Required Reading For All Ten Year Old Girls ~ A Manifesto on Body Image and Self Confidence…

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As part of my Laid Bare themed week, I have invited one or two of my industry friends to write guest posts for me on the issue of body image.  I’m delighted this morning to be sharing a feature written by Anna Kasparian, one third of the blogging wonder-trio that is Any Other Woman. 

I’ll not deny that being the Mother of two little girls, reading through this post had me shed a tear or two, and I’d very much like to know your thoughts too, so please take a moment to leave a comment at the end…


Happy Birthday! Being ten is brilliant! No, really, it is. It means you’re growing up, but that you can still get away with an awful lot of stuff.  Now go.  Eat cake. Play with your friends. Have some adventures.

And then read this.

 Image Source – Social Unconditioning


I know school and homework and your parents’ nagging can feel rubbish at times. But you’re lucky, you know? You have choices and chances of which your grandmother, her grandmother, even your mother could never have dreamed. You can go to University. You can work in any profession you choose. You can love who you want, say what you want, be whoever you want to be.

The world is at your feet. Your choices are your own, and no-one can take them from you. You can live freely, fully, and without shame. You can be you, unashamedly you. Nothing should stop you feeling like you can conquer the world.

Except one thing probably will.

Here’s the hard bit, kid. There’s a whole industry out there hell bent on making you feel like you aren’t quite enough. It thrives on cutting you down, on holding you back, on making you thinner, smarter, prettier. It will take hold of you, get into your blood and under your skin, and chip away at your sense of self. It’ll start slow.  It’ll ramp it up so much that you will wonder whether what you have to offer the world is enough.

Two words.  It is.

Image Source – Social Unconditioning

This industry is all pervading.  It reaches into every corner of your psyche. There’s no escape. You can’t hide. You’ll be force-fed stories about how you should be, how you should feel, how you should look. On billboards and in films and on the television and in magazines you’ll see pictures of women with impossible bodies and perfect faces, living out perfect lives.  You will look at those women and you will think “why not me?” You will look in the mirror and learn not to see your beauty but how to focus on your flaws. You will hate your hips, which are wider than other girls’.  You will hate your stomach for not being as flat.  You will hate your face for not being as beautiful.  You will live by the word “should”. You will learn to measure yourself by what you could be, rather than what you are.

Shocking Shoot? Or an innocent play on little girls dressing up?
Ten year old Thylane Loubry Blondeau models for French Vogue.  Image Source.


But here’s the good news.  You’re better than that.  It’s up to you to change it. And you can.

The perfect women out there?  They aren’t real.  It’s an image, a fairy tale, a story fed to you to make you buy more makeup, more clothes, anything to disguise who you really are.

What’s real is you.

Fighting the beauty myth and winning isn’t something you can do alone.  You know those friends you have, the ones who truly make you laugh and accept you as you really are?  They’re sane, good, smart friends.  Keep them.  Nurture that friendship.  Find more like them.  As you get older, you’ll learn that   real beauty has little to do with a killer body and lustrous hair and everything to do with kindness and integrity and self worth.  When it gets tough, and it will, those are the friends that will remind you how to be you without apology or explanation.

Image Source – Social Unconditioning

One day, when your big love story plays out, you might meet someone who helps you to embrace your imperfections and use them to make you stronger.  But don’t even think about looking for that until you feel beautiful, in and of yourself.  Otherwise, trust me, it’ll be a train-wreck of a relationship.

Image Source – Social Unconditioning


Growing up is exhausting. You’ll make mistakes, and that’s okay.  But don’t let that mistake be wasting your time worrying about how you look, or how to fit in.  Because when you’re there, thin enough, attractive enough, you still won’t be happy and you’ll still want to change.  Growing up is hard enough without chasing that impossible ideal.

