Teaching our daughters the meaning of #RealBeauty

CULTURE VULTURE By Therese Jamora-Garceau

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#ConfidentGirl forum: (from left) Apples Aberin, Unilever head of PR; Janice Villanueva, Mompreneur and founder of Mommy Mundo; Gabby Roa Limjoco, directress of Playworks Learning Center; Tina Zamora, directress of NEST school for whole child development; Neil Trinidad, Unilever’s marketing director for Skin and Dove Masterbrand. Photo by Walter Bollozos

As the mom of a 15-year-old girl, I’ve seen her face many of the self-esteem issues that plague young girls in their tween years. My daughter’s skin is very fair and her hair is light brown thanks to her American dad, and looking so different from other Pinays made her a target for bullies when she started grade school.

Luckily as she grew more able to defend herself the taunts faded, and being compared to Taylor Swift during one field trip by some admirers didn’t hurt, either.

At home my family and I have always tried to boost her self-esteem and give her a positive self-image based more on her accomplishments (painting, graphic design, math) than her looks, and increasingly, she now views her differences as assets instead of liabilities, and has grown more and more comfortable in her own skin.

Aware that a girl’s tween years tend to be fraught with issues about appearance, especially in this age of social media and rampant selfie-ing, which seems to be designed to make all women — not just preteens — feel dissatisfied with their looks, Dove recently held a #ConfidentGirl forum in partnership with Mommy Mundo, an online community that supports and connects mothers.

“The Dove Self-Esteem Project is empowering young girls to feel beautiful and reach their full potential,” said Apples Aberin, Unilever Philippines’ head of public relations. “Dove has been around for the last 60 years and provides products that deliver real beauty from real care. But more than that, I have a longstanding commitment to create a world where real beauty is more about confidence and not anxiety.”

For years Dove has launched campaigns that have redefined what beauty means. “Year on year we try to remind Filipinas to be confident in themselves and to embrace their #realbeauty in the world that tells us otherwise,” she says. “We realized that for us to change this beauty mindset, we have to go back to where beauty anxiety really develops, which is the preteen stage.”

The Dove Self-Esteem program was started in 2004 to help young girls develop a positive relationship with the way they look. So far, Dove has reached over 20 million young people across 168 countries, including the Philippines. “That makes the Dove Self-Esteem Project one of the largest providers of body confidence in the world,” Aberin says.

In the Philippines, Dove partnered with the Girl Scouts of the Philippines and has been going to schools, reaching out to young girls with modules and other tools to help them build their confidence, improve their self-image and keep their self-esteem intact.

“We delve into topics like appearance pressures — you have to be thinner or this or that — social media pressures, and the role that media plays. Today we reached about 400,000 girls in school here in the Philippines, but this year we want to help start this conversation at home.”

To make it easier to start that conversation, Dove created “Uniquely Me,” a module you can download from its website, www.dove.com, to guide you on how to build body confidence in your daughter/s. Just click “Dove Self-Esteem Project” and you’ll also find loads of articles and other valuable resources on topics like “Respecting and looking after yourself.” I’m glad to see they have exactly what I needed a few years ago: “How to tackle teasing and bullying.” And I’m also interested in articles about the unrealistic expectations created by social media and celebrities, like “Help your child defy body trends and beat the body-shamers.”

“We believe that making a real difference starts there because the best way to communicate the message to young girls is through us, their mothers,” Aberin says.

Mommy Mundo founder Janice Crisostomo-Villanueva agrees: “Our daughters are like balikbayan boxes that have to be filled, so we have to make sure we fill it with good things.”

Adds family life and development expert Gabby Roa-Limjoco, moms should encourage children to choose age-appropriate activities to develop confidence and competence. “You want to focus on accomplishments,” she says. “Help your child make goals and support her in reaching them so that they have more accomplishments. Their bodies will change but make sure you treat your daughters the same. Our daughters still need hugs and handholding. Just remember the three F’s: be fair, be firm, and be friendly.”

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Starting that all-important conversation: At www.dove.com you’ll find Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, which is filled with valuable resources to help parents build body confidence in their child, including “Uniquely Me,” a module you can download.

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You can download the “Uniquely Me” module from www.dove.com under the tab “Dove Self-Esteem Project.”

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Follow me on Facebook (Therese Jamora-Garceau), Twitter @tjgarceau and Instagram @theresejamoragarceau.

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