging every blemish, wrinkle, and even a few extra pounds can be removed with the swipe of a mouse. Females today are expected to live up to standards that are impossible to achieve. Its all very disturbing.

Now Caroline may be an extreme example of what the pressures to be perfect can do to a young woman. Caroline obviously had mental issues that went far and beyond the norm. But their are many girls out there, who like Caroline, feel completely alone in the world because they do not fit the perfect mold. They are bullied and made fun of. They have few friends, if any, and no one they feel they can confide in. School is often a living hell. In many ways I can empathize with Caroline. I never belonged to any of the high school cliques. I wasn't popular. My family couldn't afford the hottest clothes. Even with the few I called real friends, I always felt like an outsider looking in.

Until we lower the pressures and expectations we put on young girls to be thin, and pretty, and popular, we will continue to create more Carolines. We need to teach women and girls to be comfortable in their own skin, and to celebrate the differences that make each of us unique. It is a tough thing to do. I'm in the second half of life and still struggling to accept who I am. I have four beautiful granddaughters now, two of them in their teens. I see and hear the bullying and petty jealousy they are dealing with. I've heard them making negative comments about their own bodies. And that hurts. I want them to know they are both beautiful in so many ways, inside and out. I want my granddaughters to grow up secure in themselves, and in their own skin.