Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Dove Self-Esteem Project Empowering Young Girls to Realise their Potential

To celebrate International Day of the Girl, Mumsnet are working with Dove to promote the Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) and the launch of their new online space packed full of resources specifically designed to help parents build their girls’ body confidence and self-esteem.

Research from DSEP highlights that 60% of girls globally are missing out on participating in daily activities, sports and experiences because poor body confidence and low self-esteem is holding them back. Half of UK girls have ‘missed out’ on participating in activities because they don’t like how they look. From avoiding activities such as swimming, running, dancing and gymnastics to not joining sports teams, trying out for school productions or even putting their hands up in class, girls are missing out.

As a mother of three daughters aged 11, 17 and 21 this is a subject that is really close to my heart.  I understand what it is like to feel self-conscious and have low self-esteem as I have myself suffered with body confidence issues. It is not easy growing up at the best of times, but having a poor body image and a lack of confidence can be debilitating for a young girl.  Missing out on going out or joining in with activities because of these issues is just so very sad.  I was the tall, thin, awkward girl who sat in the corner at discos because I was too embarrassed to get up and dance, even though I desperately wanted to join in.  I hate to think of any girl feeling like that.


I was all too pleased to get involved and help promote the message of the DSEP campaign.  

Dove’s mission is to help the girls of today, our women of tomorrow, to develop a positive relationship with the way they look, helping them raise their self-esteem, and realise their full potential. Dove believes the next generation of women should grow up to be happy and content, free from misconstrued beauty stereotypes and the burden of self-doubt.

The website is packed with information and activities for parents, teachers and mentors to help girls overcome the beauty related anxieties which can negatively affect their self-confidence.  With sections on Teasing and Bullying, Friends and Relationships, Growing Up, Boosting Self Esteem and the Role of the Media, the information is aimed at girls aged between 8 and 16.

As a mum, I have always considered open and honest communication between myself and my children as a fundamental element of my parenting.  I believe that it is through talking with my children and through sharing my own experiences, we can reach a level of trust that means nothing will ever be taboo or off limits. Any problems they encounter can hopefully be shared early on, without any shame or judgment, before they become too overwhelming. With my older girls we have experienced the horrors of anonymous cyber bullying, issues of bad body image, the dangers of the pro-anorexia websites, the cruelty of jealous love rivals, the pressures of boyfriends and the reality of teenage depression and self-harming.  But through communication and finding relevant resources for help, we have dealt with these problems as a family.  

It is important to empower our daughters to help them deal with problems by giving them the tools they need to equip themselves from an early age to hold themselves in high regard, boosting their confidence and self-esteem by giving them a good self-image.  Helping and supporting girls through the emotional ups and downs of growing up will hopefully see them emerge as confident  young women ready to take their place in the world.

Kizzy is my youngest daughter who has just turned eleven and is in her final year of primary school.  I chose to focus the activities on her giving us some quality time together to discuss the issue of self-esteem and give her a confidence boost.

What do you love about your body?

According to research, only 4% of women think they are beautiful.  We clearly default to a very critical opinion of ourselves.  However we find it easy to say what we admire about other people.  So me and Kizzy took part in an activity where we had to say five things that we like about one other and five things we liked about ourselves.  For me, I always focus on my negatives (like most women clearly and sadly do) so to ignore the flabby tummy, the greying hair, my xanthelasma and my less than perfect skin was actually quite a revelation. Without just looking at just physical appearance, but also looking at personality and character it was much easier to be kind to myself. I like my long legs.  I like the fact that I have lost weight and have a good relationship with food now. I like that I am a good mum, wife and daughter.  I like my green eyes and I like that my body has carried five beautiful children.  It was easy to find five things I liked about my amazing daughter: her full lips, her long eyelashes and blue eyes, her sense of humour, her personal style and her empathetic soul are all wonderful aspects of Kizzy.  Physicality is just one part of who she is!  Valuing other aspects of what makes us who we are helps to remove the unhealthy obsession we have with beauty stereotypes.

