This is a sponsored post on behalf of Dove’s #SpeakBeautiful campaign. All anecdotes and opinions are my own.
*Warning — this post contains descriptions of disordered eating and other behaviors that may be triggering to some people. Just a heads up!
Almost a year ago, I wrote a post on here advocating for users to take responsibility for how certain social media accounts made them feel: if you’re not getting anything positive out of them, simply unfollow. I still agree that as adults, this is the way we should handle our responses to others’ social media profiles. But when it comes to the younger generation’s ability to “simply unfollow,” I may have been shortsighted.
When comments on that previous post pointed out the impressionable nature of young girls, my initial thought was that the responsibility then lies with parents to teach them a healthy self-image and confidence. While I still agree that this is part of the solution, I also feel that it’s shortsighted as well. There was no social media when I was growing up. The internet was just becoming “a thing” as I was becoming a teenager, and I wasn’t constantly inundated with pictures of models, glimpses into celebrity’s personal lives, or just everyday images of peers who I admired.
Parents can’t be everywhere. They can’t be there when you’re with a friend at the pool and the girl who has been bullying you shows up, forcing you to cry under water so that she can’t see you. They can’t be there when you’re at a party and a friend discovers you stuff your bra because you feel inadequate about your body. Even when parents do all they can to instill healthy self-confidence, their children are still individuals capable of their own thoughts and feelings.
As I shared on here, I recently visited the home where I grew up for the first time in about four years. I spent time going through my bedroom, laughing at the magazine cutouts of boys on the back of my door and stumbling across old diaries that I kept during middle and high school. In going through those diaries, I saw how impressionable I was and how much importance I placed on my outward appearance. Everything was about boys. Everything was about fitting in. And everything else in my life was ruined if I wasn’t in control of those two things.
This was all in a time without social media.
I suffered from a poor self-image as early as middle school, which I saw reflected in those diary pages. This continued until I was almost 30 years old, and it’s something that I constantly battle because it was so ingrained in me for many years. I used to work tirelessly to look a certain way, act a certain way, and be what I felt other people wanted me to be.
In my mind, happiness was equated with how I looked. I assumed every celebrity I revered was happy, content, and successful, and so if I strived to meet that (impossible) standard, I could be those things as well. I invested in makeup, hair products, tanning salons, tanning lotions, and clothes that were in style. I went through periods where I exercised obsessively, chased diet pills with energy drinks, restricted the foods I ate, and threw up my food a handful of times over the years.
This blog was born of an understanding that no matter how good you look on the inside, true wellness and happiness come from the inside. When I was my thinnest, I was also my most unhappy. I still didn’t look how I wanted. My mind was occupied with everything I wasn’t and what I could do to *maybe* get a little closer. I wasn’t living and I certainly wasn’t loving myself.
A lot of this played into my addiction and even continued after I got clean. I needed help from friends, from therapists, and especially from myself to try and reverse everything that I once believed.
So the pictures of celebrities and models came down. The gossip websites and magazines were added to my “STAY AWAY” list. The Victoria’s Secret fashion show no longer appeared on my calendar.
The affirmations slowly started. The phrases “I am enough” and “progress not perfection” became part of my vocabulary. Food became a friend instead of a foe, and exercise was no longer a punishment for the body I was born with. As I became more involved with this blog and the world of social media, I learned how certain images and accounts made me feel, and immediately unfollowed any that I felt were intended to make me feel poorly about myself.
This took me approximately 20 years. 20 years.
Because I can empathize so easily with self-bullying, low self-esteem, and body-shaming, it was no question that I wanted to share Dove’s #SpeakBeautiful campaign and my own experiences growing up.
This week, Dove is introducing their #SpeakBeautiful Squad: a group of young women in media who are banding together to help young girls cope with the sort of troubles that affect them in this new and evolving social media landscape. Each member of the squad will provide resources, best practices, and personal tips to address online barriers to a girl’s self-esteem, including: how to spot cyberbullying, how to form friendship circles online and in real life for self-protection, as well as how to navigate negative commentary about beauty and body image. AH I LOVE IT. 🙂
According to Dove, 72% of girls encounter negative beauty posts, comments, snaps, videos or photos that can be damaging to their self-esteem on a weekly basis. Girls want social media to be a positive platform for inspiration and positivity rather than negativity and defeat (don’t we all!).
Join our Real Selfie Challenge & show girls that photos don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.
— Dove (@Dove) October 24, 2016
Dove is encouraging everyone to #SpeakBeautiful online and transform social media into a place where girls feel supported and empowered. Starting on October 20th, you can visit Dove on Twitter to receive advice and exercises from the #SpeakBeautiful Squad on how to navigate the negativity on social media. Squad members include:
- Ariel Winter – Actress and Self-Esteem Advocate
- Franchesca Ramsey – Comedian, Video Blogger and Host of MTV’s Decoded
- Vanessa Van Edwards – Published Author and Behavioral Expert
- Jeannette Kaplun – TV Personality, Parenting and Lifestyle Expert
While the campaign is aimed at younger girls, I know that I still suffer at times from periods of self-doubt. It’s important to me to understand how to help those younger than me grow into strong, confident women, so I’m happy to learn as much as I can. I love the spirit of this campaign, and if you have any personal stories or anecdotes about similar periods in your life, feel free to share them with these girls using the hashtag #SpeakBeautiful. Anything from advice to inspiration to a funny story can help. Maybe I’ll also tell one about this sweet outfit.
Life is always a process. There’s ups and downs and it’s how we learn to handle those tough times that makes us who we are. So much love to everyone today — this post got me feeling all kinds of motherly. HA. 🙂
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.
- How do you combat negativity on social media?
- What helped you develop your sense of self-esteem?