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Building body positivity

More young people are worried about how they look now than in previous years. Why is this? Is it as simple as blaming social media or is there more to it? A group of young people share their thoughts on society’s pressures to look a certain way.  


what more time online means for our confidence

girl looks in the mirror

Scrolling and trolling

With schools closed and plans cancelled, we all spent more time online. Admit it. Even though your social calendar was as bare as your local supermarket’s toilet roll shelf, it didn’t stop people posting throwback selfies from Zante 2017. Remember tans? And we scrolled. If it wasn’t Instagram, it was TikTok. Suddenly our lives were online. And being online can come with dangers

Laura believes ‘social media can damage your confidence because there is a 'standard' of what to look like.’

lack of representation in social media

The social media ‘version of reality isn’t realistic...we’re always going to have a bad hair day or bags under the eyes, it’s normal’ says Eamon.

Linh makes the point that Eurocentric beauty standards are overrepresented over other ethnicities.

‘There is a lack of representation. Constantly seeing the same body type being praised in the media is not a good thing. Beauty standards are set by celebrities and influencers who use plastic surgery or photoshop to create these features in the first place.’

girl with big smile on swing looking at camera

The Good Childhood Report

Our Good Childhood Report 2021 shows that modern life continues to erode the happiness of young people. Worried about school, friendships and how they look, this has become the norm for children.

gender differences in how people feel about how they look

More pressure on boys?

Our well-being research shows girls have historically been more worried about appearance. While this remains true, the gap is closing. Boys are struggling more with their appearance. Does gender matter when it comes to how you feel about how you look?

Eamon, 16, told us ‘I would say gender is irrelevant. The main pressures are still there for both regardless of why they feel it.’ 

Linh agreed saying ‘It doesn’t matter what your gender is, there’s always a standard to be met.'

There’s always someone to compare yourself to There’s always someone to compare yourself to

Should we ever comment on appearance?

With so much pressure on looking a certain way, should we do away with commenting on appearance altogether?

Linh says ‘it’s always nice to receive compliments but if you only get compliments when you’ve put effort in to your appearance (done your hair, put lipstick on) then it can be confusing. Young people would learn they are only worthy of attention or love when they look a certain way’.

What we should do is ‘communicate and let the young person know that they’re worthy of love and attention no matter how they look. Let them know that beauty standards are ridiculously unrealistic and nothing on social media is real – but don’t say it in a patronising ‘social-media-isn’t-good-for-you’ way. Again, avoid commenting on their body, or how much they eat.’

Laura adds we should ‘be kind and help young people to have a positive vision of themselves.   

Teach them that everyone is beautiful in their own way and any differences are a good thing.