As a young Latina girl growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, my parents wanted my story to be different. I would be the first one to finish college and go on to become a health care professional. While I never knew or felt it at the time, my parents literally worked, saved and sacrificed so that I could have the kind of education that would foster my academic success. Inevitably that meant attending schools where I was the minority.
Six out of ten girls stop doing the things they love because they feel bad about their looks – Dove
I remember the moment I knew I was different. I was in elementary school, and the little girls I played with started asking me questions about the color of my skin, my thick, curly hair, and my ethnic last name. Prior to that moment, I didn’t see race or color. But that was just one of the many circumstances that led to years of insecurities about my looks, my ethnicity, and my family’s roots.
While I never consciously avoided normal daily activities, like some girls do, I know that I suffered from beauty anxiety as a young girl all throughout my school years. According to research conducted by Dove, “beauty anxiety among women represents lost potential…it holds them back (Rob Candelino, Dove).”
Only 11 percent of girls use the word “beautiful” to describe themselves – Dove
Even today, I struggle when someone tries to compliment my writing, my photography, or my character. It’s even worse if it has to do with my physical appearance. I’m working on saying “thank you” as opposed to lamenting about which part of my body I wish were different. Unfortunately, I’m not alone. The average time it takes for a woman to name a body part they hate is just 2 seconds. When asked to name a part they love…much longer…too long.
With the tremendous pressure women face to feel beautiful, it is important for women to first see the beauty in themselves in order to make a difference and inspire future generations. That is why Dove has launched their latest campaign, during Mom 2.0 Summit last week. The goal of the brand is an ambitious one, but nonetheless crucial to the next generation of women in our country. By 2015, Dove plans to educate and inspire 15 million girls through free self-esteem tools and activities, available at Dove.com/GirlsUnstoppable. The website features a series of age-specific self-esteem guides that explore themes such as Family Relationships & Role Models, The Media & Celebrity Culture, Self-Care & Respect, Teasing & Bullying, Competing & Comparing Looks, and Body Talk. Additionally, women can view videos, photos, and stories shared by other women about the unstoppable girls in their lives.
If I can’t think about what is beautiful about myself, how will I instill that within my daughter? - Lisa Ling
As a mother to a young girl, I realize how important it is right now to begin fostering and inspiring positive self-esteem within my daughter. To do that, I must come to grips with my own perception of beauty. Girls look up to the women in their lives, specifically their mothers, as role models and I have to believe the messages I am telling my daughter about beauty, confidence, and self-esteem in order for them to resonate and be effective.
Self-esteem isn’t the only thing affected by a woman’s perception of her physical beauty. According to journalist and writer Lisa Ling, the girls who are most vulnerable to sex-trafficking come from broken homes where they were never told they were beautiful. Fathers’ most powerful self-esteem tool is to simply communicate with their daughters about their beauty.
There are no words to describe what it was like to be present for the launch of such an important movement. While admittedly I was tearful as we openly discussed women’s negative perception of their outward appearance, I walked away inspired and empowered to make a change.
Your perception of yourself is different than how others see you – Dove
I’ll leave you with one of the Real Beauty Sketches videos Dove created, which explores how women are truly their own worst beauty critic.
You are more beautiful than you think – Dove
For more information about Dove’s Girls Unstoppable campaign or the resources offered, visit Dove.com/GirlsUnstoppable.
No compensation was received for this post. Thank you to Dove for sponsoring my trip to Mom 2.0 Summit. #GirlsUnstoppable