Many teen girls experience inexpressible, distressing emotional issues and act out. Through an outward expression of an inward problem, a teenage girl attempts to eradicate her hurtful, angry feelings and cries out for the help she so desperately craves. Sometimes the cry emerges in the form of a defiant attitude, a rebellious new “look,” an eating disorder or another unhealthy practice. When we realize that the behavior is not the root of the problem but merely a symptom of a deeper issue, we can unlock a solution. Janelle’s story illustrates a teen perspective on acting out.
From the outside, Janelle seemed like a successful teenage girl who had it all: a happy home, an education at a private school and a spot on the cheerleading squad. Janelle was average in height and weight although it had taken some years for her to lose her baby fat and begin to develop the subtle curves that she now displayed. Janelle made good grades and seemed well adjusted.
Then, out of the blue, Janelle started to withdraw socially, her grades began to plummet, and she developed an angry, defiant attitude. Janelle, who previously opted for a natural look with very little make-up, now wore dark make-up nearly black lipstick and heavy eye shadow and liner. Despite the pleas of her parents to “lighten things up a bit,” Janelle continued with the new look, adding many black pieces to her wardrobe as well. When asked to explain, Janelle either lashed out or began sobbing uncontrollably. At a loss for her unpredictable behavior, Janelle’s parents supported, corrected and finally sought help from a counselor.
Janelle, now working to accept and love herself, offers insight into the world that puzzled her parents. She clearly explains the thoughts that previously held her hostage. Janelle shares that her problems began early in life when she decided that she would never be “beautiful.” Instead of long, straight hair, Janelle’s unruly curls stuck out everywhere. Her body was not slender like most of the other girls at school and definitely not lean and athletic like her sister’s. In a world consumed with physical appearance, Janelle felt little value. Junior high magnified the problem and joining the cheer squad only added more pressure. A snide remark by a male classmate about her legs only confirmed Janelle’s fears.
Janelle, blinded to her own true beauty, hid behind the dark make-up so that people wouldn’t focus on her body. To look slimmer, she wore the black clothes. In addition, the color reflected how she felt inside — hopeless. Reluctant to share her feelings with her parents, Janelle assumed they would not understand. Guilt ate at her for suffering unhappiness when her parents had given her a good life. When Janelle could no longer bury her inner turmoil, sharing her feelings saved her from the many lies she had believed and placed her on the road to healing.