Just a quote from a famous fairy tale? Think again.
Maybe this fairytale isn't merely a load of creative babble to keep the children from crawling up the walls, attempting to light ants on fire with magnifying glasses and nagging you to buy a pet gerbil after all? Maybe these dull echoes from a story we once knew are rather a truer reflection of the heartache of our culture than we ever thought?
An odd thought, yes, but I suggest that if we look at this mirror for but an instant that we will see the reflection of a struggle embedded deep in the heart of modern society that demands the question "What are we doing about it?"
A quick Google search of the question "Am I Ugly?" may help you understand where I am coming from. What appears are 501,000,000 search results.
Leading the list is reddit.com's forum "Am I Ugly?" A forum where people can post a picture of themselves and have fellow 'Redditors' write to tell you what they think about your picture. The idea is simple: if you are 16 or older you just need to submit your age and gender and some non-nude photos of yourself. The photo is then opened to comments by the 35,000 strong community of Redditors who follow the "Am I Ugly?" forum.
Interestingly, users are advised that this is not a sympathy forum and are directed to /r/mmfb (Make Me Feel Better Forum) if this is what they seek; /r/amiugly (Am I Ugly Forum) is rather designed simply for honest feedback on whether one is attractive or not.
Sounds to me, a lot like a modern day Mirror Mirror.
Two Worlds Collide
So apparently is wasn't just the evil witch in Snow White who asked this question.
In fact, some research was done into this Reddit Forum to find out who was in fact asking this question, at least in this arena. The observations of a sample of 1000 /r/amiugly users was remarkably unexpected:
- 4 out of 5 people who submitted photos were men.
- The average age of people who submit photos are 19 if they are male and 18 if they are female.
- The oldest male to post a photo on this forum was 38 and the oldest female was 35, whilst the youngest male and female were both 16.
- Interestingly, most of the photos that were uploaded were deemed to range from average – extremely attractive in their appearance.
So this familiar question is apparently not just the quote of an old and musty tale but is the question on the lips of both males and females at least over an age bracket of 16-38 in our world today.
Breaking the Glass
The question is, if the evil witch in Snow White is not just a fictional loose unit but is rather a pronounced reflection of the universal body image insecurity that a quick Google search attests to, what are we doing about it?
I don't necessarily have the answers but I am confident that it needs to be on our radars. If this question is present in both children's literature and websites frequented by people up to 38 years old who are we letting answer it? I suggest that letting this question be buried in childhood stories on the lips of psychotic characters or answered by the 35,000 strong community of /r/amiugly users who are also struggling with their appearance is not the answer.
Rather, I suggest that we need to learn to use our voices to teach children that they are beautiful and have great worth and learn to build people up with words of encouragement about who they are and how they look. Whilst it might seem foreign, I feel that the key to breaking the epidemic of cries resounding this question is found in Christians learning to speak out the truth found in the words of David, that every human being is 'fearfully and wonderfully made' [Psalm 139 verse 14].
Together, we can shatter distorted self-perceptions and resound God's perception of people.
Let's not let desperate cries for approval go unheard but learn to speak words of life into the world we inhabit and into the lives of the people who surround us. And every time you look in the mirror remember that you are made not only by God, but also in the image of God ('Let us make mankind in our image' [Genesis 1 verse 26a]).
Charlotte (Charley) works in youth ministry and is studying a Bachelor of Theology at a bible college in Melbourne. Charley enjoys writing children's stories, playing guitar and dreaming the impossible.
Charley Goiris' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/charley-goiris.html