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Win £100 high street voucher! Join Q&A with Dr Susie Orbach about self-esteem and body confidence - ANSWERS BACK

(72 Posts)
HeatherMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 02-Oct-13 10:49:00

We're running a Q&A this week with Dr Susie Orbach about body confidence and self-esteem issues of young adults and children. Susie is a practising psychotherapist, writer and co-founder of The Women's Therapy Centre.
Susie is also co-founder of The Women's Therapy Centre in London and has spoken at the UN on women and their bodies. Her books include Fat is a Feminist Issue and Hunger Strike. Shes happy to answer your questions this week on how you can help your child avoid the pressures of conforming to beauty stereotypes and feel confident with their bodies. Post your questions before Monday 7 October and youll be entered into a draw to win a £100 high street voucher. We'll upload her answers to this thread on 14 October.
The Dove Self-Esteem Project was founded in 2004. Their mantra is that beauty should be a source of confidence and not anxiety. The projects aim is to ensure the next generation of women grows up to be happy and free from misconstrued beauty stereotypes and the burden of self-doubt. They handle: friends and relationships, bullying, puberty and the role of the media. Susie Orbach is a co-originator of the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty and its related research into women and their relationship with beauty. 
The Dove Self-Esteem Projects goal is to improve the self-esteem of more than 15 million girls by 2015.
This Q&A is sponsored by Dove.

youaretooyoung97 Wed 02-Oct-13 16:30:13

I'm really petite and try my best to do exercises and have a diet to try and put curves onto my tiny frame, but nothing appears to be working? Is there anything I can do to look normal/curvier, and therefore be more confident?

youaretooyoung97 Wed 02-Oct-13 16:50:14

And my niece who's only 6! Is self conscious of her weight. She says girls at school call her round belly, so she told her teacher who asked the girls to stop and makes sure that the girls go no where near my niece; but she still only eats half of her dinner, etc

PenguinBear Wed 02-Oct-13 18:23:31

I am overweight and have around 8 stone to lose. I have no confidence and self esteem myself, I know I am not gorgeous like most women my age and I know men don't find me attractive.

I never wear make up etc as there just isn't any point.

How do I sort out my issues and ensure I don't pass them on to my own daughters?

sharond101 Wed 02-Oct-13 21:39:10

I suffered from an eating disorder for a long long time. How can I make sure my body insecurities are not passed on to my son?

Willemdefoeismine Thu 03-Oct-13 10:47:39

We have a DD (8) (who happens to be very svelte, long-legged and has lustrous, long hair) who is already getting many remarks along the lines of "you're going to be a model when you grow up". Much as it's flattering for her, we are not the type of family to encourage our children to follow that type of career trajectory or indeed to consider themselves primarily in terms of their physical appearance. How as a parent can one positively help one's child so manage such compliments whilst at the same time ensuring that they don't become over-obsessed with their looks and see themselves in those terms?

motherofmuddles Thu 03-Oct-13 13:54:22

Hi Susie
Thank you for coming on Mumsnet
My DD (10) is very skinny and always has been- she is now being teased at school and getting very upset. My words of wisdom seem to fail her in light of her contemporaries comments. Im not sure how to deal with this situation when she seems to care more about what her friends say than anything I say to help
Thank you

kateandme Thu 03-Oct-13 23:19:38

i hate myself,everything about me i despise,is wrong,horrid so where do i start!!

mumoftwinteens Fri 04-Oct-13 00:21:11

Hi Susie, I have a son with body image issues, not a daughter,
He has various medical problems which result in him being overweight, and since starting High School he gets bullied quite a lot about this, especially as his ID twin is of "normal" build, and naturally people do tend to compare them alot,
DT1 says he is "fat because of me" (the medical issues were due to problems when he was developing in utetro) and gets very down about his weight, and refuses to eat at school because when he does, even if it is the healthy lunchbox I provide, other horrible children make grunting noises, immitating pigs. Then he comes home and eats whatever he can find from the cupboards/fridge,(I dont get home until an hour after the boys due to my work). The school have tried to help, but it just goes underground for a few weeks, then rears its ugly head again He has attended a "live well" course, and knows about healthy eating, but he eats when he is miserable, then he is miserable because he is overweight, its a vicious circle. Any advice for me to help him?

Roundles Fri 04-Oct-13 09:21:57

Hi Susie - I think you are an incredible writer, and I loved your book and identified with so much of it. However, did you worry that the book could be seen as a "how-to" guide for some readers? Or a trigger literature ? How did you deal with that as part of the publishing process? did you feel that the positives of publishing it would outweigh any negatives?

Ruby6918 Fri 04-Oct-13 10:10:54

hi ive lost a lot of weight due to stress and have lost all my curves, have no bust and im very thin, i have lost all my body confidence i have two daughters and hide myself away getting changed etc, will this have an impact on them im worried that it will but not sue how to feel confident enough for them even to see me in my underwear,

CMOTDibbler Fri 04-Oct-13 10:21:46

Susie, do you think that the people portrayed on the Dove Esteem website are really diverse enough? I see no one who isn't slim (and no one athletic either), no one with a disability, no one with a different appearance (scars, birthmarks, hairloss, facial deformity), no one from a subculture such as goth, no one who isn't of standard/stereotype gender appearance etc.

