Despite rising levels of beauty and appearance anxiety, more women and girls are fighting back against unrealistic beauty pressures, says a new global report released by Dove …

The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, which interviewed 10 500 females across 13 countries, found that women’s confidence in their bodies is on a steady decline, with low body esteem becoming a unifying challenge shared by women and girls around the world – regardless of age or geography.

Women still want to challenge the norms

Despite this, there is still a strong desire among females to challenge existing beauty norms, with 71% of women and 67% of girls calling for the media to do a better job portraying women of diverse physical appearance, age, race, shape and size.

The report reveals the impact low body esteem has on a woman’s ability to realise her potential, with nearly all women (85%) and girls (79%) saying they opt out of important life activities – such as trying out for a team or club, and engaging with family or loved ones – when they don’t feel good about the way they look.

Seven in 10 girls with low body-esteem say they won’t be assertive in their opinion or stick to their decision if they aren’t happy with the way they look

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Additionally, seven in 10 girls with low body-esteem say they won’t be assertive in their opinion or stick to their decision if they aren’t happy with the way they look, while nine out of 10 (87%) women will stop themselves from eating or will otherwise put their health at risk.

Low body confidence is a global issue

“This latest research shows that low body confidence is a global issue,” says Dr. Nancy Etcoff, Assistant Clinical Professor Harvard Medical School, Director of Program in Aesthetics and Wellbeing, MGH Department of Psychiatry. “Though troubling, these results are also unsurprising, given the increasing pressures women and girls face today. We need to help empower women and girls in many ways, including increasing body-confidence education, driving meaningful conversations around the pressures women and girls face, and advocating for change in how females and their appearance are talked about and portrayed in the media.”

Pressure from the media

Women (69%) and girls (65%) cite increasing pressures from advertising and media to reach an unrealistic standard of beauty as a key force in driving appearance anxiety, while 56% of all women recognise the impact of an ‘always on’ social media culture in driving the pressure for perfection.

Perhaps most worryingly, nearly eight in 10 (78%) women and girls feel some pressure to never make mistakes or show weakness.

It’s not all bad news for women and girls

The report uncovers a unique tension, with 60% of women believing they need to meet certain beauty standards, while at the same time, 77% agreeing it is important to be their own person and not copy anyone else.

Even more telling is the belief expressed by the majority of women (83%) and girls (77%) who say they want to look their personal best rather than follow someone else’s definition of ‘beautiful’, and 83% of all women and 82% of girls who agree every woman has something about them that is beautiful.

South Africa came out as the least body conscious country – with more than 64% of women saying they have high body-esteem

South African women show high level of body confidence

According to the report, South Africa came out as the least body conscious country – with more than 64% of women saying they have high body-esteem. The second highest was Russia with 45% of women saying that they were confident in their bodies. Japanese women showed the least body confidence with just 8% saying they had high body-esteem.

Here are the rankings from highest to lowest:

  1. South Africa: 64%
  2. Russia: 45%
  3. Turkey: 42%
  4. India: 40%
  5. China: 37%
  6. Mexico: 36%
  7. Germany: 34%
  8. Brazil: 27%
  9. US: 24%
  10. Canada: 22%
  11. Australia: 20%
  12. UK: 20%
  13. Japan: 8%

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