Students walking outside
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In this week’s Middle School Assembly, Mrs Nicholls (Head of L4) discussed the issue of body commentary. The assembly began with this video link, from the Dove Self Esteem project, as a stimulus material to illustrate the issue.

Your daughters were asked to think about how often they comment on other people’s appearance, either in a positive or negative way. We will often tell others how good they look, or that we admire their hair, body or clothes and with this in mind, they were asked to consider why compliments are so often based solely on physical appearance.

When we mention someone else’s appearance, our comments are often well meaning, but could it be that sometimes they are just judgements repackaged as compliments? According to the Mental Health foundation, four out of every ten teenagers have said that comments made by their friends have made them worry about their body image. The danger of this constant body commentary is that it emphasizes to young people that their worth is somehow tied to their appearance. Even positive comments can suggest that someone usually looks less good, or they may cause those who didn’t receive the compliment to question their own appearance. Insecurities can unwittingly be exaggerated.

For many years, concerns have been raised about the negative role that the media plays in reinforcing appearance ideals and unobtainable goals. Moreover, there are concerns about the specific role that social media plays. In the same survey mentioned above, almost half of all teenagers felt that social media had caused them to worry about their body image. The Dove Self Esteem project has produced some valuable resources, including this “reverse selfie” to highlight the pressure that social media places on young people, and girls in particular. 

Your daughters were asked to think about how important it is that young people feel free to express themselves, and their personality, through their appearance. In a school context, this is particularly important on mufti days. Students should not feel afraid to dress the way that makes them feel comfortable for fear of judgement. Your daughters have the right to make personal decisions about their appearance, for instance when they start wearing makeup or shaving their legs, without having it forced upon them by societal ideals.

Finally, we reflected on how we can support each other by changing the conversation, by moving the emphasis away from body talk and refocusing on what really matters. We encouraged your daughters to choose their compliments carefully, focusing on traits like kindness, loyalty, bravery and effort. If they really want to pay a friend a compliment, how much better would it be to tell them how amazing they ARE, rather than how amazing they look?

By Heads of Middle School


  • Middle School Blog