Growing up, I looked for girls like me in the media. But there were none. The only thing staring back at me from the pages of magazines were “supermodels.”
Supermodel is a term that was coined in the 1980s—at the height of my teen confidence issues. These seemingly perfect women were everywhere I looked. The message the media was pushing back on me was that I would never measure up. I never would be six-feet tall, have thick flowing hair, or have sculpted cheeks and flawless skin. In other words: I would never be beautiful.
I’ve gained confidence in my beauty over the years through wisdom, practice, and self-reflection. It doesn’t mean I’m immune to the voices in my head that occasionally remind me I’m still short, big-chested, and a little pudgy. Through the miracle of aging, I can now also add wrinkly into the mix, but thankfully, what is staring back at me in the media today is different—and it heartens me—especially when it comes to my daughters.
My daughters have what I didn’t have when growing up—a true reflection of themselves in the media. There’s still the classic supermodel, and even worse nowadays, “photoshopped” beauty. Thankfully, more and more businesses, publications and celebrities are taking a stand against the unattainable, thanks in large part to the decade long Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. I believe we’ve reached a beauty tipping point in the media and it’s up to us to keep the pressure on. Even though we've come a long way from where we were when I was growing up, sadly there is still much work to be done.
Consider these sobering statistics:
It’s up to us to teach our children how to be media savvy and Dove has excellent resources available to guide them through the barrage of images our children are subjected to daily.
However, media education is only one part of the puzzle. Ultimately, the biggest influence to kids when it comes to beauty is not what’s staring at them from a magazine but who’s living in the house with them. You.
I work hard to inspire confidence in my daughters for all that they are, not just what they look like. Part of that comes from modeling what true confidence means to me.
When I was first asked to appear on television a few years ago, I was a bundle of nerves. This was a great time to open up a conversation with my daughters. In this situation, my nervousness did not mean I lacked confidence, on the contrary, my willingness to try, despite my nerves, showed them what true confidence is.
As an entrepreneur who has created my own job, on my own terms, there have been many times over the years where my nerves battled with my confidence. I left my very secure job when my daughters were born because that job no longer made me happy. This was scary, but I was confident that the next phase of my life would be good too. When I opened up my business seven years ago, I was terrified of failure, but I had the confidence to try.
Often, when we speak of beauty we are speaking only of what we see on the outside, but it's much more complex than that. A person's beauty is tied to their actions, to their sense of self-worth and to their relationships with others. The Dove Self-Esteem project provides tools to parents, mentors and educators to address all the things our girls struggle with—not just if a hair is out of place. Look to the Dove website for resources on bullying, body image and media literacy. You can also find activity books available for download. When my brain reverts to old wiring about aging, beauty and self-worth, I even find words of wisdom in these resources for myself.
I don’t want my daughters to think that confidence is found in make-up or clothing, in their height, weight or hair colour and I don't want them tying their self-worth to how they compare to the image of beauty as portrayed by the media. I'm striving to inspire confidence in them through the things they do.
I’ve tried and failed at things more often than I’ve succeeded and I’m proud to share all of these experiences with my daughters.
Image credit: CL Buchanan Photography