What is Your Take on the Dove Beauty Sketches Video?

I posted this on my Facebook page this week and thought it was so interesting that I wanted to bring it to the blog. The video is 3 minutes long.

In case you didn’t have time to watch it right now, the video features a forensic sketch artist who sketches women he cannot see based on two descriptions:

1) The first time he sketches them he is using their own descriptions of themselves.

2) The second time he sketches them he uses an acquaintance’s description (an acquaintance they just met).

In every case, the women being sketched describe themselves in relatively unflattering terms, whereas the acquaintance uses a more positive description.

When the woman being sketched sees the two resulting sketches, in each case, she actually looks much more like the sketch the acquaintance described rather than how she described herself.

I actually felt a bit emotional about this because it brought up a lot of feelings that I recognized when I was overweight and even today.

I think that we often have a hard time actually seeing what we look like and instead focus on all the negative things about our appearance. And for me, focusing on the negative things about my appearance often led me to judge my personality, my abilities, and even my worth to society in addition to my appearance. It just did.

Now, I know this video was from a corporation that ultimately wants to sell product, but I think we can take a lesson from this in terms of self-worth, self-appreciation, and self-love.

The weight loss process is rarely easy and as we talked about earlier, fraught with emotions. Emotional reasons for eating, emotions resulting from our obesity/overweight, emotions resulting from our perception of ourselves, etc.

We have so many messages from the media that make us feel inadequate no matter our weight. They often sound like this: You aren’t good enough, you aren’t thin enough, you don’t workout enough, you don’t dress well enough, you don’t wear the right kind of makeup, you don’t look beautiful.

I began my weight loss journey not from a position of acceptance with who I was, but instead from a position of frustration with myself on many, many levels. Although I was a normal weight as a child, I think those messages began very early. (This is me little!)

Diane Carbonell as a child

I think it would have been easier to lose weight before I tipped the scale at 300 pounds if I had been able to look at myself more objectively and do three things:

1) Acknowledge that I had some good physical characteristics, even if I was obese.

2) Acknowledge that I was worth the effort it took to lose weight.

3) Acknowledge that I was not defined by my weight.

That’s one of the things I took away from this video. We are so quick to judge ourselves that we sometimes find it difficult to make those changes necessary for our health and for our life. We define ourselves by one thing and sometimes get so hung up on that one thing that it paralyzes us.

What do you think? Does being critical of ourselves make it harder to lose weight, easier, or does it not matter? Diane

19 thoughts on “What is Your Take on the Dove Beauty Sketches Video?

  1. Leah says:

    I’m glad you brought this to the blog, because I had not heard of it before. I agree with the idea behind it that we are more beautiful that we think.

    Being a person who has always struggled with the fear of rejection I find that learning to accept myself for who I am and look for the positive things that are changing and have stayed changed motivate me to do better. I’m always skeptical of those that beat themselves into weight loss, or life changes, by being critical of themselves; but I have noticed some personalities do better when they are in competition with themselves. I would crush myself if my only motivation to lose weight, or make a positive life change, was looking at all the bad about me.

    Thanks for this post today Diane. 🙂

  2. HappinessSavouredHot says:

    This is a fascinating topic, Diane.

    I saw the video yesterday and of course I found it touching despite it being an advertisement. I think it reflects the reality of many women: we are highly judgmental of ourselves yet we see beauty in others. Hopefully with time we come to appreciate what nature has given us instead of scrutinizing each and every imperfection. I know I’m much kinder to myself in front of the mirror than I was 20 years ago (I’m almost 37), even though I objectively looked (slightly!) better back then.

    I recently read an article that suggested we should not only tell our daughters they are beautiful, but also tell them WE are beautiful. As a role model, we hurt them by being self-critical of our looks. I have 2 daughters, one of which is a pre-teen, so this is a concern for me right now.

    I can’t help but think that this self-image issue finds its origin in the importance we give to a woman’s appearance. Things are changing, of course, but there is still a big gap between the importance given to a woman’s appearance vs the importance given to a man’s appearance. The media focus largely on the way we look, much more than on the way we think or on the things we accomplish. I have to say I am tired of it. Can we, just for a day, be completely oblivious to our looks? Is that possible? I think it should be a human right!

    Because I’m uncomfortable with the whole emphasis put on women’s looks it took me a lot of courage to write my most recent post about my training successes. I felt futile and vain talking about my weight, body fat and muscles. I’d much rather talk about my ideas. Of course I’m proud of the way I look, but I don’t want it to get in the way of celebrating the way I FEEL, which is so much more important!

  3. vickie says:

    It was interesting all the women in the video (who we saw anyway) were not heavy. If excess weight was added to the video it would be a whole other topic. I think it was better the way they did it as it was straight forward/simple.

