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Who do you see when you look into the mirror?

This is the question we are sometimes asked by our parents, or our teachers, or our mentors but what they’re really asking is; “Do you see yourself as you are or how you think society sees you?“. This central focus on women and their perceptions of themselves is what inspired the 2004 ‘Dove Campaign For Beauty’. It is now 2013, and Dove’s worldwide marketing strategy has produced another video for the viewer’s enjoyment and questioning of self-perception. 

In this video that went viral, several women were asked to describe themselves to a forensic sketch artist (who couldn’t see them), and then the same group of women were then described by strangers that the women met briefly on the previous day. What resulted from the sketches, is that the strangers the group of women met the day before, described each woman much more accurately and flatteringly. What Dove is trying to accomplish with this documentary styled video, is that women see themselves starkly different from what they actually look like. It has been said that if we were to meet a clone of ourselves, we would not recognise ‘them’ as ‘us’ because our brains have different perceptions of our own bodies. We have never seen what we truly look like, we have only seen ourselves in photographs or in reflections in mirrors. 

“The difference between how you look and how you see yourself is enough to kill most people. And maybe the reason vampires don’t die is because they can never see themselves in photographs or mirrors.”
― Chuck PalahniukHaunted

Women’s perception of themselves and how they manage their self-identity is often conflicted for a multitude of reasons, and the media often takes the blame; and for good reason. I think media has played a crucial role into why women often have distorted perceptions of themselves, and that’s not only just through magazines and movies in our adolescence years, but it is well ingrained into our childhoods.

Ruth Handler’s creation of ‘Barbie’ hit the American shelves in 1959, with her slim-figure doll idealising the ‘perfect’ body of a woman. Some may say, ‘it’s just a doll’; but why not release a doll with wider hips, or broad shoulders, maybe even with ‘thicker’ legs?

Which brings me to the part about being critical of yourself versus being happy. It is hard when I look into mirror and I pin-point all the things I dislike about myself. These thoughts that run often unconsciously about self-hatred often leads to feelings of embarrassment and upwards social comparison whenever going into society. Why should I feel like this? Who told me that having this chin was wrong and having broad shoulders looks horrible. Of course, there is never one singular person to blame, there never is; and often we are told to blame ourselves. That can be true, since we are responsible for our own lives and our own choices, but if one wants to ‘change’, how does one change for the betterment of society?

You don’t. If you want to ‘change’, you need to want to ‘change’ for yourself.

Changing doesn’t necessarily have to be changing appearance and going to the gym five times a week, but it can also mean changing your thought pattern. Appreciate yourself and your personality – there is only one of you and there will only ever be, one of you. You’re an individual. You are not who your parents say you are, or who your teachers or peers commend you for being, you are you. Once you overcome the notion that society won’t change yourself for you, and that comparing yourself to other women who are ‘prettier’, who have skinnier legs, longer hair and perfect eyebrows is going to make you feel worse about yourself, you gain a little more freedom in your mind. To be able to appreciate yourself, you need to be happy with who you are. Worrying less about what you’re not and caring more about who you are will have a positive impact not only on your self-esteem but your life in general.