Self Esteem with a little Help From Dove

Self esteem and body confidence are a funny thing when you are a woman. When I was 18 I am sure I had a pretty gorgeous figure, but I can only guess at that, because at the time I thought I was too fat, and loathed having my picture taken because I thought I look hideous. And that was probably as good as my body EVER got! I wish I had appreciated it at the time, but instead it took me until I was in my 30s to grow to love my body, and even now I have wobbly days about my wobbly bits.

One of the things I had really hoped to achieve as a parent to a daughter was to try and steer her away from a love/hate relationship with her body and food. Have I succeeded in that? No. My 17 year old, who is a size 10/12 and has a bloomin’ lovely figure, thinks she is fat. Now is this because I have been known to mutter about my own body weight issues? I actually think I have to shoulder some of the blame, but equally I have only ever moaned about being fat when I actually am a bit fat – usually post baby, (and by post baby, I mean several years post baby- my usual average is back to pre-pregnancy weight by the time they start reception class- I am not one of those lucky enough to be back in my skinny jeans by the time I am home from hospital!). I have also been really conscious of avoiding extreme diets, as I believe they set a bad example- when I did lose 4 stone a few years ago, I did it by a simple calorie controlled diet and exercise, a slow and sensible approach.

Image from the Dove Real Beauty campaign.

I also think media has to take its fair proportion of the blame. The images of ‘attractiveness’ we are bombarded constantly with are airbrushed visions of very slim women. Now some women are slim naturally, and that is fine. But my family are a big boobed, big hipped bunch, voluptuous, curvy – gorgeous hourglass shapes are our forte, which is totally awesome sauce, but however much weight you lose, you are never going to be the shape of the average media totty type. The idea of promoting beauty in all shapes and sizes is brilliant, and one company that have been using this approach with great effect over the years are Dove. I love their fabulous pictures of women in all their beautiful variety, and so when asked if I would take a look at their new initiative, the Dove Self Esteem Project, I was more than happy to get involved.

The website for the project consists of a series of informative articles and engaging activities designed to arm parents with the right tools to help their daughters to overcome beauty related anxieties and boost their self esteem. I spent the weekend reading through, and undertaking a few of the suggested activities with my 17 year old daughter, although the site is suitable from around age 11.

The topics covered include friends and relationships, bullying, the role of the media, growing up and body image, and building self esteem. Their are informative articles in each section, as well as suggested activities to involve your daughter with, which are both fun, and a great starting point for conversation. I could have really done with the tips for supporting your daughter through teasing and  bullying a few years back, my daughter had a spell at middle school when she really struggled with feeling left out the gang, and there are some really helpful tips on how to help them cope. I also really liked the article on peer pressure, and how to balance fitting in with the crowd and being yourself. It is so important not to lose what makes you unique in the battle to fit in, our differences are a huge part of what makes us beautiful- but this can get lost in the teen girl battle to be just like everyone else. Luckily a combination of moving up schools, and growing into herself seemed to help my daughter, but I think it is a struggle that lots of pre-teen/teen girls go through.

We looked together at the section on the role of the media, as I really think this is where the worst messages about our looks come from. There is an activity to do with your daughter on to ‘How Spot the Photoshopping‘ and I think it is so important for girls to learn that even the models themselves don’t look like their photographs in daily life. The accompanying Dove mini- film on the manipulation of beauty images is a great visual tool on how the finished picture we see in magazines is far removed from the natural beauty of the model at the beginning of the clip. I have embedded it here for you to see, as it really is a fabulous and fast way to get the message across. Even though we were aware that photoshopping is used heavily, we both found it surprising how much difference there was by the end!

This site is full of interesting articles, and suggestions for ways to support your daughter (and yourself) on her journey to love herself. Did you know that Doves global research showed that only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful, and that anxiety about looks starts at a young age. The same research showed that 6 out of 10 girls are so concerned with their looks that they actually avoid taking part in things because of it, and this withdrawal doesn’t stop with participating in sports or social occasions, but also things like attending medical appointments, and even expressing an opinion. 
We need to ensure girls are being supported in gaining self esteem so that they can go forth and grab hold of life as they grow. We often question why we see few women in politics, or heading big corporations- perhaps empowering girls with the esteem they deserve from a young age will break down some of these barriers further. Worrying about how you look can be dismissed as trivial or vain, but in a society so obsessed with beauty, teaching girls to value themselves and see their own beauty gives them a vital tool to set them on their path to achieving everything they are capable of in life.

