When it comes down to it, we are all just people. So why are we always labelling ourselves? Why do we brandish our identities with words like fat, skinny, lanky, chubby, plain or ugly? Dove’s beauty videos are major tearjerkers, but they carry a message that is more profound, more relevant and more important today than ever before. In a survey conducted in 2010, Dove found that only 4% of women internationally would call themselves beautiful. Four percent. We are all desperate to point out our flaws, hone in on our imperfections and deny our beauty. We avoid looking in mirrors and we avoid approaching men because we are so ashamed of our looks. We criticise and berate ourselves for not being perfect but we never, not for a second, expect anybody else to be. These videos demonstrate our burning desire for our loved ones, our mothers and sisters and daughters and friends, to see how beautiful they are, to see themselves as they appear to us. A woman describes her anguish at being unable to teach her daughter self-acceptance because she simply cannot feel it inside herself, and that is so sad. It is so sad that generations of women are growing up with such immense capacities for love but a complete inability to accept and appreciate themselves. And that highlights an extreme shortcoming in our society, one that Dove seeks to challenge through these thought-provoking and life-changing campaigns.
The one that resonated with me most was the Beauty Patch campaign, designed to enhance the way women saw their own beauty. Several women were instructed to wear a beauty patch 12 hours a day for the next 15 days, whilst recording their emotions and experiences in a daily video diary (spoilers are imminent: if you’d rather watch the video with the bliss of ignorance, you can find it here.) Slowly but surely, these women started to change. Their approach to life changed. Their attitude towards others changed. But most importantly, their opinions of their selves changed. These women went from seeing feeling beautiful as an unattainable dream, to a vibrancy, a confidence, and a happiness that they had never before experienced. At the end of the fortnight came the bombshell (predicted, I imagine, by most viewers, but tear-jerking nevertheless – at least in my case…) The beauty patches contained absolutely nothing. They were placebos, fabrications, forgeries, containing nothing that could scientifically enhance the self-esteem of these women. Yet every single participant reported an increased self-confidence and a newfound belief in their own beauty.
So why was this? Perhaps because, finally, these women were given permission to believe in their own beauty. No longer were they being marketed with ways to banish belly fat or conceal blemishes: through wearing something they believed would enhance their beauty, they allowed themselves to truly feel beautiful instead. And the results were phenomenal. These women, for the first time in decades, realised that the key to beauty was themselves. They realised that don’t need anything to make them feel that way, because they already have everything they need within themselves. This experiment unlocked a belief in their own beauty that was previously hidden away, and the empowering effect of that realisation was unanimously experienced by all.
We have to stop telling women there is something wrong with them. We have to stop sending them on an endless pursuit of evasive beauty, because beauty has nothing to do with our height or our weight or our make up or our clothes. Beauty is being strong and being brave and being happy with ourselves. In fact, beauty is whatever we want it to be. The power is in our hands. Beauty is a state of mind.