Image credit: Stephanie Belton
If your best friend said that about you, she wouldn’t be your best friend for very long.
It has already begun. GG, at 9, has started to compare her body and face to what her friends have. She’s not the only one – they are all doing it. It has become a ‘thing,’ as they begin to fret about their shape, their hair, and the minor features they believe to be less than perfect. I have always told her how beautiful she is, because she actually is. She has a smile that can light up a room, a giggle to match, and the sponaneity to enthuse everyone around her. Plus, she is honest, and would be devastated if she ever hurt anyone’s feelings. She is beautiful, but it’s not just about her face and her hair.
This new phase, where the girls pick each other apart, and come home with concerns that they’re somehow not good enough, really upsets me. And yet, according to research carried out by Dove, it is we – their mothers – who have played the largest part in creating this worry about their appearances. 69% of women admit that their child has seen them engaging in negative body language habits, with more than a third of mothers (34%) admitting that their child has mimicked their negative beauty behaviours. Girls pick up on how the women in their lives talk about themselves, how they eat, and their own self-esteem. And it plays a part in the attitudes they go on to develop about their own bodies.
We have all been guilty of criticising our appearance, or our abilities. What most of us are less able to do is focus on, and celebrate the things that we do like about ourselves. I was as bad as the next girl when I was younger. Don’t get me wrong, I still quake as I walk into a crowded room, and I still wonder if I’ve underdressed when I’m out with friends. I just don’t let it govern how I feel about myself any more. I’ve been lucky. That quote at the top of this post was said to me by a therapist, several years ago, and it really changed my self-talk.
What really fascinates me is quite how precise the research proves to be. Dove: Legacy shows just how much a child’s perception of themselves is reflected in the self-criticisms and compliments of their mothers. With that in mind, and in the hopes that I’ve been getting it right with my children, I asked my daughter what she thinks makes us beautiful:
I didn’t know how my filming with GG would go, although I thought she might pick up on her hair and eyes. What I didn’t expect was that she would identify confidence and being a good friend as a factor in being beautiful, but I am so happy that she has these values. I was a little pumped about her opinions on what makes me beautiful too, because they are things I aspire to be, but never know if I actually achieve.
Dove’s latest campaign is one I completely subscribe to: if we can’t identify what we like about ourselves, what chance do our girls have of being happy in their own skins? And yet it is a tough climb sometimes for young girls. If you think your daughter could do with a helping hand, check out the Self Esteem project. It’s full of resources to help mothers and their daughters to feel confident in themselves, and to deal with negative self-perceptions, so that all girls can grow up knowing what makes them beautiful.
Who do you #feelbeautifulfor?
Disclosure: I have been compensated for writing this post and producing our own Beauty Legacy video. All editorial and opinions are my own.