Me and My Beautiful Girl

As for my own daughter, I wish I had seen some of the tools and tips on this website when she was younger, as at 17 she is already fairly entrenched in some of her negative thoughts. She is at the point where sitting down discussing some of these things directly is something she finds embarrassing, or ‘Well, you would say I am beautiful, you are my Mum’, but the good thing about this website is it opens the possibility of dialogue in a non-confrontational way, there are even articles on improving communication with your daughter, and understanding teen speak. While I advocate spending some time on it together, it is also valuable read as individuals, and there is some useful guidance for improving your own self esteem, and ensuring that you talk positively about yourself, as this sets an important example.

There is far too much on the site to list it all here. Some highlights not mentioned so far included how to take a compliment (I need help with that myself) and an interesting game looking at sports womens physiques and training regimes. We had a really positive afternoon looking through it together, giggling together over some parts (particularly when inventing some interesting compliments for each other!), and discussing all sorts of aspects of womanhood and beauty. We will be coming back to spend time on some of the suggested activities in the future. I love the idea of creating a ‘Real Me’ poster, which makes you take the time to consider the things you value about yourself. We ran out of time this weekend to do it, but I think we will go back to it, as focusing on the positives is a perfect way to build your esteem, and to help drown out any negative inner monologues.

Today (11th of October) to coincide with the International Day of the Girl, Dove has an interactive installation on The Southbank in London. The instillation has been developed to highlight the issue of self-esteem in young girls whilst letting them know they are not alone. Doves research found that half of UK girls have ‘missed out’ on taking part in activities because they don’t like how they look. They will be encouraging passers by to share their personal stories of things they may have missed out on due to self-esteem issues, and asking them to write their experience and words of encouragement for others on the lockers.

Doves Missing Out Installation at the Southbank

The special event at the Southbank Centre begins with an all-female takeover of the London Eye when 180 girls will take part in speed mentoring. Once back at Southbank Centre there will be performances by talented young women, as well as workshops and discussion about positive body image and self-esteem.

Along with the website designed to help parents and mentors to help instill confidence in young girls, Dove have also announced a partnership with Girlguiding that aims to boost low self-esteem through a body confidence workshop and badge. This badge is set to reach more than 400,000 UK girls and 3.5 million girls globally, and it is hoped it will help empower girls across the world.

From our own experience this weekend, there is not a quick easy solution to improving self-esteem and body confidence, but using the website allowed us to have a open conversation about the issues involved, and look at ways of tackling negative thoughts with positive actions. We still have more to read on the website, it is a really positive resource for parents looking for a little support in helping their daughters in accepting and loving themselves, and what a great gift that is to give!

Love Miss Cisco XXX

Disclosure: Dove have been lovely enough to offer us a shopping voucher in return for our time spent together having a look at their site, I may even be nice enough to boost my daughters self esteem further by taking her on a shopping trip with it! Maybe… 😉



  1. Tas D
    October 8, 2013 / 8:13 am

    Scary how much they photoshop someone isn’t it? And its meant to be a billion pound industry isn’t it? I love the Dove real women campaign – they’re all gorgeous too and you’d think them over the photoshopped ones any day!

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 8, 2013 / 9:35 am

      Yes, I agree- the natural beauty reflected not only feels more acheivable, but is also far more gorgeous!

  2. Liz Burton
    October 8, 2013 / 8:19 am

    This is such a brilliant campaign. It was hard enough for me when I was growing up, but I really fear for this generation of girls who are bombarded with impossible images in the media.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 8, 2013 / 9:36 am

      It is really hard to protect them from external influences, which makes it all the more important that they have a good foundation of self esteem from which to view the media objectively.

  3. October 8, 2013 / 8:38 am

    I agree with you, it’s shocking what the advertising industry presents to us as reality sometimes. It’s no surprise that young girls question themselves and lose their confidence. I love that Dove want to help women see that they are beautiful, no matter if they have a big bum, stretch marks or scars

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 8, 2013 / 9:37 am

      Yes, beauty comes in so many ways, but mostly by letting your uniqueness shine through!

