On the way to the opticians this afternoon I asked teengirl if there’s anything she doesn’t like about herself. After a few seconds silence she answered: “My teeth.”
“Is that it?” I asked her.
To which she replied: “Yeah, I like what I see in the mirror. I like me and I like how I look.”
And the reason she doesn’t like her teeth? Because when she was younger she hit her two front teeth on the edge of a swimming pool and took a big chip out of both of them right in the middle. The jolt also pushed them both out a bit so they stick out ever so slightly. But she doesn’t dislike them enough to bother trying to fix them with braces.
To be honest she sounds very like me at 15, at 25, even at 35 when I’d put on a lot of weight because I’ve never obsessed over how I look to other people and I’ve never put myself down in front of any of my kids.
I’m happy to stand up in front of all of you right now and admit: my name is Mumtoteens and I like myself. I like what I see in the mirror, I always have. And I like the person I am.
I grew up around a mum who didn’t like how she looked, a mum who called herself fat, who didn’t bother to put make up on because “there’s no point, there’s nothing I can do to make this face look nice” and call herself a stupid bitch when she did something wrong.
I so easily could’ve ended up despising myself the way she did. But my dad saved me from that.
I was, and still am at 43, my dad’s princess. He made me believe I was worthy, that I was clever and beautiful and that I could do anything I wanted in the world so long as I believed in myself as much as he believed in me.
I saw myself reflected in his eyes and liked what I saw.
My dad showed me how I should be treated by men, by other women, by the world but most of all by myself.
Research has shown that 71% of girls feel pressure to be beautiful but are less likely to let anxiety hold them back if they have a positive beauty role model in their lives.
I’ve managed thankfully, to take my dad’s legacy rather than my mum’s and hand it down to my own daughter who has grown up without her father around.
This is my legacy for my daughter – she is comfortable in her skin, she is confident despite setbacks, she is optimistic, kind and quick with compliments. And she believes that beauty lives in everyone and everyone has the right to feel beautiful.
When I watched the short film, Dove: Legacy, it made me sad: so many young girls (not even teenagers yet) unhappy with their bodies. So influenced by their mum’s unconscious words they dislike the same parts of their bodies as their mums.
But with 41% of women rarely feeling positive about their appearance and with a quarter of British women with no influential beauty role model in their lives it’s no surprise that mums are putting themselves down, talking negatively about their looks. There are only two reasons why I don’t do this – one is my dad and the other is because my mum’s dislike of her looks was so passionate it made me want to not be so cruel to myself.
Dove’s research shows that as soon as women become aware of the impact of their words and body language they want to change it to become better role models for young girls. And the one piece of advice most women want to share with young girls to promote a positive beauty legacy is “learn to accept who you are” with 35% of women opting for this.
Leading language expert, Professor Tony Mcenery of Lancaster University said: “By learning to monitor one’s language and filtering out the negative and emphasising the positive, we are more likely to pass on positive, life-long behaviours that have the power to affect self-esteem.”
Nearly 1 in 3 women said the one thing they’d change would be to be more confident, so they can pass their confidence on to younger generations.
Please get involved to help our future generations of girls feel confident with and comfortable in their own bodies by tweeting your own positive beauty legacy pledge on Twitter, tell the world who you inspires you to pass on a positive beauty legacy using the hashtag #FeelBeautifulFor.
Watch Dove: Legacy short film here