Spend your time dreaming, adventuring, exploring, learning.  You’ll become a hell of a grown-up, one that everyone loves, one that is really beautiful


What a thought provoking and beautifully written piece – thank you Anna.  Please take a moment to visit the wonderful Any Other Woman wedding blog today when you have a few spare moments where you can read more from Anna and her co-bloggers Claire and Aisling.

Ladies, please discuss.

Annabel x



Annabel View all Annabel's articles

Founder of Love My Dress. Passionate Podcaster and Editor. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters and menagerie of furry hounds. She loves photography, meditation, walking, being outdoors and star gazing. She is fierce when it comes to championing talent within the wedding industry and when she's not working on Love My Dress, she supports her husband Philip in the running of the family's sustainable flower farm and floral design business, Moonwind Flowers. In 2013, she became a published author.

47 thoughts on “Required Reading For All Ten Year Old Girls ~ A Manifesto on Body Image and Self Confidence…

  1. All I can say, is if only someone had told me these things as a girl growing up. My life would have been very, very different, though that’s not to say I didn’t get where I wanted anyway.

  2. Ditto. I always wonder how other people look in the mirror and be happy with what they see. I wish I had read that when I was younger! I have those amazing friends and that amazing relationship. I just wish I could see me like they see me. It would be so nice not to waste time worrying about looks. But we (I) do. I know I put myself through my own judgment every single day. What a waste of energy! When I see pictures of brides I just can’t imagine that I’ll ever look that beautiful on the day. I think I’ll look average or like I’m trying to look pretty but havent pulled it off. I’ll have fat arms and rolls of fat hanging over the back of my dress. I’ll no doubt have bags under eyes and every shot will be with me with a double chin. It worries me constantly. It’s sad and ridiculous, but true.

  3. This is brilliant. So well written and incredibly thought provoking. I do wonder if ten is young enough. I’ve heard girls in my daughters class talking about being too fat and they’re only 7. Very sad.
    I do think it’s important to realise though that the media’s construction of beauty can also serve to make slim women feel bad. I have always been a tall, size 6-8. I’ve got boney bits that stick out too. I was teased brutally at school for being skinny and at times I’ve had incredibly low self-esteem as a result of comparing myself to what magazines etc tell you a woman should look like. When I was shopping for my wedding dress I couldn’t bring myself to try on strapless or low backed gowns as I felt the protruding bones on my back and chest were ugly. Nowadays the media is just as adept at ripping apart the celeb that’s lost ‘too much weight’ and looks ‘skeletal’ as it is at berating ‘larger’ women. You need only look at the press coverage of Angelina Jolie from the Oscars.
    The point I’m trying to make is that the idealised version of beauty that the media rams down our throats is so narrow, it’s practically impossible for ANY woman to live up to it. That’s why it’s so dangerous.
    Loveaudrey xxx

  4. What an inspiring read. I try everyday to tell myself that my body (although it isn’t perfect) is beautiful. It’s hard, even with my husband telling me I’m the sexiest woman in the world. We have to stop being so hard on ourselves, it’s just not healthy. What angers me the most is that it’s not men doing this to us. It’s other women, why??

  5. What a thoughtful post. Unfortunately it’s not only girls though who have these pressures…my nephew went through a phase last year of thinking he was fat (he’s 12 and he wasn’t). Thankfully he’s over that now.

  6. Extremely valid points Loveaudrey, which is why when researching for imagery to accompany this piece, I was keen not to include visions of women of larger women being airbrushed to look thinner, because sometimes naturally thin women feel the pressure from the media too.
    As you know I have a daughter who is 6 and a half and taking an interest all of a sudden in her image/appearance in curious way – the language she is starting to use these days unnerves me a little. I can only hope the conditioning she receives attending school and socialising in her circles won’t damage her and that the way her Father and I raise her helps her to have a more balanced view, but it’s us against the behemoth of mainstream media and accepted conditioning and all of a sudden it feels a bit like we’re the lambs being thrown to to the wolves. But we will keep on trying…

