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March 3rd, 2012
06:00 AM ET

On YouTube, teens ask the world: Am I ugly?

By  Sari Zeidler, CNN

(CNN) Am I ugly?

It’s a question teens have been asking their reflections in bathroom mirrors for decades. But with the prevalence of web cams and the increasing Internet know-how of today’s youth, the already complicated inner-world of teenage angst and self-doubt has taken a not-so-pretty turn outwards.

Videos asking that painful question have cropped up all over YouTube.

Adolescents, possibly as young as 11, are taking to the web and asking the world to weigh in on their appearance.  From supportive messages to the plain pervy, the responses run the gamut.  Comments provoked by these videos offer an interesting cross-section of the American psyche–and it's all painfully punctuated by images of America’s youth searching for approval.

In a video titled “Am I ugly or pretty? Please Let me know!” one young YouTube user says: “Hey guys, this is my first video…but before I post any more videos making a fool of myself, and I know there’s hundreds of videos like this…I just wanna know, am I pretty or ugly?  Cuz at school I get called ugly all the time.”

Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist specializing in treating teens and author of the blog, Talking Teenage, and the best-selling “Teenage as a Second Language: Teaching Parents To Become Bilingual,” says the trend is a symptom of an “unwritten social rule among women.”

“We’re taught to be demure and self effacing,” says Greenberg. “It’s socially inappropriate for a woman to say they feel good about their body.”

Add to that the contagious nature of teenage trends, the feeling of anonymity that accompanies people’s online behavior and the “parenting fail” of insufficient supervision, and Greenberg says you have a “recipe for disaster” for teenage girls.

“They’re very young, very naïve and very unaware of the fact they’re prompting a stream of vicious attacks,” Greenberg says of “Am I Ugly” posters adding this raises the risk for eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder and lowered self esteem.

Comedienne, blogger and self-proclaimed voice of “vigilante feminism,” Margaret Cho has been outspoken about overcoming her own body issues.

In a post on her website, she told teens to take the videos down: "You don’t need people to tell you how beautiful you are on there. You don’t need to put yourself in the position to be judged that way. You are better than that and you deserve the very best in life."

“I’m trying to reach out to young people through blogging, through my standup comedy and let them know that they’re perfect the way they are,” Cho recently told CNN. “I don’t want them to wait ‘til they’re mid-40s to realize it, because you waste your whole life thinking that there’s something wrong with you.”

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Filed under: Age • Gender • How we look • Women
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Deseestiday

    Regrettably for its people, these drugs include undesirable aspect consequences which will harm you even worse than high blood pressure itself. check it out Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) retain calcium from moving into the muscle cells of one's heart and blood vessels. In 1988 scientists set out to prove Dahl's "salt hypothesis" together with the major review ever within the correlation amongst salt consumption and hypertension.

    November 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Josephine

    Imagine you are born with a disfigured face and you were shunned from society. Do not any of you understand how cruel and hurtful the term "ugly" is? Besides, media's definition isn't spot on. My great aunt was 5 feet 12 inches, 105 pounds with fair skin, dark, beautiful curly locks and amazing green eyes. My mother inherited my great aunt's face but her mother's height so she is 5 feet two inches with a very small frame. Nevertheless, my mother is a very beautiful woman and I am not being biased. I see models on posters every day and my mother's face shares the same angular, chiseled features as their own. I am not sure about my own looks but people say I am going to turn out to look exactly like my mom when I am in my late teens. Anyway, the point is that looks don't really matter and most of it is genetic, not something we earn.

    October 14, 2012 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. Esquire

    Wow!! The level of English used in these comments causes me to get sick to my stomach...

    July 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bob a in cali

    wow. hateful much?

    July 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Duran

    Going on youtube and asking a question like that? You're asking for it. You're asking for ridicule. The internet, especially youtube, is not going to coddle these people. They would even call a very pretty person ugly if they can detect even the smallest bit of doubt. Because, and in most cases, only because it'll be funny.

    March 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Angelina

    Beauty and attractiveness will always be debated you just have to know who you are what you stand for. If you love yourself you will make others see and love YOU .I know that is such an old line but hey, it's true.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Waterstar

    The internet is by far the worse place to ask those kind of questions. The internet is known to cause harm just for kicks. Leave those questions to be asked by classmates, you won't have some 19 year old trying to hurt your feelings or anger you just so they can have fun. I never got that anyways though... why cause anger for fun, doesn't make sense to me.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Stephanie

    Wow, look at all these comments. Respect is the key to beauty because without it, how will you learn to like a person when you're just looking for something to hate? Haters will always hate, you just got to deal with it.

    "If they don't see your beauty inside and out, I promise you someone will."
    With Love, Steph (; P.s You're beautiful.