    And also very interesting that it was just the face. I realize it was a 3 minute video and they had to edit their concept. Think what a can of worms whole body sketches would have brought forth.

    It was a lovely concept for illustration. Because it is universal and could be told in 3 minutes.

    If you remember, Dove had another video several years ago:

  4. vickie says:

    I have a couple things (related to us in weight loss/maintenance land) I wanted to mention. Because they are always on my mind with these types of topics (and very rarely said):

    women who have always been heavy, need a different kind of inner work when they get to lower weights and are in a body that is foreign to them.

    women who are getting back to a body they once had, still need inner work, it is just different inner work.

    A lot of this topic goes back to being able to take a compliment, from others and from ourselves. This is an area many of us have trouble. We do tend to dwell on the negative and skip over the positive. whether the topic is appearance or skill, this often applies.

    On appearance, there is a disconnect, for many of us, in looking at our bodies accurately.

    But in a backwards way, many of us had a real disconnect at high weights. We didn’t see how big we were as we were on the way up. We sort of got stuck on behaviors and it snowballed.

    I was oblivious. And it wasn’t my appearance that finally got me changing my ways. It was my health. I listened to those secondary conditions.

    When I was looking at my body accurately, with my last 20 lbs still on my body, a lot of people thought I was not seeing what was really there (thought I was being hyper critical or negative). They had this ‘what you have done should be good enough for you’ mindset. Some of this had to do with 20 more pounds was going to make me smaller than they were. Some had to do that I was really focused. It took me 6 months of pretty solid effort to drop those last 20. Solid focused effort was seen as negative. (I have often said if that 20 pounds had been spread evenly though out my body, would not have cared. But the fact that it was around my middle, made it a continued health risk and made clothes impossible without alteration.) It was not negative. It was the kindest thing I could have done for myself.

    I do not think I have a disconnect now. I continue to work on areas (hello triceps!). But I do not walk around hating my triceps, I work on them. I continue to move forward in my process, even though I have been at this maintenance level since 2009. I still think ‘health’.

    I am extremely pleased with many, many things (nothing in my lap when I sit, my neck, my chest and shoulders, my legs, my obliques, my face, my hair).

    I honestly think if I sat with that artist, I would give accurate sketch information.

    I think when I knew better, I did better, and that has created equilibrium between my thoughts and my actions and perpetuated self peace.

  5. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    You bring up some interesting questions Diane. If criticism of oneself creates a negative feeling inside, it will never help someone lose weight, at least not permanently. If it creates a positive feeling inside, it will help someone lose weight. This is why acceptance is so powerful…and so misunderstood.

    In regards to the Dove video, I think it sends an important message, but also sends a somewhat harmful message that seeing ourselves as “beautiful” (and the women represented in this video meet a rather narrow definition of beauty) is the only way to empower ourselves. What about our skills? Our intellect? Our compassion?

  6. Dr. J says:

    Seeing ourselves through the eyes of another can be a wonderful experience.

    As for negative talk. For the most part it is not a good idea. I can understand someone doing it in their head even while saying they are trying to stop, but not when I see it in writing on their blogs. That puzzles me.

  7. Kristi McMurry says:

    I’m definitely all for putting these kinds of positive things out for women to think about, but I wasn’t as moved by the experiment as others have been. One thing I don’t understand is who decides what is a good quality and what is a bad quality? I personally feel like that just feeds the wonky perceptions of beauty that we already have. Crows feet, for example, shouldn’t be considered bad (that’s just one of the things I remember from the video). They are part of you, they make you who you are, and they make you beautiful. If I were describing myself, I would mention dark circles under my eyes because I’ve always had them, not because I think they are a bad quality. Those are just my thoughts on a small part of the video… I still think it’s a nice thing to share to encourage people not to focus too much on how they look (focus on your character instead).

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I agree and beauty standards shift over time don’t they – which makes us all the more insecure. I liked this video for how it made me think about how I thought about myself. Not just in terms of whether I meet certain beauty standards, but how I really perceive myself.

      When we are losing weight, as Jodi (comment toward the bottom after Brian) said, you feel almost stripped down and that new body can often bring up a lot of confusing feelings. At least it did for me.

  8. Janis says:

    It’s all still about looks in the end for women. I have no value because I’m not pretty. No, you’re wrong! You do have value — because you’re prettier than you think!

    Do we all spend time telling our sons how they all look like George Clooney? Do we even care about that? No, because we all know that our sons will be judged on how smart and accomplished they are, and our daughters on how pretty they are. Smart? So what? Talented? Who cares? Hard-working? Yeah, yeah.

    But at least you’re pretty. Even if you think you aren’t! So it’s okay!