  4. Pinkoddy
    October 8, 2013 / 9:14 am

    I think it is really good that they are offering this and helping empower girls and women but I think we have to also remember that boys/men also have body image self esteem issues too, and I think they are even more forgotten about. My year 1 lad has been told he is fat and he most definitely is not!

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 8, 2013 / 9:33 am

      I absolutely agree, my one criticism of the programme would be that it is aimed at girls, when many boys could benefit. I think most of the content on here would be equally useful for parents of boys, even if occasional tweaking is required.

  5. October 8, 2013 / 10:19 am

    Anything that promotes better self esteem in young people is a good thing in my books. Good self esteem and confidence can help you in so many areas of life x

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 8, 2013 / 12:28 pm

      It really is fundamentally important x

  6. Actually Mummy...
    October 8, 2013 / 12:47 pm

    I think the Dove campaigns are great, but it’s going to take a massive shift to stop this angst that girls have over their bodies. Even my 8 year old is aware of her tummy 🙁

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 9, 2013 / 3:51 pm

      I know, it is concerning how young girls are affected, and I agree it will take a massive shift. Nice to see company’s like Dove making such a positive effort, but we need many more company’s/members of the press on board to make a dent in the problem!

  7. October 8, 2013 / 2:57 pm

    It’s also frightening to read about boys/men who are coming under pressure to have the six pack too. My youngest son is 5 and has some “puppy fat” – but I’ve recently learned a so-called friend of his regularly calls him fat when they have an argument. I honestly think kids shouldn’t use/learn that word if we can possibly help it. It’s hurtful and horrible. We need to teach our kids their bodies are beautiful and being healthy is what’s important.

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 9, 2013 / 3:52 pm

      Yes, it is definitely an issue that affects boys as well as girls. I know this particular site is aimed at girls, and having a big launch tied in with international Girls Day, but much of the advice can be applied to helping boys too.

  8. Older Mum
    October 8, 2013 / 5:07 pm

    I love the Dove campaigns – real women with real,bodies… and I really like the latest M&S campaign with some great female role models. X

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 9, 2013 / 3:53 pm

      Yes, SO important to have some of the big players reflecting the diversity of beauty, let’s hope it encourages more to join in!

  9. October 8, 2013 / 8:05 pm

    Dove have clearly put a lot of time and effort into their campaigns, I do think we need to focus on the beautiful things in life than the negatives. Our bodies will never be the same as anyone elses but that is what make us special, we need to embrace it.

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 9, 2013 / 3:54 pm

      Well said, our uniqueness is part of what makes us ALL beautiful! Thanks for commenting x

  10. BavarianSojourn
    October 8, 2013 / 8:06 pm

    Anything that promotes this is so important… 🙂

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 9, 2013 / 3:54 pm

      Isn’t it just! Thanks for commenting x

  11. Michelle Twin Mum
    October 9, 2013 / 10:04 pm

    Gosh that video is really scary, who knew they even lengthened necks! crazy behaviour. Mich x

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 11, 2013 / 6:15 am

      Yes! The neck was the bit that freaked me out, and making the eyes bigger- I kind of assumed photoshopping was just about removing spots, evening skin tone etc, had no idea they performed virtual surgery too!

  12. SarahMummy
    October 11, 2013 / 8:37 am

    Fab! I must remember to go back and look at this in a few years – so daughter and me are armed! I’m lucky that I don’t ‘need’ to lose weight, so never talk about weight, which I think is bad for kids – boys too. Sadly my husband is often on a diet and talks about it too much. It hasn’t rubbed off on the kids yet. I hate to think about the pressure on girls at secondary school to look good and conform. I hope the dancing will keep my daughter in good shape, but then she’ll probably get picked on for doing the dancing!

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 15, 2013 / 7:59 am

      You should take a look yourself now, self image issues kick in younger than we think, and you might get some tips to help your daughter at the first signs!

  13. The Brick Castle
    October 11, 2013 / 10:29 am

    We picked out the same video as being really powerful and amazing to watch. I think it’s a great site and full of loads of great activities tht certainly made me feel better bout myself!

    • Sonya Cisco
      October 15, 2013 / 8:00 am

      That video really does demonstrate quite brilliantly, and quickly, just how unrealistic a lot of the images we see are!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge