Last week Dove released a video that quickly went viral and had everybody talking about beauty and issues of self image. The video featured a woman describing herself to a sketch artist and then another person describing the same woman to a sketch artist. Afterward, the drawings by the sketch artist were shown side by side. Sure enough, the drawings of the women who had been described by another person were far more attractive than the drawings of the women who were describing themselves.
I’m not going to address the numerous issues that people have with this video and Dove (they’re owned by Unilever, which also owns Axe, the overarching message is still that beauty is important, they’re just trying to sell soap, etc). When watching this video, one of the parts that stood out to me was when a woman said that her mother told her she had a big chin. I noticed comments in online communities that were similar. “My mother told me I’d never be as pretty as my friends.” “My mom has always said that my nose is too big for my face and that she’d pay for plastic surgery if I want it.”
I almost couldn’t believe these comments, although truthfully, I know that sometimes a mother can undermine her daughter’s self-esteem worse than anyone. It got me thinking about my own mom and how I was lucky enough to have someone who not only was supportive but who regularly tried to get me to see my own beauty. She told me over and over, “Other girls might be pretty but you are beautiful.” As I’ve said before, when I look back at pictures of myself I now wish that I could have seen what she was talking about. Instead I was my own worst critic, constantly convinced that I didn’t look as good as the other girls in my class. Nevertheless, I’m thankful for what my mom said. Throughout all my self doubt, she was an encouraging and reassuring voice. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to grow up with a mother who criticized my looks just as harshly as kids in the schoolyard. Once again, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have my mom.