Last Thursday’s launch of Positive Image Month, the fantastic initiative driven by the determined Kate Hardcastle, was incredibly moving. One after another, people told their stories – stories of being made to feel inadequate because of what they wore or how they looked, and dreadful stories of bullying so commonplace that it has almost become regarded as a right of passage. The message to emerge was strong and uncompromising: no-one has the right to be cruel or unkind to another, and we have to learn to value our differences and multiple beauties. And where this starts is with the self: a positive image begins with the individual standing up, casting off the shackles of media-manipulated expectations of what we ‘should’ look like, and saying “I like me”.
Early in the day, the fabulous Jenni Trent Hughes read to us from a number of daily newspapers and magazines, picking out the articles about image, weight, appearance and how much people wanted to change what they look like. She was not short of material – she had a bundle of articles, and I could have added to it from the magazines and newspapers I had collected en route, to explore the depressing nature of the messages that people are receiving from the media. It has been shown that a few minutes after reading fashion or ‘women’s’ magazines, women’s moods drop, and they feel less good about themselves; this is not at all surprising, when you look at the uniform – but artificial – ‘perfection’ of image after image after image in these publications.
So Ms Trent Hughes tore them up. There, in front of us, she tore them up and said, quite simply, “Stop reading these. They make us feel bad about ourselves, and we are better than that. Stop reading them.”
Positive Image Month is about seeking to make a difference â€“ for ourselves and for others – and to learn to feel good about who we are. If we don’t feel good about ourselves, our capacity to act and do good in the world is restricted – crippled, even – and it is for this reason that I am a Voice in this campaign. Our young women in particular suffer from the pressures placed upon them to look and act in certain ways, and this affects even the most self-aware and grounded of them. Scratch beneath the surface of an intelligent and able 18 year old, and you will discover feelings of inadequacy – of not looking good or ‘hot’ enough. We have to change this. We have to liberate young people to just be themselves, and to be free to spread that positivity into all spheres of their life.
Throw away the negativity; embrace the positive. And do something today to help someone else see the light and make a difference.