Exposing True Beauty

By Renee Bogacz

Girls start at an early age being critical of themselves.  It seems natural for them.  They grow up seeing it happen all around them.  Think about how many times we women have done this to ourselves (and probably still do).  Every time we worry about a bad hair day, looking fat in an outfit, talk about going on a diet, or say something disparaging about another woman’s appearance, we are sending subtle messages to our daughters that we aren’t good enough the way we are and that other women aren’t good enough the way they are, either.  Ultimately, this causes our daughters to have the same self-doubts and they end up just as critical of themselves and other females.

This would be an easy dilemma to fix if we were the only ones sending these messages to our daughters, but we’re not.  Other women do it, too, which just perpetuates the vicious circle of self-esteem erosion.  The media has a hand in it, too.  Walk into any popular teenagers’ clothing store and you will see pictures of what the girls think they should look like.  Open any magazine and look at the ads to see what the image of a beautiful girl or woman is supposed to be.  Scan the topics in any magazine aimed at girls and women and note what so many topics cover: weight loss, clothing, and makeup.  Sadly, there tends to be little diversity in the images that are portrayed, so it is easy to understand why our girls think that what they see is what they need to achieve in order to be beautiful and happy with themselves.

According to a brochure published by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund over 90% of girls want to change at least one aspect of their appearance.  Looking at magazines for just one hour was found to lower the self-esteem of 80% of the girls reading those magazines!  Now consider this: more than half of girls aged 11 – 15 say that when they have a problem, it’s their mom who they turn to and who helps them deal with the problem.  This is what we want to hear – our girls need and want our help!

Even though we do all the negative things mentioned above, we still need to let our girls know that they ARE good enough just they way they are.  This can be a daunting task and a battle that seems without end.  What can be quite empowering and enlightening is to expose the realities about what she is seeing.  One great resource for this is the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.  They offer lots of information on ways to build girls’ self-esteem.  There are plenty of activities that moms and daughters can do together to help show girls they are beautiful just as they are, and the activities can be used with girls as young as eight years old.   One of the most powerful tools put out by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is this video which shows the transformation of a model from moderately attractive woman to perfect beauty.  When you watch it with your daughter, you will find a plethora of items to point out and discuss – point out that the video has to be sped up to show everything because it took a long time to transform her; note that the model had an entire team of professionals doing her hair and makeup; note how much computer editing was done on her photograph – everything from airbrushing to making her lips fuller, eyes larger, and neck longer.  What we see on the finished billboard is a fake woman – that woman does not exist in reality.  She is computer-enhanced, so not a single one of us women can ever look like she does in person.  Not even that model looks like the picture on the billboard!  Our girls need to know that this is standard practice – and models, actresses, and performers who do look stunning in real life also have teams of hired professionals helping them.  They have personal trainers, stylists, and hair and makeup teams to help them every step of the way.

Another great resource is this story by Nightline called “Pretty Girls, Risky Business: A Peek at Modeling’s Dark Side.”  In the video, aspiring models talk about what their life is like and the realities of being a model.  Again, this can be a great springboard for discussion with your daughter.  Ask her how glamorous she really thinks these girls are after watching the video.  Is the payoff of having your hair and makeup done and wearing beautiful designer clothes worth being broke, manipulated, and mistreated?

What it all comes down to is helping our daughters see the line between fantasy and reality.  The fantasy that they try so desperately to achieve is just that – a fantasy – and any form of attainment they reach is going to be risky at best and will probably end with something that doesn’t resemble who they really are.    Instead, we need to make the reality appealing – teach girls to always find the beauty and good things in each other, embrace all their physical attributes because none of us is physically perfect, especially the women we see in the media who are selling their distorted view of beauty to all of us.


Renee Bogacz has taught language arts and computers for 20 years at Channahon Junior High School. She is a member of her school district’s technology committee, student handbook committee, and anti-bullying committee. She regularly uses technology in her classroom and develops and presents cyberbullying and Internet safety presentations for her school district.



Posted in Girls on December 15th, 2011 | Permalink | Comments »
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