Healthy Mind

Body Image: How Women See Themselves

Lisa Elaine Held

Dove Real Beauty
A Dove Real Beauty sketch.

By Chelsea Roff for

Do women see themselves less accurately than strangers do?

According to a study commissioned by Dove, only 4% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful. 72% of young girls included in the survey say they feel “tremendous pressure to be beautiful,” and more than half (54%) agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst critic.* Another study found that 97% of women have negative body thoughts each day, on average every 15 minutes.

That’s a lot of time to spend castigating yourself.

These are no doubt alarming statistics, but it’s difficult to understand the emotional impact of these beliefs from cold numbers alone. Perhaps that’s why the team at Dove decided to perform a social experiment to test whether women’s perceptions of their bodies differ from those of a stranger’s. And they went about it in a way that might surprise you: by enlisting the help of a forensic sketch artist.

Dove recruited seven women of varying ages and backgrounds and asked an FBI-trained forensic artist to create composite sketches based on each woman’s description of her face. In the video, it quickly becomes apparent just how much the messages each woman has received about her physical appearance over the course of her life — often from family, the media, etc — shape the way she sees herself. And often, unsurprisingly, her underlying body hatred shines through.

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