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!
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.
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!