The craziest thing about “Eighth Grade” is how much it mirrored my life. I’m a 21-year-old college student who grew up using the same technology Kayla did, but I walked into this movie with many pre-conceived assumptions. I thought that I was smarter and wiser than a 13-year-old, but it was eerie how many exactly relatable moments Kayla and I shared. Just like her, I spend a lot of time sitting in bed scrolling through my Explore feed.
But I also identified with the darker side of Kayla’s social media behavior. Instagram was intended for people to share their lives and grow closer, but it quickly became a tool of comparison that isolated people into their deepest insecurities. Kayla spends most of her free time snuggled up in bed staring at a screen, which feeds her an endless amount of content. That content, however, comes from her peers who claim to live greater lives than hers. In turn, this breeds self-hatred, more than anything else. From Kayla’s perspective, it’s depressing to see people love their lives and ask “Why don’t I love mine?”
It got me thinking about self-love. No one really teaches us how to love ourselves. They teach us to be grateful of what we have, usually by showing us the extreme inverse of our situation, but for many people, accepting and loving ourselves and our bodies is a long process that really begins in early adulthood.
“Eighth Grade” accurately captures how young girls are subject to pressure and judgment from an early age. From their bodies to their brains, the constant self-judgment and in turn, self-hate, is ingrained in their minds as normal. The word “perfect” is thrown around this movie quite a bit, but writer/director Bo Burnham wanted to send a bigger message: imperfection is normal.
Kayla’s self-love journey comes to head when she approaches two mean girls at school. It’s seconds before her graduation ceremony, and she needs to get something off her chest. After writing a thank you note and showing kindness despite getting socially ostracized, Kayla gives these two a piece of her mind. Although they don’t respond, Kayla walks away triumphantly. While not everyone has a badass moment where they stand up to their bully—whether it’s a boss or a bad friend—it wasn’t easy for Kayla to culminate that power. But that power came from within and that power was self-love.
Another turning point for Kayla came earlier in the film when she decided to take a turn at karaoke. That pool party scene was a real throwback to a time of awkwardness overdrive. But Kayla’s triumphant decision to take the microphone right after sitting alone in a separate room and calling her dad to pick her up was such a brave moment. And as repeated throughout the scene: "You can't be brave if you're not scared." That moment only came from a place of fear and Kayla turned that into self-discovery.
For Menders, we want to create a community where you feel less alone. Instagram has become a platform that isolates people, but Mend is meant to bring us together. We know heartbreak is an isolating experience. The definition of a break-up is the emotional, physical, or legal separation of two people. And while heartbreak is often felt alone, it's a universal experience that binds us all.
If heartbreak is dampening your self-love, we encourage you to download Mend and let us help you feel good again. Now is the perfect time to embark on a journey towards self-discovery. We're here to guide and encourage you as you navigate forward. If you want to connect to other Menders and tell your story, we have a Facebook group just for that!
Photo Credit: @EighthGradeMov/Instagram