Growing up in the 21st Century, in a stereotypically Indian society, has taught me one thing: having the talk with your family members can be hard. Whether the talk you are having is about rape, sexual assault, social media, drugs, porn and/or the problem body image, one thing is for sure, it’s time we start educating ourselves better when it comes to these topics.
The RAP Project recently came into my school to do just this. They made a safe environment for young girls and boys to learn, share and talk about problems and issues that any regular teenager might face. It’s been a few weeks since Allison visited Garden International School, Malaysia, raising awareness and educating teenagers about sexual activities, body image issues, college life, gap years, misuses of Rohypnol and peer pressure.
I was present at three of her major talks – Social Skills for Life, Body Image and The Big Leap, all raising questions about personal safety and providing open group discussions on how porn and social media can impact a teenager in a negative way, for example, the way you perceive yourself (body image) and self – esteem. Personally, these talks have raised an abundance of thoughts and concerns surrounding why as teenagers we act the way we do. We’re not just going through adolescence, I have realised, there are so many other factors and pressures that impact us.
Malaysia is more of a liberal Muslim country due the boost in culture diversity. Nevertheless, the countryside is still more conservative than the cities. That does not mean, however, that problems such as rape, sexual assault, alcohol abuse and body image do not exist here. Young girls and boys still suffer. Although Pornhub is restricted and the drinking age is 21 and, yes, there is a death penalty for drug trafficking, of course there’s always a loophole. With almost 20 years into the 21 century, we’ve advanced so much in technology that VPNs can be used to unblock restricted sites and fake IDs basically rule our generation.
I’ve never asked anyone if they’re insecure about their body, but I’m aware that young men and women here find it challenging not to compare themselves to unrealistic body ideals. As a result these individuals suffer depression, anxiety and anger purely because they are not meeting the standards of models such as Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid. I stand about 168cm tall, with a figure of 32 – 25 – 34 and I hate to admit this, but I’m still ashamed of how my body looks. Some people think I’m beautiful because I’m slim. Some even think I’m anorexic. To me, although I’m ashamed of how my body looks, I don’t let this insecurity get in the way of my success. Instead, I consider it as my strength, it drives me to work harder in life. I go to the gym and play basketball to be fit and active, not to make myself look like Bella Hadid.
Life is precious, and time is valuable, and everything that you do should be meaningful and on purpose. RAP’s education is important as it not only spreads awareness, it also helps you stand up for what’s right and what’s wrong and lastly, it creates empowerment.
So, if you are experiencing any issues or share any of the concerns I’m writing about, please talk to a trusted adult, friend or even a counsellor, because it’s always better to educate ourselves on these issues, before reality hits us. Either resolve the difficult talk issue or wait for negative things to happen and face serious consequences. You choose.