One of the most important aspects of being a parent is for me to build confidence and self-esteem in my children, so that they can go out into the world and feel good about themselves.
The world today is obsessed with how people look. There are television programmes about who can lose the most weight or who can make themselves look younger. Magazines are filled with articles about dieting or clothes that make you look slimmer or which celebrity has lost their baby weight the quickest. Then there are the ‘lads mags’ that are filled with pretty girls with tiny waists and huge boobs. None of these are sending the right message to children about body image and self-esteem. Where are the articles teaching them that you don’t have to be a size 0 to feel good about yourself, or you don’t have to have big boobs for boys to like you and that being happy is all that matters?
I can speak from experience about the way these articles affect people, because over the years they have affected me too. I am a natural size 6, I don’t diet and I don’t really do a huge amount of exercise to keep to that size. (I’m not bragging, I’m just making it clear that I am not struggling to stay a size 6.) Throughout my teenage years I was constantly teased about being so skinny, by family members as well as friends, and while yes most of the time I took it as a joke, every now and again it would touch a nerve and if I had a £1 for every time I have been asked if I am anorexic I would be a millionaire! Due to being so small I have a small bust and I have received so many jibes about it that I have several times considered having implants fitted. Some of my friends have even made comments about it to Mark in front of me – do they not realise that it is hurtful? I don’t care that I am never going to be the right figure for a lad’s mag, but deep down inside the insecurities are there and I don’t want my children – especially my daughter to grow up with those insecurities too.
I am not alone in feeling that this is an important subject, Dove have been working with Girlguiding UK and have set up the Dove Self-Esteem Project to help get the message across that it doesn’t matter what you look like.
“Since 2004 the Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) has been at the forefront of delivering self-esteem education to children (primarily girls) aged 8-16 years old through lessons in schools, workshops for youth groups, and online via the Dove Self-Esteem Project website.
“Dove’s mission is to help the girls of today, our women of tomorrow, to develop a positive relationship with the way they look, helping them raise their self-esteem, and realise their full potential. Dove believes the next generation of women should grow up to be happy and content, free from misconstrued beauty stereotypes and the burden of self-doubt.
“Dove hopes parents will find the help and support they need in the new online space to guide their daughters through the emotional ups and downs of growing up to emerge as confident young women”.
Friday October 11th is International Day Of The Girl so what better time to get girls feeling more confident about themselves?
A recent study by Dove UK showed that girls are opting not to take part in various sports and activities due to having low self-esteem and low body confidence.
British girls admit to missing out on a range of activities including: swimming (34%)*, performing in a school play (32%)*, dancing (28%)*, putting their hand up in the classroom (23%)* and even attending a friend’s birthday party (9%)*. With nearly half of girls (46%)* feeling the pressure to look beautiful, which starts as young as 8 years old*, DSEP and Girlguiding want to ensure that girls feel empowered so that they have the confidence that they need to realise their full potential.
The partnership between DSEP and Girlguiding is being announced on
International Day of the Girl to highlight how low body confidence is an issue
specifically affecting British Girls. A variety of activities to highlight the
issue of girls missing out will take place at the Southbank Centre in London
throughout the day including speed mentoring sessions in the London Eye,
self-esteem workshops and talks from inspirational women, including Mumsnet
founder Carrie Longton.
The Dove Self-Esteem Project website is full of suggestions of ways to talk to your daughter about issues that she may have including bullying or teasing and the way her body is changing as she is growing up.
There are several activities that you can do together with your daughter and Abby and I have tried some of them out. Our favourite activity was watching a short video that showed that if you change the way you say something to another person, you can go from making them feel awful to feeling good about themselves. The video also showed that while you may think that somebody is ‘better than you,’ the chances are they are thinking the same thing that you are but are hoping that you will say it first.
This activity brought up an issue that Abby had had at a school disco, whereby another girl had commented that Abby shouldn’t be wearing a particular item of clothing as it was too baggy around her waist. (Like me, Abby has a tiny waist and nothing fits her properly.) I asked Abby why she hadn’t told me about this before and she said that it hadn’t bothered her too much and she had simply forgotten about it. I asked if she had any concerns following the incident and she replied no, but that it did make her a little more self-conscious about what she chose to wear when with a particular set of friends. I explained to her that she should wear whatever made her feel good about herself, and that if somebody’s comments made her sad then she should have a look in the mirror and remind herself of what a beautiful young lady she is – this made her smile!
Another activity we did was called ‘The Real Me’ where we had to list 3 things that were unique about us, 3 things we enjoy doing and 3 things we think we’re good at. I found this really interesting as Abby didn’t say what I was expecting her to say she was good at, she definitely has a good grounding of who she is and what she likes and I really hope that she doesn’t lose this during the teenage years.
One activity we haven’t had time to complete yet is called ‘How To Be Confident.’ This encourages you to think about your personality, your talents and your looks plus what you think your family and friends think about you. I think this is a great conversation opportunity and I’m looking forward to completing this activity with Abby. I also want to sit down with her and do the activities relating to media, such as spotting when an image has been airbrushed, as I want her to understand that the majority of the celebrities she reads about don’t have perfect skin and the bluest eyes, but that their pictures have been manipulated to make them look better.
For further information on the Dove Self Esteem Project (DSEP) visit: http://selfesteem.dove.co.uk/
For further information on Girlguiding visit: http://www.girlguiding.org.uk
I really hope that by teaching girls how to appreciate themselves we will be giving them the confidence they need to go out there and take part in any activities they want to, without having body confidence issues.
Let’s raise the self-esteem in all girls and teach them to feel confident about the way look.
*Quantitative research was carried out by OnePoll with 500 UK girls (aged 11-14) in September 2013.
Disclaimer; this was a sponsored post as part of the Dove Self Esteem Project in conjunction with Mumsnet. All pictures are taken from the Dove website.