According to the Mental Health Foundation 35% of teenagers worry about their body image often or every day, while 37 per cent of teenagers feel upset and ashamed about their body image.
Growing up was always a challenge but social media has made it worse. If the miseries inflicted by comments from other people weren’t bad enough there is now daily dose of Tik Tok with people who seem to be so much happier, more confident and successful. We know most young people are dealing with this on their own own, making it up as they go along.
In the hands of a performing arts teacher this problem is made imaginary so they are not being themselves. This gives them permission to lose themselves and explore being someone else through acting, dancing and singing. Everyone is going through the same point in their life so if it’s a safe place they are more likely to be empathetic with each other.
I once asked a group to imagine I was a 14-year-old and before their eyes I became a complete nerd even affecting a rather strange voice. Acting shyly with a quiet voice I told them I seemed to be the only one in the class who didn’t have a friend and could they help me? Under their instruction I role-played being successful but I deliberately struggled with what they asked me to do. They loved giving me the benefit of their wisdom. The room became electric as more and more people chipped in with suggestions for how to hang around people and get into a conversation. At one stage removed I was able to incorporate things I thought were barriers to friendship.
It was so successful they clamoured for me to return to this character in later classes, eventually reaching the point where my character plucked up the courage to ask a girl for a date. The huge number of time outs they called meant this moment was very carefully choreographed by the whole group.
By being hopelessly out of my depth everyone in the room was at a higher level of knowledge and maybe that gave them reassurance. The thing I remember most is that they connected so strongly with my character and what happened to him.
Underneath most people is compassion and sympathy. In a world that revers celebrities who often seem shallow and self-absorbed it’s lovely to know young people can also want to help a role model who seems so lost.