It was then my daughter's turn to say what she liked about herself and about me.  Kizzy likes that she is tall. She likes that she can make people laugh. Kizzy delighted me with her next answer, saying she likes that she is not perfect because 'perfection screams a lack of adventure'!  She also likes that she is kind to other people.  Kizzy also likes that she can crinkle up her nose!!  It took her a while to get going but then thought of more and more positives about herself.  When I asked her five things about me she said I was loving.  I never think about myself first.  She likes my determination when I do things.  She likes me 'saying it how it is'! Plus she likes that I make her laugh.  She saw right through what I looked like and considered aspects of my personality, showing that she clearly isn't obsessed with looks.  That made me very proud!

FLAW-LESS Exploring Global Ideas of Beauty

One of the activities we enjoyed was a game of pairs where you matched things that might be considered as 'flaws' with descriptions of ideas of beauty from around the world.  Kizzy has got really full lips and was pleased to see that legend has it that big lips make girls very expressive and give them the ability to sing songs, make jokes and tell stories.  This is definitely true of my little all-singing and joking comedienne.  It shows girls that there isn't just one idea of beauty and that we are all beautiful in our own way.  In China hairy moles are considered a sign that you will live a long and happy life and in some parts of the world, a big chin means you are fun loving!

beauty, DSEP


Since January 2009, the UK charity Family Lives reports that it has seen calls to its bullying helpline increase by 13%, while calls specifically about cyberbullying have soared by 77%. Appearance is a common target for cyberbullying attacks – and girls experience it twice as much as boys.  We have seen cyberbullying firsthand and it is horrible, chipping away at a child's self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.  Talking about it is the most important thing and trying to understand why the bullies are doing what they do.  My eldest son said something to his sister at the time which I thought was very insightful, "People bully you because they are jealous of you.  They want something you've got or they want to be you."  In many cases I think this is quite true, with girls being mean to other girls because of their own insecurities.  I teach Kizzy to treat people with respect both off and online and to expect the same in return.  If anyone ever says anything online that makes her feel bad, she needs to turn off that device and tell me straight away.  Never try to reason with or beg a bully to stop.  It just fuels the fire.  Step away and tell a grown-up.


How to express The Real Me

Here is a lovely activity to do with your child:

1. Ask your daughter to find a photo of herself she likes and print it out.
2. Stick the picture on a sheet of paper.
3. Complete these sentences and write them on:
 'I am unique in many ways. These include...'
 'Three things I enjoy doing… '
'Three things I'm good at…'
'Things I'm really proud of about my family's background and culture…'

This celebrates your child's uniqueness and is a really positive way for a girl to embrace what makes her special.  She can share this activity with her friends and find out more about them too.

teens, young girls, self-esteem

The Role of the Media

It's no wonder that we are image obsessed when the media distort real images of women to fit in with the stereotypical image of what is beautiful.  Sharing this video with Kizzy showed her that the images she sees in magazines and on billboards are not of real beauty...they are fake.  Necks lengthened, eyes widened, cheekbones accentuated and skin airbrushed, the end result is not an authentic representation of a real woman.  If girls understand this, maybe they won't feel the pressure to conform to this unreal expectation.  Real beauty is so much more than what can be achieved with photoshop...real beauty comes from within and transcends the physical.  It's the person you are inside!


Kizzy really enjoyed looking at the DSEP website with me.  It was nice to find out more about what she thought about the idea of beauty, body image and growing up.  Hearing her mature attitude to many of the discussion prompts really pleased me.  Although she is the tallest in her whole school, I was so happy to hear her say that she thought it was a positive thing, making her unique and special, rather than being embarrassed about it.  Kizzy experienced firsthand the effect that low self-esteem had on her older sister and I think she learnt a lot through that and came out much stronger with an understanding of how bullying and lack of body confidence can prevent you from reaching your full potential and enjoyment of life. Thankfully, Kizzy does seem to be quite a confident young girl, coping with the changes she is going through, with a close support network of friends at school.  She is one of the lucky ones.

If you are the parent of a daughter or if there is a young girl in your life who needs a boost in her self-confidence, I would recommend the Dove Self Esteem Project website as a great free resource for activities, games, videos and advice, which can help you to empower them to realise their full potential.

Help spread the word at #doveselfesteem

Learn more about the Dove Self-Esteem Project at: and at:

“I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity”.


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