    March 15, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Stephanie

    I am an 17 year old girl and yes, i can admit i am not satisfied with my body or look. I get up to school and i have to put makeup on before i leave or else it just makes me feel unhappy. But, then i thought about it and said, If you're beautiful in the inside, the outside will also show how beautiful you truely are. You are beautiful, no matter what people say because they don't know the real you before they start judging. Now, i go to school without make up happy and realizing that yur beautiful inside and out. Love, Steph (;

    March 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JOSE0311USMC

    WANT TO KNOW IF YOU ARE UGLY ?? WANT AN HONEST OPINION ? IF YES I'M THE PERSON THAT WILL NOT LIE TO YOU. ...

    March 12, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Olivia

      Define "ugly" and we'll talk.

      March 15, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    Margaret your a beautiful woman but sadly your as funny as Christmas at an orphanage.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. George

    Saw Margaret Cho exiting a taxi and dashing up the stairs at KRON on Van Ness a couple of days after the '89 quake. Absolutely beautiful legs...

    March 4, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      Ah, a 1989 Margaret Cho sighting. Thanks for that timely anecdote!

      March 15, 2012 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  13. Patiat

    Does Margaret Cho really think she's going to reach America's teens through her website and her stand-up act? Maybe if she created an "Am I attractive" video that teens would see among all the others on YouTube, she'd reach them, but I can pretty much guarantee that 17 year old girls aren't visiting Cho's website with any great frequency.

    March 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Emmanuel

    I think im ugly please follow my story at breakuphotel.wordpress.com share your story and pass along please

    March 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ann west

    🔴 It's a very BAD idea to ask the public if your ugly. Why?
    1. Most people will say your ugly , just be be evil.
    2. Most people ARE ugly and that's why beauty is so prized.
    3. There is a small benefit to being ugly, at least you know people like you for your personality or inner beauty, unlike Beautiful or Rich people who are plagued by cling-ons.

    March 3, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • ben weiser

      lovin #3! yessss

      March 3, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pattysboi

      Nobody is "ugly". Beauty comes from within. You would do well to realize that, and grow UP.

      March 4, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
      • JOSE0311USMC

        YOU ARE NOT BEING HONEST.

        March 12, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Timothy M

      Re: #3: Or plagued by Klingons.

      March 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • derp

      Or Romulans

      March 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marla

      You've summed it up nicely. Although we're all beautiful, not everyone is "conventionally attractive" which is what is generally meant by the term beauty. When a term of attractiveness encompasses the masses, average, not beautiful applies.

      March 13, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  16. edvhou812

    That's common sense. Asking that will only result in trolls berating the girl.

    March 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Brenda Baran

    Margaret Cho is smart, funny and cute...Cho for President!

    March 3, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      She's gay, she's disqualified

      March 3, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  18. JesusIsLord

    You are one of a kind of God's creation, there never ever will be like one you or ever was,..just like each snowflake God creates.

    March 3, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      That's true. Who is that taught you to hate yourself from your head to your toes?

      March 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dduke

      God?? Who's that

      March 4, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Sender

    Margaret Cho needs to post a youtube video asking "Am I Funny". I would love to see the responses!!

    March 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Tracy

    The concept of beauty fascinates me....All babies – including Alligators- have a cuteness...it is for survival..We are programmed to react positively to "cuteness" As we grow up, youth continues to have "charm" This is why unintelligent youth is given so much credit... again...programming probably having to do with reproduction. People with shallow bends are quite happy to just live within this programming. but once you take a step back and realize that you are just reacting to brian chemistry, you can start having connections with something other than animal instinct.

    March 3, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • penbooty

      I'm sorry. did you say something? I didn't think so

      March 3, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
      • Tracy

        actually, I did.

        March 3, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
      • Markus

        A clear example of such.

        March 3, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • penbooty

        Yeah Marcus, I didn't think Tracy said anything either. Glad you agree

        March 3, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Chris from Iowa

    Margaret Cho is beautiful!

    March 3, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • penbooty

      Margret Cho is an insecure pig. Just look how badly she overreacted to the harmless Miley Cyrus gag. She definitely has security issues

      March 3, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
      • Tracy

        She didn't overreact.

        March 3, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  22. TODAY

    YES, YOU ARE....

    March 3, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Being pretty is both a mental and physical condition.
      Even skin tone
      Wearing your clothes properly
      Being mature and confident But that does not mean all the time.
      Able to share weakness with your friends .
      Most women want me and my body until they saw i drive a honda element

      March 3, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
      • Markus

        Makeup. The problem is that people compare themselves to TV personalities whose job is just that, put a show. If you've seen the big stars w/o makeup you will know what I mean. Of course there are naturally beautiful people. Guys are as beautiful as their pockets are.

