How do we teach our daughters to love themselves, if we can't even manage it as grown women? Emma Bangay asks.
I have a daughter. She is the most perfect little girl I have ever seen. She is beautiful, kind, gracious and giving.
And she is six.
Therefore, she is also disinterested in mirrors, doesn’t know what social media even means and only bothers to glance at a magazine if it has a cartoon kitten on the cover.
I obviously love her, and I also love myself, unashamedly teaching her that both virtues are very, very important.
The Shocking Statistics on Self-Esteem
So when I read the latest Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, I was shaken. The report found that body confidence in women has reached a critical level across the world with only 20 percent of Australian women admitting to having high body-esteem.
I can’t remember knowing if my socks matched - let alone whether my bum looked big - before the age of 20!
Sadly, as a mother I know no matter how much love, encouragement and inner strength I try and fortify between myself and my curly-haired girl, soon enough societies expectations will weigh far more heavily on her than my good intentions every could.
As Susan Paxton PhD, an independent researcher in the field confirms, the findings show that low esteem is not just about what’s going on in our homes, but the world in general.
“Australia is no exception,” she says. “Data from this research show that women are under many pressures to meet unrealistic ideals,” she says, referring to Australia’s 11th place ranking of most confident, to least – behind Germany, Canada and even America.
What Can We Do to Rectify the Situation?
Kemi Nekvapil, author and founder of Raw Beauty Queen - a series of empowering retreats and events for women - says that the quiet, nondescript confidence-instilling moments I catch with my daughter may help to drown out the deafening drone of media-imposed size expectations and modern-day beauty standards.
“I do think that when women can stop comparing themselves to each other and nourish who they are as individuals it brings peace of mind, and greater self-acceptance which leads to more joyous and grounded experience of life,” she says.
Sue agrees. “It would be great if our society’s support for a fair ideal for all extended to providing support for women to be valued for their actions rather than their appearance."
“There is no doubt that much pressure to meet these ideals does come from media and, generally, there appears to be little effort from many media outlets to change,” she adds.
Learning from Traditionalist Cultures
An interesting finding in the report is the higher ranking of more traditionalist cultures, such as South Africa and India, who both sit in the top five most confident cultures.
“I can fully see why the traditionalist cultures have more grounding in their sense of self and beauty compared to the modernists,” Kemi says. “I have always struggled with the idea of ‘developing countries’ as if financial wealth is what governs success in a country; maybe if success was measured in the self-worth, self-love and self-esteem of it’s peoples, a developed country takes on a whole new meaning.”
So, for now, maybe all I can do is remind my daughter that loving yourself is just as important as loving others. I will also continue to quietly instill confidence and remove comparisons - and further nurture her love of cute cats over cover girls.