One Thing

“Our mission is to ensure the next generation grows up enjoying a positive relationship with the way they look—helping girls to raise their self-esteem and realize their full potential.” Since its launching on 2004, the Dove Self-Esteem Project has reached 17 million people in 112 countries, teaching girls ages 7 to 17 about issues such as body confidence and self-esteem.

As a part of the Self-Esteem Project and self-esteem research being conducted, Dove has found that “9 out of 10 girls want to change at least one thing about their physical appearance.”

As seen in this commercial, there is a wide range of things that girls would like to change about themselves, and often times what one girl thinks makes her ugly, another girl thinks will make her more beautiful. We see this in the comparison of skin color, height, hair style, etc. One girl wants lighter skin, another wants darker skin, one girl wants straight hair, another wants curly, one girl wants to be taller, another wants to be shorter. This commercial prompts viewers to realize that beauty is defined in a lot of different ways so instead of asking our children what one thing they would change about themselves, we should instead change the way they view the person they see in the mirror.

At one point in the commercial, a young girl says she would like to have blue eyes, an idea we are all too familiar with from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. In the final chapter of the novel we observe Pecola in conversation with her imaginary friend, in desperate search of validation of the beauty of her brand new blue eyes. We have watched Pecola struggle with her yearning for blue eyes the entire length of the story, so when we finally see her wish come true at the conclusion of the novel, it is especially disturbing that she still doesn’t seem satisfied. Now that she has these beautiful blue eyes, she only feels in greater competition with her blue-eyed counterparts, and thus doesn’t feel as gratified as we and she thought she would be.

In the Keywords of Children’s Literature essay on Body, Kelly Hager points out that “children’s literature concerns itself with the ‘material frame’ of the child as much as with that child’s intellectual, spiritual, and moral coming of age.” (19) It is the emphasis on our physical appearances from such a young age that creates such an immense need for campaigns like Dove’s Self-Esteem Project. We are learning earlier and earlier in life to put emphasis our appearances more so than “what’s on the inside”.

The way we view our own physical appearances is having a greater impact on girls now more than ever. According to the Dove Self-Esteem Project, 60 percent of girls are so concerned about the way they look that they opt out of important activities. The project has also found that 60 percent of girls feel most influenced by their friends and peers in comparison to 0 percent who felt influenced by celebrities (34 percent felt influenced by their parents). This is incredibly telling of how influential the people that we surround ourselves with are. We think that the people we see in the media serve as the greatest source of comparison, but in reality, it is the people we see every single day and spend our time with that make us either feel beautiful or not.

Instead of changing one thing about the way we look, we need to start changing the way we see ourselves. Beauty is not skin deep and it does not need to define us or tear us down anymore. Telling someone they are beautiful can mean the world.

7 thoughts on “One Thing”

  1. Wow! I can totally relate to this post. I find myself saying I wish I had this and that all of the time. I think an important concept from this post is that we need to accept our uniqueness. The features that make us unique are what defines us. It is crucial that we do not get lost into what other people have. Plastic surgeons make a lot of money from altering people’s bodies. However, have you ever seen someone who has overdone it or who got a bad plastic surgery job? Then, it makes you think, they looked way better before the surgery or they should have never started getting things altered. Yes, I’m sure we all would like to change some things here and there but we have to realize that our uniqueness has value. The video also helped me realize that some things that you desire are sometimes undesirable by the person who has them. There are negatives and positives of what we posses but we have to learn to be comfortable with being ourselves.

  2. I am impressed that Dove was the company responsible for creating this positive video. The message from the video is very important. “Let’s change one thing. How our kids see themselves. “ This powerful message has the potential to change the way girls think about themselves. Instead of wanting to change themselves, girls should embrace the way in which they are different from others. It is also interesting to note that oftentimes people want only what they don’t have and in many instances have very little ability to change. A tall person wants to be short and a short person wants to be tall. A person with large features wants small features and visa versa. Perhaps a better solution is to surround ourselves with people who value us for what we are.

  3. Hi Katelyn,
    You brought up some really good points in your article, and I like the video you incorporated- I’ve never seen that one before. The Dove campaign touches on a lot of serious topics when you’re growing up as a girl, but this one in particular was very interesting. I sometimes feel that if I could just change one thing about me maybe I’d be____. It’s unhealthy, but like you said I don’t find myself saying it because I saw a celebrity doing it. Yet, I still didn’t think about this because my friends were doing it; I think these things mostly because I don’t want to be considered “that girl” (i.e. that fat girl, that loud girl, that mess girl, that ugly girl, that annoying girl, etc!) I think the new area of focus should be who is “that girl?”

  4. I thought this was a really cool post. I thought it was super sad to hear that 9/10 girls struggle with loving themselves completely and can find something wrong about themselves. I know growing up I always wanted to look like the girl that was considered to be the prettiest girl in my grade. After a long time of hating how I looked and trying to be something I wasn’t I started to realize that people liked me for me and that the way I was wasn’t good enough, but it was perfect. I think a sad example of this is when I look at my cousin who is 7 years old calling herself chunky. It makes me so heartbroken to think that someone put that idea into there head. It really isn’t fair and it’s sad that at such a young age girls are questioning themselves based on how they look.

  5. I really enjoyed this post. I have heard of the campaign, but had not seen the video; it’s incredibly powerful, especially since it connects the girls, and goes full circle. I think the case in “The Bluest Eye” with Pecola’s blue eyes is very interesting. There is certainly some metaphor in there. Perhaps it is that she feels more beautiful after experiencing what she did, or because of the attention she received. Either way, she was happy with what she had on the outside despite what happened to her. I think what literature can do to alter what girls want and how they view themselves is powerful. Novelists can illustrate what ideal traits are, and girls can strive for those until they are satisfied. I think that children’s literature does focus too much on the physical body, and that becomes all readers notice and relate to. This must be changed if we want to stop low self-esteem issues that are too prominent in today’s society.

  6. Wow. This video made me very emotional. I think it’s interesting to hear one girl say “I want straight hair” and the next girl say”I want curly hair”. We are truly programmed to want what we don’t have. It’s eye opening to me and really helps me to be happy with who I am. The question is, how do we turn this around? I believe a lot of it has to do with displaying more diversity in the media.

  7. That was a very powerful video from a very admirable campaign. In the video, one particular moment that really struck a chord with me was when the girl in the classroom attempted to explain why she desired lighter skin, showing her raw emotion in a very striking way. I’d be interested to see an example of their active work to try to teach body positivity to the younger generations.

    Another point of your post I found important was the connection you drew between childhood and insecurity about physical appearances, bringing in the Keywords essay of “body” as well. I had never really thought about body insecurity as an issue to be tied with youth and childhood, but reading your post really opened my eyes to it. The pressures of society and standards of beauty being subliminally taught to your from all directions is an extremely difficult aspect of growing up, which I’m sure almost everyone can relate to. I know I can. Childhood is a very important formative period, and only as I continue to age and gain maturity (or at least I’d like to think so), have I been able to come to terms with my own physical appearance. Whether highlighted in literature like The Bluest Eye or in real life, body issues are an unfortunate but very real part of childhood.

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