Body Confidence: We’re A Nation That Doesn’t Know How To Feel Beautiful

We all have those days when we roll out of bed, catch sight of ourselves in the mirror and wish we could spend the day hibernating until our skin/hair/insert-body-part-here plays ball. Rough days seem to appear more often than not for me, but I like to think that a decent blowdry and a full face of makeup covers up any amount of sleep deprivation. I know I can pop on a decent outfit, style my hair and apply a slick of lipstick and I fake feeling fabulous even if I’d rather be in my PJs binging on Netflix. I understand my good points as much as my bad points and choose to focus on the former; feeling content and accepting of your body comes more naturally as we get older, especially as we realise slipping into a size ten pair of jeans really isn’t the answer to all of our problems. I know I’d like to be thinner, taller, less wrinkly, have thicker hair and get rid of those dark circles under my eyes, but fundamentally I think I look alright. However, it’s become increasingly apparent that as a nation we’re really struggling with our confidence – it appears we no longer know how to feel beautiful. We’ve forgotten the most basic of skills and it’s having a huge impact not only on us living in the here and now, but on future generations.

Philips have just released the results of their biggest ever global survey into women’s perception of beauty and relationship with themselves; they surveyed 9000 women across the globe in nine different countries. Shockingly, only 24% of women in the UK stated they thought they were beautiful – compared to 91% of the women surveyed in India. (One explanation posed was that Indian culture focuses on the importance of education and being spiritual, so beauty is just implied.) When pressed further, only 22% of women admitted to feeling beautiful on their wedding day: the one day we’re programmed to feel our most beautiful from pretty much birth. That’s not only shocking to me, but incredibly upsetting; you spend your life dreaming of this perfect day that celebrates your love with someone who will adore you no matter what, and only one in five actually feel worthy of the title ‘beautiful bride’.

As someone who’s been immersed in the beauty industry for the last ten years, it’s no surprise to me that 80% of women surveyed by Philips admitted to spending up to an hour a day on their beauty regime. It seems that this an attempt to enhance our looks, prevent the dreaded ageing process for as long as possible and ensure we can step out of the door feeling confident; 1-5% of UK income is spent on beauty products, illustrating the value (monetary and emotional) of a new lipstick. Although over 70% of women no longer believe there’s one universal definition of beauty, according to some recipients ‘you still need to be beautiful in the eyes of someone.’ It seems we simply don’t know how to feel beautiful without the approval of others; why is it not enough for us to accept the way we are and love ourselves for it?

Bio-Oil also recently surveyed 5,000 women to hear what they had to say about their skin and bodies; the results shockingly discovered that teenagers worry more about their bodies than their grades. Their biggest body concern was being overweight (40%), followed by the size of their breasts (25%), perfectly straight teeth (17%), the size of their bum (16%) and stretch marks (11%). But it’s not just teenagers who suffer skin and body worries; an additional survey of women aged 25 and over revealed that our body confidence dips further as we get older. These body confidence issues mean that 55% of women hate having their picture taken and almost half of women feel they can’t wear the clothes they want to. What happened to seeing the beauty in every one of us and celebrating the unique ways in which that comes to life?

In response to these worrying statistics, Bio-Oil is making it their mission to inspire a life-time of body confidence, starting in schools and inspiring women of all ages. My Body Philosophy calls upon real women to share their one piece of body confidence boosting advice, which will then be taken into secondary schools with the help of Body Gossip – a charity that campaigns for ‘every body to be the best version of itself.’ They’ll run performance workshops to help inspire body confidence amongst young people (until 31st October you can nominate a school to receive a free Body Confidence Workshop) which will at least put the conversation on the agenda once again. It’s by no means the answer, but it will at least ensure baby steps to inspiring women of all ages to celebrate their own unique brand of beauty.

It seems that in the last few years the decline of confidence boosting concepts like Gok’s ‘How To Look Good Naked’ (I can’t explain how much I loved that show, wobbles and all,) partnered with the rise of media that critiques every minor imperfection, we’re a nation that’s moving backwards. Although celebrities such as Rebel Wilson, Adele, Kim Kardashian, Helen Mirren, Judy Dench and Kate Winslet showcase beauty in a multitude of ways, it seems that doesn’t translate from the pages of a magazine into real life. With young celebrities such as Kylie Jenner opting for cosmetic enhancements before the age of 18, is it becoming the norm to wish away those less-than-perfect parts of ourselves that make us who we are? It’s great to see diversity in the media, but I can’t help but think the sheer volume of slim-and-perfect models, young singers getting their kit off and constant fat-shaming combines to have an impact on all of us – no matter our age.

I work in an industry that’s obsessed with covering imperfections, improving our appearance and faking it; I don’t see the harm in giving ourselves a helping hand and a daily boost if it means we can walk out the door with a smile on our faces and a spring in our step. But with nearly half of women telling Philips they believed the beauty industry no longer understands the needs of the modern woman, are we putting pressure on those that are vunerable and making the situation worse? Have we forgotten what it’s like to feel beautiful?

I’d love to know your thoughts…

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  1. Lucy L.
    June 4, 2015 / 12:39 pm

    This is fascinating, terrifying, and, quite frankly, a little harrowing. Poorly managed media responsibility, female competitiveness, societal pressures and we're all aware of these issues, but we're trapped inside them. GG to Bio-Oil for inslltilling new body image concepts in the youth. Could you please link the references to the Philips and Bio-Oil surveys, as I'd love to read more.

    • Hayley Carr
      June 8, 2015 / 8:38 am

      Unfortunately they're not available online – they're in a press release/booklet I was sent. But I'm sure they'll be published eventually.

  2. glenka
    June 5, 2015 / 12:54 pm

    I agree with the above comment, a lot more needs to be done to get women of all ages more body confident. There should be more emphasis on these issues at a young age rather than leaving it to late. Having suffered with very low body confidence for a long time and an eating disorder as well it makes me upset to think of how many other people go through the same worries.Thank you for highlighting this in your post. Hopefully with companies trying to get the message across to younger people it might just make a difference.

    • Hayley Carr
      June 8, 2015 / 8:40 am

      I totally agree – like with anything, instilling confidence at a young age is key. When I was younger I was quite 'plump' and can remember my teachers having a go at me about it as young as 8; my gym teachers were dismissive and horrible because I wasn't particularly sporty and it had a huge impact on my confidence throughout school. It's wrong that they think that's ok; I can only hope things have changed in the years since…

    • glenka
      June 8, 2015 / 8:50 am

      I can only hope that things have changed since I went to school. I think society as a whole has to change what they view as the ideal body. What is right for one person is not always right for another. As long as you are healthy and happy at the end of the day that's all that really matters.

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