This is my niece, Stella.
She's just turned one and started to walk.
And she's walking in that really cool way that
a kind of teetering, my-body's-moving-
too-fast-for-my-legs kind of way.
It is absolutely gorgeous.
And one of her favorite
things to do at the moment
is to stare at herself in the mirror.
She absolutely loves her reflection.
She giggles and squeals, and gives
herself these big, wet kisses.
It is beautiful.
Apparently, all of her friends do this and my mom
tells me that I used to do this,
and it got me thinking:
When did I stop doing this?
When is it suddenly not okay to love
the way that we look?
Because apparently we don't.
Ten thousand people every month google,
"Am I ugly?"
This is Faye. Faye is 13 and she
lives in Denver.
And like any teenager, she just wants to
be liked and to fit in.
It's Sunday night.
She's getting ready for the week ahead at school.
And she's slightly dreading it, and
she's a bit confused because
despite her mom telling her all the time
that she's beautiful,
every day at school, someone tells her
that she's ugly.
Because of the difference between what her mom
tells her and what her friends
at school, or her peers at school are telling her,
she doesn't know who to believe.
So, she takes a video of herself.
She posts it to YouTube
and she asks people to please leave
"Am I pretty or am I ugly?"
Well, so far, Faye has received
over 13,000 comments.
Some of them are so nasty, they don't
bear thinking about.
This is an average, healthy-looking
teenage girl receiving this feedback
at one of the most emotionally vulnerable
times in her life.
Thousands of people are posting videos like this,
mostly teenage girls, reaching out in this way.
But what's leading them to do this?
Well, today's teenagers are rarely alone.
They're under pressure to be online
and available at all times,
talking, messaging, liking, commenting,
sharing, posting —
it never ends.
Never before have we been so connected,
so continuously, so instantaneously, so young.
And as one mom told me, it's like there's a party
in their bedroom every night.
There's simply no privacy.
And the social pressures that go along
with that are relentless.
This always-on environment is training
our kids to value themselves
based on the number of likes they get
and the types of comments that they receive.
There's no separation between online and offline life.
What's real or what isn't is really
hard to tell the difference between.
And it's also really hard to tell the difference
between what's authentic
and what's digitally manipulated.
What's a highlight in someone's life versus
what's normal in the context of everyday.
And where are they looking to for inspiration?
Well, you can see the kinds of images
that are covering the newsfeeds
of girls today.
Size zero models still dominate our catwalks.
Airbrushing is now routine.
And trends like #thinspiration, #thighgap,
#bikinibridge and #proana.
For those who don't know, #proana means pro-anorexia.
These trends are teamed with the
stereotyping and flagrant objectification
of women in today's popular culture.
It is not hard to see what girls are
benchmarking themselves against.
But boys are not immune to this either.
Aspiring to the chiseled jaw lines and ripped six packs
of superhero-like sports stars
and playboy music artists.
But, what's the problem with all of this?
Well, surely we want our kids to grow up as healthy,
well balanced individuals.
But in an image-obsessed culture, we are
training our kids
to spend more time and mental effort on
at the expense of all of the other aspects
of their identities.
So, things like their relationships, the development
of their physical abilities,
and their studies and so on begin to suffer.
Six out of 10 girls are now choosing not to do
something because they don't
think they look good enough.
These are not trivial activities.
These are fundamental activities to their
development as humans
and as contributors to society and to
Thirty-one percent, nearly one in
three teenagers, are withdrawing
from classroom debate. They're failing
to engage in classroom debate because
they don't want to draw attention to the
way that they look.
One in five are not showing up to class at all
on days when they don't feel good about it.
And when it comes to exams,
if you don't think you look good enough,
specifically if you don't think you are thin enough,
you will score a lower grade point average
than your peers who are not concerned with this.
And this is consistent across Finland, the U.S.
and China, and is true regardless of how much
you actually weigh.