  7. Why indeed – the most loaded question ever?
    ….because it’s drip-fed through to our self conscious thoughts, through the myriad of different ways the media can reach us and tap into our psyche these days, that ultimately, it is not good if you are not the perfect ‘thin’. And huge brands sponsor adverts and magazine spreads and the celeb who is a perfect size 10 seems to ‘have it all’.
    I don’t know.
    What I *do* know, as a mother of two girls, is that I want to work really, really hard to instil confidence in my girls sense of self worth and self image. Kids can be such b*stards to each other, bullying, taunting and when you’re 10, you’re in that weird transitional period moving from childhood to adolescence, a time when thoughts and emotions are confusing enough already without being made to feel you have to fit into this vision of what is perfect, or you’re stuffed/a failure/hopeless/ugly blah blah.
    Anna wrote a beautifully balanced piece that holds a firm warning but also a very positive message and I’m so grateful to her for that. I considered reading this to my 6 year old – an extremely bright little lady, but got as far as the first paragraph then started to feel choked up so I abandoned the idea {I had planned on explaining it further to her but maybe I’ll hold off for another year or so} 🙂
    Thanks for your comment Alex,

  8. Such a fascinating and thorny subject. Having been the tall skinny kid at school, to then being the tall fat girl at work to over the past few years becoming the tall thin girl (yes I may now be 30, but woman just sounds way too grown up!), I’ve seen this discussion from several sides and suffered negative comment at all sizes!
    Undoubtedly losing and keeping off 4.5 stone over the past two years has made me healthier: for that alone it is a positive and an achievement I’ll always be incredibly proud of.
    I will now look at myself naked in the mirror…trust me, from a few years ago, that is definite progress. But would I say I’m happier?…not really…I still lack confidence and I’m still fundamentally scared of going out on a Saturday night because I still feel like the tall, awkward, ugly kid…I guess it’s easier to change your dress size than your thought processes.
    This post is both empowering and sensitively written and as several others have already said, such an important message for young girls to hear.
    Vic x

  9. This is such a wonderful piece, and yes it made me cry too – bravo for writing it, because it needed to be written xx
    I think that WE need to do our part as well. Wear our makeup to enhance, not mask. Wear our clothes to empower, comfort and warm us, not to hide us. If our daughters see confident mums in all shapes and sizes, then they will stop listening to the constant drip drip drip of the industry. If they see us hating our reflection in the mirror, and constantly starving ourselves, and filling our cabinets with creams and gels and lotions and serums, they’ll continue to scour the magazines for a solution and a fix.
    And yes, it affects blokes too – my partner is naturally skinny, and LOATHES his body because it doesn’t match the mannequins and models and sporting heroes. We tell each other how gorgeous the other one is, but neither one of us believes it deep down inside. That’s the part that has to change first!

  10. We’ve actually started working with someone to do this in our local area. It’s early days but will let you know once we’ve started and how we get on.

  11. Oh ladies. Thank you so much for your supportive comments.
    It’s such a hard battle, isn’t it. I think the secret is to acknowledge that it WILL be hard, and that beauty is an elusive beast, and that the best things our girls (and boys!) can do is be forewarned and prepared as best they can. As parents we can tell our children their are beautiful, but, reality is, it’s a battle they have to fight alone.
    I don’t want to acknowledge to myself how much time I’ve spent thinking about how I look. I could have written a novel in that time, done something that mattered.
    Annabel thanks for giving me the opportunity to write this. If I’m ever lucky enough to be a mother, I vow to forarm my children, give them the most solid base I can.

  12. “If our daughters see confident mums in all shapes and sizes, then they will stop listening to the constant drip drip drip of the industry.”
    YES. This is what I want any child of mind to see. An imperfectly proportioned mother who is beautiful inside and out and confident of that.

  13. Oh Kim this is brilliant. If only we’d had this in my day! Do you have any more details? It would be really interesting to see exactly what’s discussed in primary schools.

