For as long as I can remember my mom has dieted, so much so that we have an ongoing joke that there isn’t a diet she hasn’t tried. From cabbage soup, Kelloggs All Bran, Grapefruit four times a day, prescription diet pills, gelatin and now Paleo – she has tried it all. When I was 11, I took my first diet pills. I distinctively remember this particular moment because I remember the kitchen that I was standing in, when I choked on the combination of giant pills, fat burners and multi-vitamins. The longer the tablets fought their way down my throat, the more they left a vile taste in my mouth, I was gagging, oh wow… was I going to vomit?
By the age of 12, I had grown pretty self-conscious of my body; my fat thighs, my belly and that weird thing my bum does, my flabby arms, stubby toes, skew teeth, my off-center mouth when I speak and my occasional lisp. I did everything to not participate in sports but especially swimming because the school wouldn’t allow me to wear shorts, in the pool. I had worked out that our class had Phys Ed. twice a month, one lesson would be playing rounders and the second would be swimming. Once a month? You know what also happens once a month and makes girls avoid the pool? Yep – you guessed it! Every month, I had the same excuse and by the time I left my primary school, I had only ever swam once, which was on the grade 7’s fun day because we were allowed to wear whatever we liked, and while most girls opted for the most revealing bikinis, I found comfort in my swimming shorts and full cozzie.
My husband often believes that I have body dysmorphia and I have slowly realized how I allow my appearance to completely control my life. It has always held me back from participating or enjoying anything and everything, right from my sports days, to dances, to going out on dates. I have always been insecure over my looks and constantly find something to knock at.
Almost 2 years ago, I wrote a post on feeling pretty in an unpretty world and recalled the time that my sister, 7 at the time, announced to the world that she had fat thighs. I immediately realized that she was quoting the very words that I whispered to myself on the daily basis.
So when this little gem popped in my inbox recently, it gave me all the feels:
Global research from Dove shows nearly three quarters of girls (71%) feel pressure to be beautiful, but are less likely to let anxiety about looks hold them back if they feel they have a positive role model. With a troubling 8 out of 10 women saying they dislike at least one aspect of their physical appearance, Dove is asking all women to make a difference to the lives of the next generation by ensuring their own beauty legacy is a positive one. A film from the global brand, Dove: Legacy, illustrates how important it is for women to see the beauty in themselves, so that they can pass those positive feelings on to the girls in their lives.
Let that sink in.
“Whether she is a mother, aunt, coach, teacher, or sister, every woman has the opportunity to make a difference to a girl’s self-esteem,” said Kate Swan, marketing manager at Dove South Africa. “By ensuring their own beauty legacy is positive, all women can help the next generation of girls grow up to be happy and content, free from the pressure of beauty stereotypes and the burden of self-doubt.”
From my own experience, I know the impact of those actions. I still struggle with my identity and loving my body for what it is. I think it is completely incredible that my body managed to house my beautiful, strong baby boy and that every day since, it has nourished him. But other than that? What do I love about my body?
Since about May, I have really been low on self-esteem and don’t feel beautiful in any way. It is a daily struggle to get up and dress my body – a body that I almost despise. Last month, I realized that I needed to do something and started watching videos on body positivity. I realize that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and can easily tell you how beautiful other girls are without a second thought. But when it comes to me – I just don’t see it.
But I need to change that.
I have a son who may be young, but I want him to know just how beautiful and wonderful he truly is, so that he sees value in himself and learns how to treat a woman and make her feel beautiful. I have a sister, who is coming to stay with me for a little while, and I realize that being a 12 year old, she needs direction and to be shown what loving yourself looks like, so that she will learn to respect her body and look after it. I have to be a rolemodel, whether I like it or not, because I refuse to let these two perfect little beings to think anything less of themselves.
As part of its commitment to helping the next generation of women raise their self-esteem and realize their full potential, the Dove Self-Esteem Project delivers self-esteem education to young people (primarily girls) aged 7-17 years through lessons in schools, activities for mentors, online resources for parents and partnerships with youth organizations.
Resources have been developed in collaboration with parents, teachers, youth leaders and self-esteem experts as well as endorsed by an independent global advisory board and academically validated to prove their positive impact. The education programmes and fun interactive activities, downloadable at http://selfesteem.dove.co.za , are designed to help girls overcome beauty-related anxieties that stop them from being happy and confident. The Dove Self-Esteem Project has reached over 16 million young people globally to date with self-esteem education and with your help we can reach even more.
Remember that beauty is so much more than we give it credit for. It is more than a number on the scale, or a dress size. Beauty is defined by how you feel about yourself, it shows in the way you carry yourself and the confidence that radiates from within. Beauty is learning to accept yourself, realizing that we all have flaws but not letting them hold us back from achieving our goals, dreams and aspirations. Beauty is seeing value in yourself and sharing that with everybody around you. What is your #BeautyLegacy?