For many mums, handling the changes to their body both during and after pregnancy is a tough and ongoing journey. TV Presenter and M&B favourite Stacey Solomon has partnered with Dove to encourage others to celebrate the unique story their skin tells by sharing unfiltered images of their skin with their stretch marks and scars visible using the hashtag #DoveUnfiltered, ahead of the launch of its newly reformulated range of Dove Body Washes.
We caught up with the mum-of-three to discuss her thoughts on the campaign, body positivity and social media.
What made you want to take part in Dove's campaign?
I’ve always felt really strongly about the way that we view ourselves. And raising three boys, as they're getting older I see how social media affects their mental health, and how they look at their bodies and how they feel about themselves. Dove asked me if I would be a part of this campaign which I'm really proud of, because I know they'll get behind things that are really important to me, and this is something that is really, really important to me. I'm so glad that I get to be a part of it.
How can people get involved with the campaign?
There's nothing particular anyone can do other than embrace who they are and that is genuinely the whole messaging behind the campaign. You don't have to take unfiltered pictures of yourself. You can! Which is amazing. But even just looking at the hashtag (#DoveUnfiltered) is something that you can do. Because I think when you start to see that everybody has things about themselves that they're not confident about or that they used to worry about, but actually, they now embrace it, that in itself gives you some sort of confidence. And that's the whole point of the campaign. That we're all in this together and that we've all got each other's back.
Why do you think there is a community of women who don't feel comfortable showing a real representation of their bodies on social media?
I don't think it's just women. I think it's men as well. I think that we are constantly shown this idealist image of what we should look like for a really long time. I mean the other day, I've got so many messages about how hairy my arms were and I just cannot believe how shocked people are to see hairy arms! It's so normal! But I think for so long we've been airbrushing in hair out of photos, we've been airbrushing out scars and stretch marks out of photos and so everything just looks so smooth and clean. We're not used to seeing what real life is. And I think that's why we've got such a warped idea of what we should look like. Because we're constantly being told what we look like isn't right.
I think it's changing which is exciting. There are so many more brands that are more aware and are stopping filtering everything out and airbrushing everything out. it's been such a long time that this has been going on for. It's just going to take us a while to decode and to get people used to what really is normal. Because normal is so many different things, not just one ideal.
How do you use your own social media to help women boost their confidence?
I think the only thing that I can do is make sure I never airbrush anything out, which I don't. If I am conscious about something, then I'll just say it out loud because I always think it's always nice for other people to hear, "Oh, there are things about herself that she's also not confident with", and people can relate to that. I also just try my hardest just to be myself and not worry too much about what anyone else thinks.
And then campaigns like this is when we can all get together and go "Right, stuff it! I've got stretch marks - and that's okay! I've got a mum tum, I've got saggy skin" whatever it is that people have told you are your so-called imperfections all your life, the best thing is for us to celebrate them and be like "Yeah I've got this - and I love it!"
What do you think it's so important to show the realistic representations of your body to followers?
I think it's important for me because I like my body even though there are so many things in society that make me feel like I shouldn't like it and there's stuff wrong with it, but I'm actually really happy with my body. From nothing, my body grew three human beings that it then pushed out and then fed. Everything that my body is, it's a product for what it's done for me throughout my whole life and I am really proud of it. And even if it hadn't done all that, I do still think there's nothing wrong with it! It's in working order and healthy and I just feel really lucky to have that as loads of people don't have that and I don't want to be ungrateful for something that's in perfectly good working order!
But if anything, it's good for me and my mental health. If it helps nobody, it does me the world of good. I always say to people, I didn't just wake up one day and think "Oh I love my body!" I have to constantly remind myself that I'm good enough. Because I think it's natural to question yourself, to have times when you don't feel like you are enough, that's human nature. So it's not something that just comes easy every single day. Some days it's easier than others. And I think the more people that get used to the fact that you have to say nice things to yourself every day, that you have to talk yourself up every day and make sure you're like checking in with what you're saying. I have to make sure I'm checking in with what I'm saying to myself because sometimes I can say some really horrible stuff. And I just think, Why am I doing that? the only person that's making me feel bad is me. It's a work in progress. And it's something that I have to keep doing. It's not something that I just naturally feel all day every day.
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How did your relationship with your body change once you became a mum?