    There’s a million other qualities about you that you have to actually work for, that involve sweat and skill and achievement, but we’ll still spend all our time concentrating on the one thing that you had nearly zero part in, the one quality about you that isn’t an accomplishment in any way, and that says nothing whatsoever about your character: your looks.

    Can I see a guy version of this where they all sit around and talk about how gross they are and how no, no, no, you’re actually really good-looking so your life actually does have meaning? Of course not, because men are busy running the world while we all spin our wheels over our thighs, lips, and hair.

    Women don’t have power in this world because women don’t want it. Given a choice between power to live the lives we want, talent, skill, and achievement and Bouncy, Touchable Curls™, we’ll take the latter. We have messed up priorities.

    That was a bit of a rant …

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I liked your rant too and think it’s such a valuable point to bring up. Women are often defined by their looks and that’s just the way it is. Do I like it? Absolutely not. But how to change that is entirely another topic.

      Here’s another example for you though. In the business world people are often judged on their accomplishments. Is that right? Yes, in most cases. But when you step into the academia world, people are often judged on the perceived quality of their eduction rather than their business know-how or experience.

      We as a society judge each other every time we walk down the street, listen to people speak, or even pass by their homes. I think it’s unfortunate in many ways, but there it is.

      As far as the “pretty” factor goes, for me, this video wasn’t so much about “pretty” but about seeing myself in a realistic way. I had a very difficult time doing that – especially when I was obese. I hope that I am able to send the message of our character reflecting our beauty more than our outward appearance when I speak to other people and talk with my daughters, but rather or not they believe that message is often shaped by our culture.

      Thanks for your great comment as always.

  9. Jody - Fit at 55 says:

    I have more to say than I have time & lots of stuff on this on Carla’s FB page…. I understand the good part of it but also the not so good part of it.. it is a Corp. trying to sell…… so much more involved than on the surface…

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Just because they are a corporation doesn’t mean they can’t affect positive change. Organic growers send a message to us that their products are better and no on criticizes them for making people think about the quality of foods they produce – right?

      Even non-profit organizations have an agenda and while I don’t always agree with a particular agenda, their ads often get me thinking about the issues in a new way.

  10. Janis says:

    You know, I just saw a send-up of that done with men, and it made the same point the I just did: men do NOT sit around thinking that they have no value because they don’t look like Brad Pitt, and they are not reassured as to their value by their friend who says, “It’s okay, I think your nose is cute!” Men in fact sit around all day thinking they look just fine — because no one cares what they look like. What matters is what they can do, what they’ve accomplished. And that knowledge makes them think they’re all just peachy the way they are, no matter how far their ears stick out. Can this attitude be generalized to women? I doubt it. The fact is that men and women both only care about a woman’s looks, and women know it.

    I’m also curious about how women would describe a woman who is not their best friend, but who is called beautiful by others. Comments like “Well, I think her hair is ugly,” “Yeah, but she’s got a big nose,” “She’s built like a stick insect,” and “She dresses like a slut,” are a little more likely to be forthcoming, sadly.

    I guess I don’t see commercials like this putting anything more than a bandaid over the problem. In the end, it’s just too big and complex an issue for a mere TV commercial to do more than scratch the surface. So the commercial goes for the low-hanging fruit: Pretty is everything girls, but don’t worry because you’re all prettier than you think.

  11. Brian @ New Me and You says:

    This is a little off topic and it obviously wouldn’t fit with the campaign but they should do the same thing with people who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. May be a serious wake up call. I like this commercial because it affirmed what I already knew. There are plenty of women that i know who are absolutely beautiful yet are as insecure as they come. Not that insecurity is limited to only women. Men suffer from it too.

  12. Rachelle says:

    All I can think of after watching that video is “how would I describe myself to a sketch artist?” It makes me think a lot. I’m grateful they have done this ad, even if their end goal is to sell product.

  13. Jodi @ Jodi, Fat or Not says:

    You finally got me to watch the video…and I loved it! I’ve always believed that change comes from loving yourself, not hating yourself, but lately I’ve been struggling a lot with keeping a positive attitude. Losing 90 pounds has made me think a lot about who I am so stripped down, and somedays that weight loss is harder to process than others. Thanks for still blogging about these issues, so many years after you lost the weight 🙂

  14. Taryl says:

    I’m not on Facebook so I wouldn’t have seen this otherwise, but it made me a bit teary! I think it was completely spot on and very powerful – so many women see themselves as the sum of their flaws and in their most critical light. They talk to themselves in ways they wouldn’t be caught DEAD speaking to a stranger. I see a ton of this in the weight loss world, in particular, and it breaks my heart.

    I don’t think I’m too bad with this, myself, but that’s also due to a concerted effort to avoid being that way. I don’t need to waste mental energy tearing myself down, but it can be a very difficult impulse to resist.

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