Fishing for approval

I have to admit I was eavesdropping.It was in the Marché and a group of girls were sitting in a circle picking at their salads with very little dressing. The topic of the day, probably also the topic of the past few days and most certainly the topic of the next few, was the impending warm weather.In case you didn’t know, warm weather means playing outside, skipping class for a snooze on the green and the possible- maybe?-suntan.Warm weather also means shorts. Shorts mean showing skin. And with every additional inch of skin shown means a thousand more body insecurities for these four girls.As the girls went around their dinner circle complaining about each and every part of their body, a thought hit me. They were putting themselves down just to hear their friends bring them back up.I wanted to scream. “So you think you’re pretty? So you think you’re skinny? So you think you’re funny?”Or do you just want other people to tell you that you are pretty, skinny and funny?Listening to their conversation, I could literally see each girl stringing a minnow onto a large hook, casting a long fishing line deep into the lake and reeling in expectantly. But it didn’t look like the fish were hungry, or if they were, they certainly weren’t biting.We all have the tendency to focus on our flaws and among close friends, we tend to publicize these feelings of inadequacy.But if we know that we’re pretty, skinny and funny-obviously, the three most important characteristics in a person-then why do we insist on hearing it from others?What makes us feel like we have to prompt compliments, that they won’t just come on their own? And how bad do we feel when we realize that our fishing is so obvious?Because there’s something very different about looking in the mirror alone and thinking, “Alright, I look presentable and maybe even a little attractive,” and having a friend or member of the opposite sex checking you out and muttering “Dayuummmm” under his or her breath.There’s no doubt that these feelings go way deeper than the cellulite mentioned by one of the girls at the Marché.I wonder if this is a symptom of a larger cultural issue, one where feelings of inadequacy, selfquestioning and helplessness seem to typify our generation’s attitudes towards ourselves.Regardless, these feelings don’t just plague the bodyconscious, superficial or stupid. In fact, they seem to affect all people despite their weight, eye color or intelligence.Maybe the best way to brush off these feelings – emotions that generally don’t serve any positive function – is through humor. A little joke and a crack at self-deprecation can go a long way. Then eventually, our generationwill blossom into confident, successful and powerful people that don’t need the constant verbal shoulder-slapping.In the meantime, let’s just vow to hand compliments out like candy on Halloween – you get it regardless of how or if you ask. Hopefully it will start with those girls from the Marché.