        March 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  23. woodrow

    Beauty is a feeling. Nothing more, nothing less. It is most often affected by expression.

    March 3, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  24. HotHunk

    Wake up ALL Women and Know this: BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER!! (Scream intentional) It's who you are as a person that makes you Beautiful.. This is a by product of corporations numbing our children's senses of self in order to make a profit! This is the true crime here...

    March 3, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Markus

      Beauty is in the pockets of the beholded too.

      March 3, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      Agreed ! Beauty hurts.

      March 15, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Beam

    There are tons and tons of haters on youtube that seem to enjoy hurting others...so yea, that is THE worse place to ask this question. They can be extremely vile and nasty in their comments. :( Its horrible to see. Its a mentality I don't understand at all. Its just sickening. :(

    March 3, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • sandz

      Agreed. People will say mean things because there is no accountability at all. Don't do it. Even movie stars and models get blasted and they aren't even asking.

      March 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • penbooty

      It's called self loathing. It's not very difficult to figure out

      March 3, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Say What

    The point is that these kids are too naive to realize that most of the replies and judgments that will be posted will be from either Internet trolls who hide out anonymously to shock and degrade or various strangers who opinions ultimately mean nothing in the life of these teenagers seeking approval.

    Oh how wonderful it would be if we could make teens understand that 99% of the superficial bull that they are concerned with will mean absolutely nothing in years to come.

    March 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  27. reliable

    Wow, somebody cares what Margaret Cho says? Any one see the MTV show she did? How about the episode where she has an abortion and laughs and makes jokes the whole way through it? I bet you could find it if you looked for it on youtube. Watch it first and then see if you want to listen to one word or opinion she has.

    March 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      You are the problem.

      March 3, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • DidMyResearch

      Margaret Cho frequently shocks me beyond what I thought was possible at my age.

      And I keep going back for more because she is so intelligent, her perspective so unique, her courage so huge.

      Sorry your brain is too small to accommodate someone that different from you or me. Sad for you.

      March 3, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tracy

      I care what Margarete Cho says.

      March 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Cho is a gay immoral freak

      March 3, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
      • Mike

        And Kirk Cameron is a creepy washed up actor

        March 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • ben weiser

      i like margaret cho. my gf likes margaret cho. alot of people like her. and hell, even you care what she says. otherwise why would you respond?

      March 3, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Linda

    It's been my experience that people will tell you you're fat, ugly, short (like we can help that!) and or stupid just to hurt you–even people who in theory are supposed to love you–like your parents, etc. I think the judgment of the viewer will depend on the viewer's mood at the time so it's very risky to put yourself out there and ask whether your're ugly or pretty–and I guess boys are included so it would be ugly or handsome. I'm short, fat, freckled and redheaded so I've been called just about everything but pretty by people who weren't very good looking themselves.

    March 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Zosh

    All teenagers go through that awkward stage and are self conscious about their looks, some lucky teens have extraordinary good looks due to the right genetic combination. Everyone must strive for that comfortable space by focusing on what you like about yourself and not forcusing on what you don't. Granted looks do open doors for some people,but you still have to perform. All of us will change as we grow older and some of those people will loose their looks than what. You have to focus on whats out there and how you can become a better person inside. Yes we live in a shallow society, that is how they make money by making us buy their products so we can feel good about ourselves which is self defeating

    March 3, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Markus

      So true. The funny thing is that the most beautiful people are the most insecure and with low self-esteem. The wonder why people love them, because how beautiful are in the exterior or how they are inside. It could be a curse.

      March 3, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Descartes

    What is beautiful and what is ugly anyway?

    March 3, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Joann

    When I was 14, a senior boy told me that I had "the biggest hands he had ever seen on a girl." Forty-six years later, I still remember it every time I buy a pair of gloves. Silly, but what does that say for our self-esteem at that age?

    March 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Ugly mofo

    And the other answer is that unfortunately whether someone ever finds you attractive will never really bring you satisfaction or happiness in life. Learn to love yourself and have a positive self-image, and what other people think can only make you happier, but not happy.

    March 3, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  33. tony

    Become beautiful by doing nice things for others and yourself. The lovely smile will gradually take over your face and somebody really special will fall in love with you.

    March 3, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  34. frozenthoughts

    The entire concept of associating beauty with feminine gender is the worst thing that mankind has ever lived on. If you are a woman, should you be beautiful? So if you are not a beautiful, then aren't you a woman ? We human beings should seriously work on our minds to get flush this idea out. I blame the entire fashion industry and media in current times which has corrupted our minds to the maximum possible extent. Let us make our woman feel good by just raising our voices against whoever associates beauty with woman. Let us accept woman as they are. After all, it is just a question of acceptance.

