80% of UK women are unhappy with the way they look (saddest statistic I have seen in a long time, it makes my heart sink). Well according to a study done by Dove on Body and Confidence where 10,500 women and girls around the globe were quizzed on body image, this is what they found. It was found that women and girls in the UK placed second from last for the lowest self-esteem with countries like South Africa topping the charts for self-confidence.
Although I knew that this is a constant and important issue that needs to be addressed, I genuinely thought that the title was exaggerated given our recent stint with a few publications but no, the breakdown revealed even more sadder opinions about how women and girls view themselves. See the infograph yourself:
Whilst 70% were happy to be female and loved to embrace it, the studies also revealed that 90% of women and 70% of the girls in the study had put their health at risk in some way to achieve body perfection. 90% of women and 80% of girls opted out of social activities, which is crucial to our mental health because they felt bad about their looks.
What are the root-causes?
60% women believed that social media added to the pressure to look a certain way and 70% believed media as well as advertising set unrealistic beauty standards for women that can’t be achieved. Well considering the images are often played around with and airbrushed all over the place, no wonder they are unachievable.
Through the images that show no lick of stretch marks, cellulite, curves and bumps as well as scars or acne that are genuine features of a normal human body, we feel uncomfortable with these feature that when we see it, it is almost a shock. I can’t count how many times my family members said ‘Are you sure you don’t want to airbrush these images. If I’m honest I don’t want to look at cellulite online’ and me being head strong, it validated why Mymilla has a no airbrushing policy. It is bringing back the view that these things are normal and a natural part of our body that shouldn’t be shamed by yourself or other people.
I am an open book so occasionally I will run around the house from the shower to my bedroom with no towel (much to my mum’s dismay) and one time my niece noticed my stretch-marks and asked what happened. She had no clue what stretch-marks were and was convinced they were war wounds which is when I realised that I wanted to talk to her about things like this because its not something we are taught at school.
The same goes for body weight. I saw my 13-year-old cousin stating that she was starting her 30-day squat challenge on Snapchat and immediately I called her and asked her why. She said “It’s summer soon and I want my belly to be flat. I hate my curves”. My heart sank. For a 13 year old to see something like that on social media and think it applies to her to the point where she already hated her body before she has fully developed is worrying.
I mean she also said she couldn’t wait to have her period and I just thought ‘Honey, if only you knew it’ll be your worst nightmare every month. EMBRACE THE LAST FEW YEARS YOU HAVE!!!!!’ but it’s difficult to explain it to a 13 year old who just wants to be like her friends or like the models she sees getting 40,000 likes for their abs etc.
Another example is at school when I realised after praying and praying for big boobs, they grew and they grew fast. After a few comments about how big they were, I noticed how different I was to other girls to which I quickly bought a bigger school jumper to hide it and try to fit in.
This continues into work life too. When I worked as an HR Officer, I often used to buy my lunch, which consisted of Sweet chilli or Thai curry noodles and often a cinnamon bun or profiteroles. Every time I walked into the office with my lunch someone will be like ‘Ooooh being naughty are we?’ or ‘Treating yourself today?’ At first I thought WHAT? I just bought it because I wanted it and I’m addicted to cinnamon rolls but okay. Then I realised the diet culture where anything sweet, full fat or anything bread based was banished from pretty much everyone’s diets so someone coming in with one was like I walked into a lion’s den with red meat hanging off my shoulder.
Soon I was conforming. I didn’t give up my cinnamon buns at all but I would make the occasional comment ‘treating myself today’ or ‘being naughty today’ and before I knew it, I was rather conscious about eating them as I started to view them as the devil. Just like that, my healthy relationship with food was somewhat distorted where I was looking at fat contents on pots, skipping lunch if I felt bloated or if I was going on a night out.
Everyone in the office and I mean everyone talked about weight like it wasn’t a sensitive topic to openly talk about how much they hated their hips, bums, boobs or thighs. When I used to just say ‘oh hush, just be happy with what you look like’ I was met with ‘ What do you know, you are as skinny as a toothpick’ (bit of skinny shaming there LOL). But that is work culture almost everywhere I worked. Someone, somewhere is always on a diet. There is always conversation about workouts (which isn’t a bad thing) but it turned negative when they brought out their phone to show body goals stating what they hated on their own bodies.
Half of those people like any good selfie take pictures from flattering angles or use filters to make it look way better so you never really know what’s real and what’s not.
You will not look like Kate Moss, Ashley Graham, Kim Kardashian or Nicki Minaj because they are Kate Moss, Ashley Graham, Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj. That’s how they are meant to be and you are meant to be you!
Kim Kardashian spent months in the house saying she didn’t want to be seen in public until she reached her ideal body weight. Things like that are scary. You would rather stay within the four walls of your house just because you don’t want to be labelled fat or because you don’t look like the usual you. Of course not, you just gave birth… isn’t that another thing to celebrate, a miracle in itself to realise another aspect your amazing body does?
I repeat 80% have opted out of social activities because they did not feel good about their bodies. We are dying to be something that we are not so bad to the point where we are missing out on the things going on around us and time waits for no man.
One day you’ll be a thirteen-year-old girl dying to have curves in the right places, then thirty years old dying to be thinner like you were in your teens or twenties and in your sixties you are dying to have smoother skin that you had in your thirties and forties. Before you know it, your memories of all those years are filled with the things you weren’t happy with instead of celebrating the years of life you have had.
This is not a sob story but I lost a close family member to cancer in 2009 and she was literally the happiest person I ever met. Never heard her mention anything she hated about herself and if anything she embraced everything in her life even the bad. She was one to turn a bad situation into a good one. Although she passed in her twenties, I can honestly say her life was not cut short in the way many people think.
She embraced life and I would honestly say she lived a full life in those few years than many people I have met that live past her age of 25. Simply because she embraced life and appreciated the differences we all have. That is a life I wish to have and hopefully inspire others to have. A life of love, laughter, happiness and all those things are influenced by how we think about ourselves.
There is nothing wrong with going on a weight loss or weight gain journey so please don’t get me wrong on this point. I just think these changes should be for yourself not because you want to look like someone else or because everyone else is different to you.
Yes social media is fun and is a way to keep up with the world but use it wisely and teach others around us or those younger than us to use it wisely otherwise it’ll be the source of many people’s self-esteem issues. Our mental health is influenced by sources like this and in a world where we can use our voice to demand what we are exposed to we should use it.
Creating a new comfort zone where people know that every body is different to the point where it is normal to be seen on billboards everywhere. I do everything for my family especially since my nieces and nephews were born I realised I wanted to shape how people around us think so that when they grow up they are never made of feel bad about who they grow up to be or what they look like. I want them to spend life enjoying what the world has to offer not staying in their rooms playing games or being on social media platforms that take a bit of their self esteem away each time.
From my thirteen-year-old cousin, I learnt a valuable lesson. We are taught from a young age to be like other children to the point where as we grow up we hate our differences. Being different is seen as weird i.e. someone who is smart and wants to answer the teacher’s questions is seen as a nerd or labelled as a freak at school. After those labels, why would you want to be different? You pretty much dumb yourself down to fit in.
It is a valuable conversation to have because she will know that she will not always feel the way she does now and when she grows up she will hopefully learn to appreciate and enjoy each stage of her life.
The good news from the study is that women are aware of what is causing the issues around body confidence and awareness is major factor is tackling the problem. The study also highlighted that 83% of all women and 82% of girls who agree every woman has something about them that is beautiful.
If you have experienced issues with your body and self-esteem please share your story or share your side of our blog entry.