Since I commute two hours daily to and from my high school, I spend more than my fair share of time listening to “top 40” songs on the radio. In the past, I have been relatively oblivious during the time I have spent jamming to songs during my carpool. That is, besides generic rappers declaring that a perfect birthday present consists of a “big booty ho”, or a song’s chorus chanting “ass ass ass ass” dozens of times with bass blasting in the background—songs which my friends and I openly disparage—I do not usually take much time to analyze pop music.
Last week, however, my friend finally posed an inevitable question as good ol’ boy band One Direction cooed: “You don’t know that you’re beautiful. That’s what makes you so beautiful,” out of the speakers of her car.
“What is it with all these male singers telling us that we’re more attractive when we’re insecure?” she sighed.
I’ll back up a little: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with men or women paying one another compliments to boost someone’s self-esteem.
Even insecurity itself I do not contest; we are all going through our own journeys, and if people need a reminder every once in a while of their outer or inner beauty, then I’m all for it.
That said, I believe the ultimate aim in the exchange of compliments is inspiration of genuine confidence.
That’s why I say, One Direction, I don’t need your pity. Scratch that—I want some more credit. It’s truly heartbreaking that so many young people don’t believe that they’re beautiful or worthy. But don’t stand there and tell millions of young women that it is this self-doubt that makes us deserving. It’s our character and our willingness to find the confidence to believe in ourselves that makes us—your target audience—truly laudable.
Bruno Mars, quit singing “her laugh, her laugh, she hates it but I think it’s so sexy.” I don’t need you to romanticize my insecurity for me to feel attractive.
Taylor Swift, stop assuring me that I need a man in my life to save me from my own feelings of self-doubt: I don’t need to be saved by a knight in shining armor; I only need to learn to love myself on my own through realizing my own individuality.
Rather than capitalizing on a culturally idealized notion of self-loathing, these millionaire pop stars should preach sincere self-acceptance. Advocate for us, your young consumers, to take intellectual risks, or reach out to others, or pursue our own passions to gain self-worth.
Because it’s not people’s insecurities that attract me to them—rather, it is their quest toward self-love and inner peace.
Rap group Atmosphere got it right in their song “She’s Enough”, as they declared, “She’s the one to put the kick in the drums, she’s the hot stove when the winter comes. She hits the run, she can lift a ton. She’s gonna stick to the job and get it done. She don’t ask why I adore.” Damn straight: that’s the role model I want.
Don’t assure me that despite my innermost fears, I am actually attractive; instead, tell me stories of strong, self-reliant women. And finally, show me someone who doesn’t care for your surface-level reassurances: I want to hear from women who have the guts to already know you adore them. That’s what makes them beautiful.
Haley Zovickian is a Bay Area high school senior who loves reading, hiking, and the body-positive movement.