Murphy Ryan, Reporter

“The world has slowed so you can rediscover yourself.”

Six months ago, the world shut down. Normal life quickly became unfamiliar, like not going to school, going out to eat, or even buying toilet paper. This pandemic has been a whirlwind of emotion for everyone. Months of confinement at home were certainly not easy. Low self-esteem occurs when a person does not connect with others or themselves. It can also happen when things that make a person confident, like doing well in school or athletics, go away. 

Twenty girls from Waterford High School who changed their appearance at home, whether it was dying their hair or revamping their styles, answered questions about how they viewed themselves during the quarantine. The questions were only sent to individuals who did change their appearance throughout the pandemic to see if there were constant patterns of self-doubt. Did school shutting down leave the students unmotivated? Did no social events leave the students feeling insecure? Though everyone went through a scary pandemic, it is important to recognize and validate various emotions and reactions that have come from it. 

Each participant found herself online shopping and envisioning “what could be” clothes to wear. Wanting society to change matched up with the feelings they owned of wanting themselves to change. In the past six months in the US, Walmart sales of hair coloring products are up 23% from the same time last year. The most popular hair dye color of this select group of girls was blonde. Alicia Sanders, senior, said that dying her hair lighter made her eager for summer and plans to come back. A junior’s statement was for a different reason, simply that they were tired of sitting in bed on calls all day with the same hair color. It was no coincidence that online shopping for events and dying hair in the bathroom occurred for all of these students. The common reason for a change of appearance was merely the pandemic. The pandemic did change self-image. When looking at the new clothes aspect, online shopping was a gateway to play “pretend”, according to senior, Tallah Ryan. Ryan stated, “I was waiting for summer because that felt like the end to staying at home and being bored. My friends and I bought so many bikinis on Aerie just waiting to be able to go to the beach.” This statement among all others shares the same key value. Nobody asked to not be able to leave their homes. For most, the crucial part of being a teenage girl is social time and self- expression. When that was temporarily taken away, the need for positive reinforcement had to be found in other ways, the reason behind the want for new hair and clothes. On a positive note, as life started going back to normal, all participants felt a surge of confidence come back as restaurants, schools, and activities re-opened. Recognizing this pattern again, it is clear that self-image depends on society. A bad environment leads to low confidence, and a positive environment brings higher confidence. 

Pankhudi Gupta, senior at Waterford High School, explained, “It was actually very hard for me to socialize because school is really the only place I talked to most people. But I realized how important it was to make sure I was okay and not only my friends. I needed to ensure that all the decisions I made were right for me and then the people around me.” Pankhudi, along with other participants, included that focusing on self-care, like more exercise and eating right, made time to themselves much easier. While that was not the case for everyone, the outlook that good things came out of a scary situation is the pinnacle point of this self-discovery report. Another senior, Natalia Garofalo- Iberico, shared, “This gave me the opportunity to see what I wanted to become and fix things I did not like. Sometimes social media can make me feel pressured to be a certain way, but over quarantine, I found out more about myself based on outfits and future settings I envision myself in.” A person’s mindset is more powerful than their situation. Every single person in this case scenario, whether they struggled with self-image or not, got through it. Dying their hair, buying new clothes, wishing things would come back, and not feeling confident were all valid. Not only that but the girls who gained confidence as well as cleared their headspace, were all valid as well. Talking about what students went through and acknowledging it can and will make a difference as this pandemic continues. No matter what happened with their confidence, it is the reflection that is most important in growing as a person. 

School, sports, and activities have rushed back into student lives, and sometimes it is easy to push things in the past, but the conversation should keep going. What did you have to learn, how did staying home affect the way you felt about yourself, and do we even feel back to “normal” yet? No one is alone in this situation in time.