I can remember the first time I really felt ugly. I was in fifth grade and preparing for a talent show with 5 of my friends. We were practicing our dance to Run Around Sue (another possible issue now that I think about it). I had been practicing the part that meant I would be in the front and one of the girls in my group suggested that I switch with another because I was a little “too chunky” to be up front. To be perfectly honest, I was a string-bean in elementary school. And beyond that, none of the girls I was dancing with looked much different from me. I was crushed…and it stuck with me.

Over 20 years later, I think about that first moment and do my best to teach what I know now about how hard we as females are on ourselves and each other to my little sister, Grace. She and I have been together (Big Brothers Big Sisters) for going on 7 years now. But on the same days I spend time supporting her and letting her know how beautiful she is, I often catch myself using that same negative self speak on myself.

A friend of mine posted the video from Dove’s Real Beauty campaign in which a forensic artist created sketches of women based on their own accounts of themselves. Earlier in the day, the women were introduced to another group of women and were told to get to know one another. After the first set of “self-described” sketches were done, the second set of women were brought in to describe the women (the ones who had just described themselves for the forensic sketch artist).

The results? The self-described sketches of the women were far less accurate than the ones described by others. Dove concludes that “women are their own worst beauty critics” and that “only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful.”

I don’t believe this phenomenon is limited to females only, but I can relate to the pressures we put on ourselves because of how we think others perceive us and in return, we project that on others.

“I think there’s kind of a stigma around the word beautiful,” says Melinda, one of the women from the Dove study. Even though many of us have grown up and are now trying to teach girls to feel beautiful in their own skin, we’ve got to remember that supporting each other, every day, can make a remarkable difference. Words matter.

Watch the Dove video on “real beauty” here:

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