STRONGER TOGETHER: Raising our girls to find self esteem beyond appearance

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Last updated: 06/03/2023

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week, in honour of International Women's Day, Tanya discusses raising girls to find self esteem and worth beyond their appearance.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

This Wednesday (8 March) marks International Women’s Day, an annual celebration that recognises the contributions, accomplishments and achievements of women and girls, and those who identify as female, across the planet.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to talk about raising our girls, and the role we play in moulding them into confident and capable women who have the skills to look beyond social media and society’s perceptions to truly embrace diversity in all its forms and to accept themselves as they are.

Our young people are stuck in an epidemic of body hate. As women – mothers, teachers, sisters, aunts – we hold great power when it comes to influencing how our girls and younger women see themselves.

Our world is superficial and full of messages about how we ‘should’ look, and this is affecting our children in greater numbers than ever before. Unrealistic and narrow beauty standards and suggestions that how you look is linked to your worth are incredibly harmful to young people’s self-esteem. We must help them to navigate this, and to find self-worth beyond appearance.

In March 2022, Dove released their report on the Dove Self Esteem Project, and the results were shocking. They found that:

  • 1 in 2 girls say that idealised beauty content on social media is damaging to their self esteem
  • 80% of girls compare themselves to the way others look on social media
  • 8 out of 10 girls are so concerned with how they look that they opt out of important activities such as swimming, sports, going to the doctor and even speaking up with an opinion
  • 7 out of 10 girls admit to putting themselves at risk by not eating or not visiting the doctor when they don’t feel good about how they look
  • 25% of girls think they don’t look good enough without photo editing

While those statistics are scary, it’s not all doom and gloom! The report also highlighted the fact that 7 in 10 girls felt better for unfollowing idealised beauty content, and 80% of girls would like for their parents to talk to them about idealised beauty content.

Taryn Brumfitt was recently named as this year’s Australian of the Year for her work in the body image space. She says there is so much we can do to positively influence the young people in our lives and how they feel about themselves. She wants parents and those with influence over young people to recognise that kids hear and see everything, and in our homes we need to promote a safe space for them to flourish.

Our children look up to us. It is our job to model positive behaviour when it comes to the relationship we have with our bodies.

I strongly encourage you to think about how you talk about your own body in front of your children or other young people you have influence over. Try shifting your focus to the positive things your body can do and how you feel rather than focusing on how it looks, especially when it comes to your perceived flaws. Do you see exercise as a punishment or is moving your body joyfully your focus? Do you view food as an enemy rather than a way to nourish body? Are you openly critical when referring to certain parts of your body?

Body Image Movement and the Dove Self Esteem Project both have some great resources that can help you to discuss body image with young people, and it’s an important conversation to have.

As Taryn says, we need to be teaching our children to have a values system that is built on who they are and what they do, and that has nothing to do with what they look like. Embrace your uniqueness, embrace the individuality that you bring.


Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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