Before reading this article, take a look at this quick video produced by Dove Beauty called "Dove Evolution."
In 2004, The Dove Beauty Campaign did a study around the world that asked women the question, "would you describe yourself as beautiful?" The study found that only 2% of women answered yes when asked this question. Using the data collected in the study, in 2006 Dove produced a short film showcasing the distorted perception of beauty through the evolution of a photoshopped billboard model. As the model is altered through the heavy use of beauty products and photoshop editing tools, it is clear that the media falsely portrays beauty as a self-image game. No wonder all these women and men lack the self-esteem to feel beautiful.
As a woman who has been struggling with self-esteem and confidence issues since I was in elementary school, feeling beautiful in my own skin has always been challenging. Beauty is very hard to identify because it relies on each individual's perception and belief on what makes something or someone beautiful. I have always questioned what (or who) defines the norms for what is beautiful in society, and what I realized is beauty is a socially constructed concept.
So, I decided to reach out to a few close friends, both male, and female, and asked them the question: "what is your definition of beauty?" Here are the responses I received:
Female response- "Beauty is not how someone appears on the outside, but instead their heart within them. The most beautiful people are the kindest, most hardworking and positive individuals. Beauty is staying strong during tough times, and going out of your way to help others."
Male response- " Kindness, empathy, positivity, and a smile."
Female response- "A smile."
Male response- " Acts of kindness that are unnecessary. Just overall selflessness."
Female response- "Beauty comes from the inner selflessness, not the outward appearance."
Female response- "Radiating genuine happiness."
As you can see through the responses I received, not a single person defined beauty through physical attributes. Beauty is found in someone through the impact they have on those around them. The way their smile brightens a room or their contagious personality brings joy to others. Beauty is not the number flashed on the scale, the flawless, airbrushed, pore-less skin caked in foundation, the size tag on a pair of jeans, the filters piled on Instagram photos. If physical 'perfection' does not make someone beautiful, why do we allow the media to construct our perception? Because media outlets have the psychological power to set standards and norms for what is 'beautiful,' they can constantly feed us unreasonably altered images of 'beauty,' which we respond to by purchasing the products, adding the filters and even altering the parts of our bodies that may not match the set 'norms.' The problem is these media outlets are not portraying humanly attainable, healthy, or even realistic forms of beauty, which has caused women and men to begin developing self-image and self- esteem issues, even starting at very young ages. Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are at an all-time high and confidence is almost unheard of.
We have to learn how to value our inner beauty just as much as some of us value our outward beauty. Our bodies are what make us unique and beautiful, so taking care of them in a healthy way is what should be advertised in the media.
Two years ago, I had the fortunate opportunity to listen to Stacy Nadeau, a Dove Real beauty Campaign Model and an Ambassador for Women's Empowerment, speak at Iowa State University to express her belief in real beauty. Stacy was one of the original six models for the Dove Real Beauty Campaign, which she claims was a powerful, yet incredibly challenging experience. Through her experience as a model for Dove, Stacy came to the conclusion, "To make more women feel beautiful every day we have to widen today's stereotypical view of beauty by inspiring women to take great care of themselves. Your best and healthy self is only yours."
Stacy told her personal story of being directly stereotyped and publicly attacked for what she was campaigning for, but when she realized the amount of individuals she inspired through her work, she was able to understand the impact she had made. This is what inspired her passion for coaching and helping individuals struggling with body confidence and insecurities. Dove Beauty stresses, "We believe that beauty should be a source of confidence and not anxiety. Dove inspires women to want to look like the best version of themselves – because looking and feeling your best makes you feel happier" (Dove Beauty Campaign). Many individuals look at advertisements in the media and aim to conform to specific body types through dieting, over-exercising, or even plastic surgery. As explained by Stacy, the issue is it is impossible to conform to these individuals in the media because the images in the media are falsely portrayed.
Just look at the example of the Barbie Doll- something young children grow up playing with every single day. As children begin playing with these dolls, they are being fed unrealistic claims of how the female or male body should appear. How is this a healthy way for children to start looking at beauty?
Solutions to this issue are challenging because beauty is so socially constructed, but in the past few years, it has been incredible to see some companies, like Dove, change the way they advertise their products. For example, the company Aerie has started changing their advertising to appeal to all types of bodies and features. With their new #AerieREAL advertising, women can actually feel confident purchasing products that appeal to all body types. Aerie has created a Get REAL page to their website that contains workshops, advice and personal stories that help empower self-love and body confidence.
So the next time you begin scrolling through social media and start comparing yourself to the edited images filling your screen, take time to remember the hours of editing and photoshop that go into creating one of these images.
Your real, inner beauty will always be the most remarkable, unique part of yourself. Don't let societies false perceptions change your beautiful, glowing self.
Dove Beauty Campaign: "Dove Evolution"- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U