It seems like the body positive movement has made huge strides recently, with major wins like plus-size model Ashley Graham’s historical cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, retailers offering more inclusive options for their curvier customers and tons of celebrities hopping on board the body positivity train. Although it seems that way, are those big moves really promoting healthier body ideals and changing how we see ourselves? According to the Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, we aren’t there yet. Not even close.
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We Skip Important Events
Dove interviewed 10,500 females across 13 countries as part of the Dove Self-Esteem project. This was its largest study ever and the results are eye-opening for women around the world. The study reveals how low body-esteem and appearance anxiety affects women’s abilities to participate in important life activities, with 85 percent of women saying they’d skip out on an event (like engaging socially with friends or family), based on their negative feelings about the way they look.
Even more troubling is the finding that 7 in 10 girls with low body-esteem say the way they feel about their looks can make them less assertive and prevent them from having the confidence to stick to a decision. This shortage of female confidence means that the majority of women are underestimating their abilities based on how they feel about their appearance, not based on their skill and performance. The report also found that 9 out of 10 women will engage in unhealthy behaviors like skipping meals if they don’t feel good about their bodies.
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According to Dr. Nancy Etcoff, assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, these statistics highlight a critical issue woman around the world are facing. “Though troubling, these results are also unsurprising, given the increasing pressures women and girls face today,” says Dr. Etcoff. “We need to help empower women in many ways, including increasing body-confidence education, driving meaningful conversations around the pressures women face, and advocating for change in how females and their appearance are talked about and portrayed in the media.”
We Feel Like We Don’t Measure Up
The report also sheds a light on how unattainable body ideals can increase societal pressures to be “perfect.” A whopping 69 percent of women in the study cite the media and advertising for promoting unrealistic beauty standards which help exacerbate appearance anxiety. This includes social media, with 56 percent of all women acknowledging the impact of an “always on” social media culture contributing to the pressure to be perfect.
All is not lost however; despite these disheartening figures, women still have a fierce desire to challenge existing beauty norms. The study found that 71 percent of the women interviewed call for a better representation of diverse women of different ages, races, shapes and sizes in the media. With all of the changes we’ve already seen, at least we know we are headed in the right direction. Now if we can only get our heads to catch up, we’d be unstoppable.
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