  14. Absolutely agree, Loveaudrey. I think I was drawing on experience for this piece which is why I focused on “fat” – were I to write it again I’d make it non-shape specific! The media is such a dangerous beast. The most beautiful of the beautiful still isn’t enough, which is why trying to emulate any of what it throws at you is an exercise in futility.
    Annabel – sounds like you and your husband are doing a fantastic job – the important thing is that you are committed to giving her that balanced view. She won’t escape unscathed but you can make her a well-rounded human being with the ability to stand up to the sterotypes.

  15. Jo, it’s not ridiculous at all, it’s something so many of us battle with – hence so many people dieting before their Big Day. It may not make it any easier but you are not alone in this. There’s simply no way you will “look like you’re trying to be pretty but haven’t pulled it off”. That’s an incredibly harsh call to make on anyone, let alone yourself! You’ll be astonished at how happy you feel on your wedding day, and how you simply won’t have time to worry about how you look. And you will be beautiful.

  16. It’s not just about the media though. Admittedly what I am about to say is probably due to the media but!
    Family can be the most cruel critics. I think people need to evaluate how even the slightest barb can cut deep and spark something very self destructive. I’m not saying you have to be nice 100% of the time but to those who hold respect from others your opinion is so very important.

  17. Jo – I have this anxiety daily. And I still have 18 months to go. You are most definately not alone. I am absolutely terrified of walking down that aisle. If I could scrap it all and run off to the registry office I would, but I just can’t be that selfish.
    Anna K – I hope you are right!

  18. This is so true. I recently witnessed a mother of the bride absolutely decimate her daughter as she tried on her wedding dress. The words “She WILL be ordering a dress 2 sizes smaller than she is now to give her an incentive to lose weight” pretty much made my blood run cold.

  19. I agree with this 100%.
    The media is the start, and as Annabel and Anna have so rightly said, it is family and those close to us which either smash down these preconceptions constructed by the media, or unwittingly reinforce them.
    I was labelled as ‘big-boned’ in my family. Play that in a 13-18year olds brain often enough and it produces a recipe for disaster.
    I do not blame anybody, but it is down to us now, to make sure that we make sure people are HAPPY, regardless of how they look on the outside. If we can make them happy in themselves, that is all that matters (to me anyway).

  20. I am printing this out and saving it to give to Emmi as soon as she turns ten. No. Really. Honestly Anna, I never cease to be proud to be able to call you my friend. This is wonderful.

  21. As always Anna this is insanely beautiful writing and a testament to your talent and wisdom.
    I wish we could share this with all little girls – can we pitch it to the ministers to make it part of the national curriculum? 🙂

  22. I love this post so much. It makes me so sad how pervasive the beauty ideal is to men and women of all shapes and sizes. As you say, we have freedoms that past generations could barely have imagined but then there are the ways we internalise negative messages about ourselves. Have you see killing us softly? It’s this amazing documentary series about a Jean Kilbourne who has been tracking advertising for over 40 years and how it presents a distorted view of femininity. I thought it was amazing

  23. Hell yes, to all of this. Surrounding yourself with good, grounded people is the best way to keep from falling into the abyss. Great friends will chase off the self-doubt and shake pom-poms for you.
    Brilliant, Anna.

  24. “Family can be the most cruel critics.” This is really the saddest, but most true statement. It’s so often our own family that can tear us down, sometimes even without meaning to, and leave scars they don’t even know about! If you have a position of authority or power over someone you need to be so, so careful with what you say because you can never take it back. If/when I have children, I’m going to ban the word “fat” from our home!

  25. Not yet as we’ve only just started talking to someone about it, so it’s really really early stages, but I will definitely let you know once we’ve got some ideas together.