At first, I think it changed negatively. I had Zach when I was 17 so I don't think I would have had any idea what giving birth did to the body. So it was a total shock. I felt more than anything I just felt mentally rubbish like I was just crap. I thought I was a really rubbish mum and then I don't think it was till he was probably like a year old and I was looking at my body and thinking why hasn't it gone back now? You know, like how people would have their babies and then like a week later they'd just look back to normal? I didn't. I really didn't with Zach. I think because I struggled mentally I didn't look after myself very much either and I didn't exercise a lot. I didn't leave the house for quite a few months.
And then probably a year in when I thought I would be back to my old self, I realized I would never be my 17-year-old self. My body would never be the 17 body that it was, not even just because outside because of the inside. It's such a massive change and I found that really difficult to deal with I think. I found it difficult to deal with having really saggy boobs from breastfeeding, I found it difficult having stretch marks as it would have seemed like nobody my age at the time had them. So I just felt really different.
But then I grew up and as you get older, your mindset changes. As Zach got older and the enjoyment I got from him grew. I didn't get the enjoyment that loads of people say you're gonna get right in the beginning but as I started to enjoy him more, I worried less about what I look like. I also just got older, and then started seeing things for what they really were. I wouldn't notice anyone else's boobs because I was so busy looking at myself. And then when I opened my eyes to see everybody else, I started to realize as well that I wasn't on my own. I had friends who had no children who had stretch marks just from growing older. I have friends who just had lower boobs just because they did. And I probably did as well! I just probably didn't notice them until I gave birth and I breastfed, and they were used for something really different.
The reality of the real world is that everybody's body is completely different. And everyone has bits and pieces on their body that aren't what you see in the magazines.
Do you think enough has been done on social media to promote their bodies and real mums?
I think when you're on social media, you have to be really callus as to who you're following and why you're following them. Y have to follow people that make you happy and that make you feel good, even if they do have a more idealistic life. Instagram in general is not a depiction of everyday life for anybody because you're talking about 15 Second frames of somebody's life. One post of their whole day so you're not going to get a fly on the wall documentary from Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. So you have to go into these platforms knowing that what you're seeing is not everything.
However, there are some that will show you the reality and there are some that won't and some people enjoy the ones that don't and some people enjoy the ones that do. You have to find what works for you. I genuinely don't think it's about canceling anyone or clearing your feed of certain people if it makes you happy to see perfection all of the time, and I do think it makes some people happy then that's fine. But if you're watching through somebody's story thinking "Oh god, I'll never look like that!" If that's how you're going through your feed, then delete those people. Just follow people that make you happy and that don't make you want to be something you're not and that doesn't make you want to change who you are. I think that's really important.
I also think that having a day off social media is really important. I try to take one day off a week and I love it! I genuinely love the platform, I get so much joy out of being on there. sometimes it motivates me to do things I would never do so I genuinely enjoy it but still every week I say "Right it's phone in a drawer day" and I'll put my phone away and I don't look at anything at all. Because I think that sometimes it's good to just have a little break away from technology.
For ages, I felt like social media was the reason why everybody felt so uncomfortable in their skin. And I do think it plays a massive role. I definitely think that the more we watch of certain things that are unachievable, the worst we feel about ourselves. However, I think that social media, if you look in the right places, and you find the right people, does so much in terms of body confidence and does so much in terms of opening your eyes to diversity and differences between people. I think it does more than mainstream media 100%.
The mental health of the next generation is going to be something that we are going to have to pick up the pieces for. And I think it starts now for sure.
What advice would you give to new mums who might be struggling with body confidence?
When I felt really down about my body, the best thing I could say is it will pass. I promise you that feeling of not feeling good enough - it will pass. And the best thing you can do is also tell yourself that you are good enough. Even if you don't believe it, just say it out loud. Look at yourself and just go "You're really pretty. You're really beautiful. I love my body." Just say it out loud as much as you can every day to yourself and then you almost convince your self anyway! I know that sounds really silly but just try and convince yourself that it's true and do it as well when your brain convinces you that it's not true. You know, the voice inside your head is telling you that you're ugly or fat or about you aren't good enough. That's not the truth. The only truth is the truth that you're telling yourself. So just tell yourself a different truth.
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Having worked for Mother&Baby magazine for four years where she wrote news and product pages, features and interviewed celebrities such as Paloma Faith, Fearne Cotton and Alex Jones, Emily now works as Digital Writer for Mother&Baby online.
A fondness for travel, chocolate and her sausage dog Luna, in her spare time. Emily also runs the lifestyle blog, Musings & More.
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