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

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"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:

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.


"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on unconscious bias in the lead up to International Women's Day which has a theme of Break the Bias this year.

By Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services' Managing Director

Asking yourself why is one of the easiest hard questions to reflect upon.

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Particularly when it comes to how you think and your beliefs: Why do you think the way that you do?

Is it because it’s truly what you believe, or is it habit – thoughts that you believe because that’s what you have always done?

Being able to answer this question authentically is a matter of self-awareness and education on unconscious bias.

With the theme of International Women’s Day on March 8, Break the Bias, the time to reflect, educate and grow is now.

This type of bias can take many forms, from gender, ageism, name bias, conformation bias and more, it’s often not logical and can lead to hijacked decision-making and discrimination.

Reflecting on your thoughts, language and actions can have an immense flow-on effect for a more inclusive home, community, sporting club and social group and life.  

So where do you start? Education is key to identifying these prejudices, find reliable sources which highlight various unconscious and systemic bias.

Talk to a friend or someone about what you’ve read, do you agree with it, or not? Why?

Reflection and communication are essential to change.

When it comes to gender bias, understanding the appropriate language, fluidity and scope of gender beyond the binary of male and female is crucial.

It’s why respecting someone’s pronouns is important and not assuming you know someone’s gender identity based on unrelated factors or expressions which society has unnecessarily gendered – like colours, professions, and clothes.

Unfortunately unconscious bias is often entrenched throughout our lives, when curiosity is a trait that we should hold on to from our childhood.

Be curious about why you think the way that you do and act – educate, communicate and change your language to be more inclusive, understanding and open.

IMPACT Community Services’ mission is building a caring and inclusive community through opportunities which empower people, increase individual choice, improve resilience and increase social and economic participation.

IMPACT is a member of the Diversity Council of Australia and promotes inclusivity throughout the organisation.

Creating non-bias workplaces and communities, whereby people can bring their whole-selves and be respected for their work, experiences and knowledge is paramount with benefits for individuals, business, community and society as a whole.

The reality is however that removing bias starts with creating awareness within individuals.

So I challenge you, to be curious and ask yourself ‘When did I start believing that?’ and, ‘What did I believe before that?’ When you have the answer, you have a choice.

Some may choose to remain aligned to those beliefs.

Others may decide that change is necessary.

Which category do you fall into, and if it is the latter, what are you going to do about it?

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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