I help girls build body confidence

Abiee writes about the pressure girls feel to look perfect -and what we can do to counter it.

Abiee, 21, former Girlguiding advocate and peer educator
28 November 2017

70% of girls globally feel there is too much importance placed on beauty in making girls happy.

Last month, Dove launched a new piece of research that had some shocking findings. The 2017 Dove Global Girls Beauty and Confidence Report showed that girls feel under a lot of pressure based on their body and how they look. This is stopping them doing all sorts of things: going out with friends, not attending a social engagement or even not going to the doctors.

What's making girls feel like this?

Each year Girlguiding carries out a piece of research called the Girls’ Attitudes Survey (GAS). In 2017 it showed that 52% of girls aged 11-21 had seen airbrushed images in the media that made them feel pressured to look different.

This can also go on to cause further problems. In 2016 GAS found that 55% of girls aged 11-21 had seen the media talk about women’s appearance before their achievements. How can we expect girls to believe there is more to them than their appearance if what they hear in the media is that how they look is more important than what they have achieved?

So, the media really has a lot to answer for…

A fantastic step in the right direction

France recently passed a law that states that pictures that have been airbrushed or digitally altered, will need to have a label stating this. Any publication of a digitally edited commercial image not clearly labelled as “photographie retouchée” (touched up photograph) can be punished with a fine. The authorities hope the new “Photoshop warning” will discourage people trying to emulate unrealistic body shapes that were faked with a computer programme.

What's Girlguiding doing to support girls?

In 2014 the World Association of Girl Guides and Scouts and Dove launched the Free Being Me Peer Education pack.

Peer educators, like me, go into guiding units to deliver the pack so girls can really start to feel body confident again. It covers the ‘Image Myth’ as well as helping girls understand that their bodies are great because of what they can do, not what they look like. This has been a hit and reached more than 224,000 girls worldwide.

I feel so proud to be one of the peer educators who has helped this reach so many girls! I have been into countless Brownie and Guide units around my local area to deliver the topic.

It's great to help the girls realise that their bodies are so much more than what they look like!

Girlguiding is also a proud supporter of Be Real, a national campaign calling for people to think more realistically about bodies.

So, what can you do about it?

The report from Dove has five great tips for what we can do to build up girls' and women's confidence:

  1. Focus on what our bodies can do rather than on how they look
  2. Focus on women’s achievements and promote this rather than how they look
  3. Use social media to promote diverse images of women and call out narrow beauty ideals
  4. Lobby politicians, government and regulators to promote body confidence and avoid adverts that promote unrealistic beauty standards, gender stereotypes, sexualisation and objectification of girls and women; and end discrimination based on appearance such as body weight and size.
  5. Ask schools to promote body confidence