We’re in our 20s, or about to be, in the prime of our beauty, health, and college social life. We’re learning how to take care of ourselves, figuring out which jobs we might hope to have someday, and how to sort our meaningful friends from the not-so-meaningful pack. We’re learning more about who we are, and in turn, shaping ourselves from college students into young adults.
“This is the time of your life,” you might hear your parents and grandparents tell you. And yeah, it feels wonderful – but it doesn’t mean that we don’t face unique problems in this politically chaotic and digitally, socially skewed time period.
We’ve grown up with challenges no generation before us has experienced. The modernity of this decade brings unfamiliar complications to even the oldest of struggles. Drug reliance. Sexual harassment. Self-image. Exclusion from group texts. Cyber-Bullying.
And to take it even further, consider the added pressure we, specifically as young women, put on ourselves…
“Do your squats so you can get that thigh gap you always hoped for. Skip dinner so you can fit into your formal dress. Get a wax so you can be hairless. Get a manicure so you’ll look polished. And most importantly: be perfect.”
With that being said, I’d like to introduce you to an incredibly refreshing and riveting social platform that targets these very struggles.
I Want The Real is a blog that gives young people a voice to talk about issues that are often disregarded in society or swept under the rug. The website presents real interviews with college students (many of whom attend SMU) as they discuss their experiences with their deepest, most intimate struggles. Topics range across a wide array of difficulties many young people face today: bulimia, adderall/xanax/cocaine addiction, rape, divorce, and the list grows longer as new interviews are posted.
The mastermind behind it all? One of our very own mustangs, Dana Giles, senior at SMU.
I asked Giles what compelled her to create this strikingly raw platform where these taboo topics are illuminated.
“I have struggled with a lot, if not with most of the topics that are spoken about on the blog. But if you look at me, you probably wouldn’t think that. I am a white, blonde, 21-year-old sorority girl, yet, like everyone else, have faced many battles. I felt like throughout my life I’ve had to hide anything that I was wrestling with because I felt like society taught me to feel good and look good all the time,” she said.
In a world of Instagram perfection, it’s no secret we mask the tribulations of our lives behind images that portray our identities in the brightest, most glamorous light. We present the most beautiful, perfected versions of ourselves, unconsciously feeding into the cycle of competition girls feel with one another. Our moments of weakness are never exposed – the insecurity, the sadness, the emptiness. But no one would suspect such feelings could lie behind such a perfectly whitened smile.
“If you go on your Instagram feed, I guarantee you won’t find pictures of someone crying or saying that they feel depressed or anxious. We always put our best foot forward because we want to create a facade that nothing is wrong in our lives, when in reality that is completely untrue and feeds the problem,” she said.
Considering the immense digital landscape of today (full of beauty bloggers and fashion influencers), I was intrigued to know how and why Giles started such a drastically different kind of platform.
“Growing up, I was always told I was personable and could hold a conversation regardless of who it was. I never felt super passionate about beauty, makeup, or fashion really, but more passionate about human interaction & emotion. That’s where the interviewing came in.”
“I initially started interviewing people more on things like businesses they built… but always felt I was far more interested in things like asking them what they struggle with, or what advice they would give to their younger self. Over the next months, I would think about it all the time and wondered if there was some way I could create an interactive platform about topics that are considered taboo in society. That’s how I Want The Real really started,” Giles said.
Giles hopes the blog will make her readers feel “like they don’t have to hide or ashamed for feeling emotions other than happy all the time.”
She aims to get people talking about addiction, depression, and anxiety so those suffering won’t feel so alone in their struggle and the shame associated with their inner-afflictions will be a time of the past.
“I’m hoping that we could get to a point that when someone asks you how you are, people would feel comfortable being like ‘I actually feel a little anxious today’ or something of that matter. It’s not being negative, it’s just being real and genuine which is what this whole thing is about,” she said.
Clearly, Giles is a pioneer on the front of shattering the stigmas surrounding the difficulties that we all grapple with.
She is paving a fresh outlook on these issues, and I think I can speak for all of us when I thank her for taking a stance against the shame and secrecy we have all felt at some point in our lives.