So to be super clear, we're talking about the
way you think you look, not how
you actually look.
Low body confidence is undermining
But it's also damaging health.
Teenagers with low body confidence
do less physical activity,
eat less fruits and vegetables,
partake in more unhealthy weight control
that can lead to eating disorders.
They have lower self-esteem.
They're more easily influenced by people around them
and they're at greater risk of depression.
And we think it's for all of these reasons
that they take more risks
with things like alcohol and drug use;
crash dieting; cosmetic surgery;
unprotected, earlier sex;
The pursuit of the perfect body is putting
pressure on our healthcare systems
and costing our governments billions of
dollars every year.
And we don't grow out of it.
Women who think they're overweight — again,
regardless of whether they are or are not —
have higher rates of absenteeism.
Seventeen percent of women would
not show up to a job interview on
a day when they weren't feeling confident
about the way that they look.
Have a think about what this is doing
to our economy.
If we could overcome this, what that
opportunity looks like.
Unlocking this potential is in the interest
of every single one of us.
But how do we do that?
Well, talking, on its own, only gets you so far.
It's not enough by itself.
If you actually want to make a difference,
you have to do something.
And we've learned there are three key ways:
The first is we have to educate for body confidence.
We have to help our teenagers develop
strategies to overcome image-related pressures
and build their self-esteem.
Now, the good news is that there are
many programs out there available
to do this.
The bad news is that most of them don't work.
I was shocked to learn that many well-meaning
programs are inadvertently actually
making the situation worse.
So we need to make damn sure that
the programs that our kids are receiving
are not only having a positive impact,
but having a lasting impact as well.
And the research shows
that the best programs
address six key areas:
The first is the influence of family,
friends and relationships.
The second is media and celebrity culture,
then how to handle teasing and bullying,
the way we compete and compare with
based on looks,
talking about appearance — some people
call this "body talk" or "fat talk" —
and finally, the foundations of respecting
and looking after yourself.
These six things are crucial starting points
for anyone serious about delivering
body-confidence education that works.
An education is critical,
but tackling this problem is going
to require each and everyone of us
to step up and be better role models
for the women and girls in our own lives.
Challenging the status quo of how
women are seen and talked about in
our own circles.
It is not okay that we judge the contribution
of our politicians by their haircuts
or the size of their breasts,
or to infer that the determination or the success
of an Olympian is down
to her not being a looker.
We need to start judging people by what they do,
not what they look like.
We can all start by taking responsibility
for the types of pictures
and comments that we post
on our own social networks.
We can compliment people based on
and their actions
and not on their appearance.
And let me ask you,
when was the last time that you
kissed a mirror?
Ultimately, we need to work together
as communities, as governments
and as businesses to really change
this culture of ours
so that our kids grow up valuing their
valuing individuality, diversity, inclusion.
We need to put the people that are
making a real difference
on our pedestals, making a difference
in the real world.
Giving them the airtime, because only then
will we create a different world.
A world where our kids are free to become
the best versions of themselves,
where the way they think they look
never holds them back from being
who they are
or achieving what they want in life.
Think about what this might mean
for someone in your life.
Who have you got in mind?
Is it your wife?
Your friend? It could just be the woman
a couple of seats away
from you today.
What would it mean for her
if she were freed from that voice
of her inner critic, nagging her to have
longer legs, thinner thighs, smaller stomach,
What could it mean for her if we overcame this
and unlocked her potential in that way?
Right now, our culture's obsession
with image is holding us all back.
But let's show our kids the truth.
Let's show them that the way you look
is just one part of your identity
and that the truth is we love them
for who they are
and what they do
and how they make us feel.
Let's build self-esteem into our school curriculums.
Let's each and every one of us change the way
we talk and compare ourselves to other people.
And let's work together as communities,
from grassroots to governments,
so that the happy little one-year-olds
of today become the confident
changemakers of tomorrow.
Let's do this.