I'm bringing my son up to believe that everyone should be proud to be who they are, and how they look, not what others think they should look like. But then, I'm a silver haired 41 year old who has extensive scars and a non functioning arm, who used to be entirely black clad, so I've had my share of comments

Bellini81 Fri 04-Oct-13 11:12:40


My 11 year old daughter started secondary school last month and has to change for PE now in front of lots of new girls in the changing room, she has made a few comments about being a bit embarrassed to get changed then I caught her exercising in her room.
My daughter is a normal size not fat or thin. I tell her she has nothing to worry about. I said to her if she wanted to exercise then she could come to zumba class with me which she did last Saturday we both enjoyed it and had a laugh at the same time.

I don't want to belittle her feelings but is encouraging her exercise with me the right thing to do? I don't want to lead her to become obsessed with exercise or eating. Many thanks for any advice.

woeface Fri 04-Oct-13 17:16:46

One of my daughter's friends is really, really focused on her appearance and in particular her weight. When she comes to tea she always leaves some, with the words 'I'm on a diet'. They're eight.

I don't think she is actually on a diet - she seems a healthy weight - but how can I gently indicate that we don't 'do' diets in my house, and crucially, prevent my daughter from 'learning' that girls and women are not good enough unless they conform to a narrowing ideal.

alicethecactus Fri 04-Oct-13 17:16:56

Hi Susie,

Do you feel that "beauty" as a concept is damaging to self esteem, or more that it's the high standards to beauty in the media that are problematic?

OmNom Fri 04-Oct-13 18:09:06


I've got two young-ish sons, neither of whom have any food/body issues that I know about - at least, not yet.

I know this is an issue that predominantly affects girls, but it seems to me that the pressures on boys are starting to mount as well. What are the things to look out for with boys as they go into adolescence and perhaps start to become more aware of physical ideals?

beepoff Sat 05-Oct-13 09:24:10

My 7 year old niece asks for clothes, toiletries and make up for presents and has done for the past few years. With Christmas coming up in a few months I'd like to know if I should avoid buying her things that put so much focus on her appearance, or is she just playing harmless "dress up"?

rupert23 Sun 06-Oct-13 17:31:16

i have a thyroid problem, underactive and i am taking thryroxine for this. since i have had it i have gained about 6 stone over ten years which i am unable to lose. I have tried all sorts of diets and nothing works for me. Do you have any suggestions, i do not want to put my anxieties about weight onto my five children

SundaySimmons Mon 07-Oct-13 10:11:07

The Dove real women advert is great in depicting different body shapes but they all still have perfect skin. I can't see any rashes, spots, veins, stretch marks, puckered skin, scars, blemishes, bruises etc and they all look smooth and moisturised with not a stray body hair or chin whisker in sight!

Do you think we still have an unrealistic image in advertising because advertisers are still not prepared to go all the way?

EauRouge Mon 07-Oct-13 12:09:42

Hi Susie,

Do you think that shifting the focus onto different types of beauty is helpful, or should we just be trying to stop focussing on appearance so much?

nethunsreject Mon 07-Oct-13 12:16:14

Hi Susie. I love your writing and have gained a lot from reading your books. However, I am a bit hmm about your involvement with Dove. They hardly promote a healthy body image! Granted it's better than most advertising campaigns, but still focuses on women's esteem coming from their physical 'perfection' (in this case, perfect skin). Also, they are part of the Unilever brand which also owns Lynx and they hardly present a healthy body image for either women or men!

GooseyLoosey Mon 07-Oct-13 12:22:46

My dd is 9. She is athletic and you can see ribs but she is not of a very slight build and will never look skinny.

One of her friends, who has recently moved here from the Far East, has told her that she could do with being a little slimmer and quizzes her about her diet. I suspect this may be down to different cultural perspectives on diet and weight.

How can I ensure that this does not have a negative impact on dd and she can preserve both her self-esteem and her friendship?

GooseyLoosey Mon 07-Oct-13 12:24:35

Second what other people have said about perfect skin too. Dd has psoriasis and is very self concious about it. She is helped by other adults who have told her that they suffer from it too. It would help if there were positive images in the media of people looking normal with normal skin problems.

WillieWaggledagger Mon 07-Oct-13 12:28:49

i don't have any children yet but would like to know if you have any advice on how to avoid passing on eating and body issues on to future children. i developed many of my anxieties via my mum's behaviour and am concerned about perpetuating the cycle, particularly when so many of the negative thought processes are reinforced by advertising and society pressures

InMySpareTime Mon 07-Oct-13 12:43:53

I've lost over 5st in the last 18 months, reached my target weight and kept at that for the last 6 months.
I did not lose the weight for societal reasons, but because I was borderline morbidly obese and changed my attitude to food, breaking the emotional links.
I now have a BMI of 23, but people keep commenting things like "when are you going to stop losing weight?"
Do you think there's a societal expectation that overweight people should stay that way?
My experience has been that people expect my diet to be restricted because I'm staying slim, the reality was that I cut down in order to lose weight, and now listen to my body's hunger signals.

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