  26. Absolutely right Anna. I could not agree more with everything you say. THINK before you speak and tell that daughter, sister etc that they really must sort out their weight. Words can be so cutting, so swiftly delivered and yet so long term in the effect they have on your confidence.
    Bravo for raising this Anna – thank you xXx

  27. TBH, I would have really struggled to have stood by and witnessed that without a ‘I think she looks just perfectly beautiful as she is actually’ kind of comment! How horrible!!!

  28. Hi Vic,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s funny isn’t it? I’d have given anything to be the tall skinny kid when I was at school!!! I remember yearning for curly hair and the girl with the gorgeous curly hair telling me she hated it and attempts to iron it out.
    We rarely seem happy just with who, and how we are.
    Well done you with the mirror thing. From what you say, that’s a great big giant hurdle you’ve overcome, so bravo you!
    I do know one thing Vic, you are going to look wonderful on your wedding day, and I cannot WAIT to see the photos :))

  29. Possibly one of the most powerful and emotion-filled replies Georgina, thank you SO much for taking the time to leave this comment.
    I’d like to ‘ditto that’ in the sound-bite Anna picks out below. I want my daughter to be brought up to know that she is being fed tat through the media without having to go on a bloomin University degree in media studies to suss this out for herself.
    I’m sad to hear about your man, I really hope that one day very soon you can both learn to love the people you are, your bodies and all their little ‘imperfections’ if you want to call them that.
    I started to feel more confident in me once I’d had my 2nd baby girl {she is 18 months now}. I’ve still not really shifted the baby weight and am a size 14 now – never been a size 14 before. But I feel womanly and confident in myself – maybe it’s an age thing {I’m 38 this year} and an acceptance finally arriving in my self-conscious that this is me! So I’d better darn well start to learn to accept it! I don’t know, I just know that with age, I have mellowed hugely in terms of my attitude to my own body image and I regularly check in with myself and say ‘you’re one sexy mama!” haha! You see, if I don’t believe it, no one else will and I’ll look and sound unconfident. I want to genuinely feel that confidence inside, and so far, my little words with myself are working. BTW, I am 4 stone more than when I met my now Husband 😉 … back then I’d exercise like a fiend and practically starve myself to stay just below 8 stone. Crazy town.
    Thanks again Georgina xXx

  30. Great article! I started the site that most of those images came from to bring awareness to how society brainwashes us all and to show people that they are being manipulated into thinking in certain ways. I am ecstatic that it has had even the smallest impact on someone. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  31. Thanks so much Kyle! I hope you received my courtesy email last night letting you know I’d be linking to some of your imagery. You have a great site and your images have superbly helped to illustrate this feature 🙂
    Many thanks indeed,
    Annabel xXx

  32. I think I have a healthy attitude towards my body – but it’s unbelievable how many people don’t seem to think I should. Like the dentist who told me I would be a good candidate for teeth-whitening after I mentioned my upcoming wedding. Or the sales assistant at a sample sale who said “most” brides liked to buy a smaller size and slim into it (maybe they do, and that’s really sad if so). I said I wasn’t interested in doing that. She seemed baffled. Most brides found they lost weight in the run-up to their weddings, she said. You don’t just lose weight magically, you have to do something – like stop eating properly, for example.
    I don’t think my body is perfect. I have frizzy hair, huge feet, slightly wonky teeth and my tummy isn’t exactly in the washboard category. But you know what? My fiance proposed to me, not some other girl with smaller feet and straighter teeth. And while I did think about trying to tone up and lose some weight, somehow life keeps getting in the way.

  33. I agree wholeheartedly ladies..mums and dads have such a huge part to play. I am mum to two wonderful boys aged 15 and 11..and my husband and I challenge the barbed, pointed, appearance led comments from his parents frequently..always have and always will! Because we want our beautiful, handsome, wonderful sons to be happy in their skin. I was even told off last week for calling my baby “beautiful” ..its complete madness. xx

  34. Hoorah Anne for such a fabulous reply! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave it and well done you for being SO comfortable in your own skin and not afraid to say it 😉
    Lots of love,
    Annabel xXx

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