“You are your worst critic”.
It’s a quote that you hear constantly, especially when you are under review for your performance or image. The truth is, most of us “hate” things about ourselves. The way we age. The way that our hair thins out or the wrinkles form under our eyes. No matter how much time or money we may spend trying to perfect ourselves, we still fail to meet our own expectations. I grew up in an education system and culture that rejected bullying, but failed to address our own perceptions of self. Actress Jennifer Lawrence has been recognized in the past year for speaking up on image, edited photos of supermodels, and the use of the word “fat”. And now, another voice is speaking up in the film industry.
Dove has teamed up with the Sundance Institute to promote and commission a 7-minute documentary, which is screening at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah this month. This documentary spotlights a community of high school girls that dive into the world of self-portraiture. The girls open up about their personal flaws and criticisms, and are challenged to take a “selfie”- the 2013 Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year. The self-portraits ended up in an interactive art exhibit, where viewers posted comments and compliments on the photos, affirming each other of their true beauty. There is a refreshing parallel between the things that people often hate most about themselves, and the characteristics that make them unique and unlike anyone else. You watch as a girl criticizes her hair, but then receives affirmations from many viewers about how wonderful her hair is. Silencing negative self-talk is a huge step in the right direction of empowering young women and encouraging positivity within self-image.
But why stop at the young women? A powerful piece of this documentary is revealed when the girls are asked to help their mothers take a selfie. One student says, “When you hear your mom talk about her insecurities, you start to focus on your own”. Filmmaker Cynthia Wade sheds light on the ways that parents and families pass-on their criticisms and self-deprecation generation by generation, often without even realizing it.
This documentary and campaign is a realistic look at two generations’ responses to social media and our evolving media culture. Are we witnessing a rebellion against the media and standards of value and quality? The definition of beauty is able to be redefined in a redemptive manner, and women are being reminded of just how beautiful they are. It shouldn’t take a multi-billion dollar brand movement to see this movement shaping up, but it sure is nice to see a brand backing its customers and creating space for these stories to be shared.