As I sat, tearing up shamelessly at Dove's "Change One Thing" video, I found myself wondering: what was the first thing I ever wanted to change about my appearance? Those first negative thoughts feel so long ago that it's hard to even remember. Perhaps it was when I decided my nose was too big, that first time I remember hating a picture of my profile in 7th grade. Or maybe it was when I became self-conscious about being short in 8th grade, and started changing into my gym sneakers in the bathroom stall in order to minimize the amount of time my crush saw me at non-platform height.
Apparently, if my negative self-talk began in middle school, I was actually a late bloomer. Dove's Self Esteem Project research found that only 11 percent of girls surveyed (ages 10-17) said they were comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves. Dove's research also found that six out of 10 girls stop doing at least one thing they love because of anxiety about their looks — and nine out of 10 girls want to change at least one thing about their physical appearance.
And don't think for a second those kind of numbers don't have disastrous consequences: more than 60 percent of the girls surveyed globally (age 15 to 17) report avoiding normal daily activities such as attending school, going to the doctor, or even giving their opinion in class when they feel bad about their looks.
These discouraging statistics have led Dove to launch a new Pinterest page providing free resources for parents, mentors, and girls themselves to address some of the most common barriers to girls' self-esteem. The page seems like a great resource for educators as well, with 80 pins of self-esteem activities and content designed to help young women open up the dialogue about self-esteem, body image, cyber bullying, and much more.
Of course, this being Dove, the brand also released a new tear-jerking video Tuesday called "Change One Thing" to accompany the new initiative. The video is devastating, on many levels: seeing these beautiful, smart young girls say they wish they could change their hair, their skin color, their height — your heart breaks for them. But it's also cry-inducing, at least for me, because in them, I see the little girl in myself — and I feel a great deal of compassion for her.
Perhaps I will try to remember that little girl the next time I catch myself in harsh self-criticism. It's a good litmus test: If I wouldn't say it about myself to my own 10-year-old face, then perhaps I shouldn't say it to myself at all.