    March 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  35. merle haggard #1 fan

    The things that make a person ugly are what they say and what they do,not thier apperance.

    March 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Dave

    My whole life experience is that beautiful people are stuck up about it and, frankly, quite mean to everyone they think isn't as good as they are. The practical result for me is that now any time I see a "beautiful" person it results in feelings of disgust. Probably quite the opposite of what they assume I'm thinking. Their beauty is now ugly to me because of so many years of exposure to this true nature of their personalities. When a "hot" girl is nice to me in day-to-day interactions it is a shocking experience. As I've learned, ugly is a better word to describe people who are full of themselves than it is to describe the outside of a person who isn't.

    March 3, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      So you're pre-judging people based on their looks? Sounds like you're doing the exactly same thing you find disgusting in beautiful people who look down their noses at uglies.

      March 3, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Whamo

    This makes you wonder what their home life is like. Do parents have any idea their child is posting this? Do the parents interact frequently with their child? Do the parents know their friends, the family of their friends? Are these children involved, via the support of the parents, in sports and/or other after school clubs/groups?

    March 3, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  38. DamnDesert

    For every horrible idea to post on the Internet, there is least 1 troll which will make it worse.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Mike

    I suspect Ms. Cho wouldn't like the answer if she ended up asking on the internet. As for the kids asking online–who cares? They're asking for someone's honest opinion and they'll more than likely get it online than if they asked someone face to face. Besides, if they're actually ugly, chances are they've heard the insult numerous times already growing up.

    People get so overly dramatic about this stuff, it's silly. Some people are ugly some aren't, get over it.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wish_we_could_all_be_like_mike

      Wow, you should be thankful that God made you a supermodel, Mike.

      March 3, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Barbara M

    Perhaps education in Internet/social media literacy should include a primer on the difference between "real" friends and "virtual" friends.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Chris

    The youtube video “Am I ugly or pretty? Please Let me know!" isn't up anymore. I feel sad that I won't be able to judge for myself.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  42. carrie

    I agree with her. those videos are a HORRIBLE idea.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  43. checi

    When my daughter was a teen I monitored everything she did on the internet and blocked inappropriate activities. I never allowed her to view herself as a product to be judged by this ugly society. Shame on the parents that allow their daughters to engage in this obscene activity!!! Maybe the Amish have it right.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Dennis

    Ms Cho, you have it exactly right. People will tear others down to make themselves somehow feel better about themselves. It's always been done, but with the internet it makes it too easy to tear others down because there is no real threat of recrimination

    March 3, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Waspy

      Ms. Cho is the same comedian who some years ago made fun of Asian men by joking that they all have small peni$e$. And now she is trying to tell people that they are all perfect the way they are. Lol. She must have had a great revelation.

      March 3, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  45. matty bones

    Iis any one taking the activia challenge.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  46. Mary

    Yes, my own mother told my aunt once at a party, looking at me across the way, why would any man want to marry her, she's so fat. My aunt told me this and it's never left me, although I truly wish it had.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa D

      I am so sorry this happened to you. People tell me that I am pretty all the time but I do not believe them. It really has to come from within. As much as men or women will hit on me, I just want the "one" to love me. I wish you peace

      March 3, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gabriel

      Did you truly believe that you were not? If you sincerely believe that you are not...then leave it alone, lead your own existence & be at peace. if you see yourself as fat then go do something about it. Use that comment as fuel to motivate yourself. "Ask & you shall receive. Seek & you shall find." Peace be with you.

      March 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  47. BJJSchecter

    And people wonder why there are school shootings.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  48. You are too late

    You misspelled Colombia.

    March 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  49. Peter

    Also: What????

    March 3, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  50. Waterstar

    Talk about off topic

    March 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  51. Matthew

    My wife is 6'3" and I think she's absolutely beautiful. She has struggled with body image issues though, and one thing that helped her was to think of the aspects to her appearance that she liked rather than the aspects she didn't like. No one's perfect, and even the most beautiful people in the world are critical of their appearance. It's all about perspective!

    Love others, and love yourself.

    July 5, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  52. bob a in cali

    this is the first reply Ive ever posted on these pages, but thought this too important not to answer.

    youre 16. you cant judge a work of art before its finished, an entire house before its built, a flower before its bloomed and you will change so much in the next 10 years that you really shouldnt judge yourself until the project is finished. Im...uh, lets say, sure as heck not 16 anymore. after that 10 years (or even 5....2 years even), you'll look back at your self image now and not even recognize yourself.

    please....hang tough. your height and weight will sort it self out and balance one against the other and one day you'll see. your height and lean build will be the envy of others around you. (trust me on this. Im 5'9" and 200lbs and would kill to be that tall and lean)

    seriously. dont give in to the hype. youve got some great days ahead of you.

    July 6, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |