Our series of articles written by my patients continues this month with a letter from a young woman in her early teens. The pressure on teens today to gain approval through social media is huge and has real effects on their emotional and mental states. The reasons vary but essentially kids “sext” to gain approval, to flirt, as a joke, or peer pressure.
Sadly, about 20% of our young teens have sexted and perhaps surprisingly, more girls sext more often than boys! The consequences include social humiliation, mental health issues, cyber bullying, legal implications, and long-term damage because these pics + messages can hang around for years after the fact.
My 8th grade year was the worst year of my life. I feel physically sick when I just think about it. I hated my life, myself, and wanted to disappear. I did not want to exist. I didn’t want to kill myself – I wanted to just either move away and erase a horrible thing that happened, or somehow go back in time and erase the stupid choice I made that led me to a terrifying dark place.
A Slow Gradual Series of Events
This choice was not an impulsive decision. Looking back now, this choice came after a slow gradual series of events. I began crushing on a guy at school. He was hot, funny, in the popular friend group, an athlete, and all the parents and teachers loved him. He’s the guy who all of my friends wanted to date. One day he Snapped me and I was super excited! We began talking via Snapchat several times a day. He even asked me to hang out with his friend group a couple of times. Our communication increased to talking until late at night. I REALLY liked him. I started making up lots of stories in my head about dating him, going to prom, and all the stuff girls my age dream of.
A Terrible Choice
The relationship began with simple flirting. Then, talking a lot. But it ended abruptly when I made the choice to do something I felt was right at the time…
Long story short, the stupid choice I made was to send him nudes of me. Of course, he was very subtle in asking but definitely made me feel like it was OK. From there, the photos were forwarded to his friends, they felt the need to send them to other people, and so on and so on until they became viral. Well, viral in my world anyways.
My mom was told by another mom, and the pics were sent to my parents! I couldn’t find the words to even try to explain any of this to my mom and dad. All I remember, beyond my own humiliation, is the look on their faces and the disappointment I had caused them.
My life STOPPED. My parents took my phone, and of course looked at every single thing on it. I was not allowed to talk to any of my friends. I had to stay home, except for soccer and school. I knew my team had seen or heard about the pictures. I assumed the teachers, and every adult at the school had heard about these pictures or even worse, seen them. I hated myself and my life.
Own My Part
Embarrassed, humiliated, ashamed, and miserable I had to live the next several months suffering from my own stupidity, actually believing the guy and I were dating and this would only bring us closer. Geeze, how blind I was then! I hated him and blamed him when this all was going on. I have since realized it was not him, it was me. Imade the choice to take and send the photos. Imade the choice to live in some kind of fantasy world I had created in my mind. Imade the choice to accept his words and gestures and to believe what I wanted to believe.
I lost a lot my during my 8th grade year. More than I can possibly put into words. Disrespecting and humiliating myself in a way that can never be erased. However, I gained some important things despite the nightmare I caused. Today I’ve learned I need to be accountable for my ACTIONS and my WORDS. As I grow daily in embracing my own self-respect I have become much less of a “victim” and try to blame other people for my situation.
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CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
Empowering individuals, families and communities to grow and heal through advanced approaches in Creative Arts Therapy, setting the standard for treatment, practice and training within the field.