Self Image and Body Confidence in Teenagers

*Updated: Missguided have now taken the item off sale and it no longer features on their website. Let’s hope it stays that way. Thanks to everyone who contacted them about this, and for all the support on Instagram.

Body Confidence and Self Image. It’s a big theme right now, especially for mums – women whose bodies show the signs of what they have produced and nurtured. (Watch this video from my friend for a hilarious take on a serious message). And I’m wholeheartedly behind that. But what concerns me most at the moment is the message our teens are getting; are our young people confident in how they look, comfortable in their skins, and accepting of others’ appearances?

Self Image is fragile when you’re growing up

I honestly hope so, because this week I’ve seen something I think is truly awful; in fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s completely irresponsible in this climate of #MeToo, and the mental health issues that stem from worries about self image in young girls. Yesterday a friend on Instagram – Mama Life London – shared this image of a slogan t-shirt currently on sale at Missguided:

Slogan tees that damage teen self image
Actually misguided slogan tee

I was actually a bit shell-shocked. I’ve only just started buying slogan tops myself, but I kind of thought that the idea was to promote positive slogans – straplines that big people up, give them confidence, empower them… Apparently not. Apparently, it’s ok to encourage girls to wear clothes that actively promote the idea of taking a naked selfie, and sending it to a boy.

I know…

I put it on my Instagram stories, and I’ve never had so many messages (apart from when we got a new dog and I basically puppy-spammed all my followers for days). People were outraged, scared for their own girls, and dumbfounded that a big brand could even think that this was okay when influencers everywhere are working so hard to promote body confidence and respect for women. Who even signed off on that? Can you imagine the boardroom design meeting where that got listed? I can’t.

My daughter came home from school and the first thing she said to me was “By the way Mum, about your instagram stories…” I thought perhaps she was going to say “can you not, it’s embarrassing, just stop talking about things you don’t understand, teenage, teenage, teenage… etc.” But no. She was basically as shocked as I was. “They’re a really big brand with teenagers.” she told me. “I can’t believe they would sell something like that!” She said all her friends had seen it too and felt the same way. Thank god.

How our teenagers develop self image

Positive teen body image

She then proceeded to tell me about the classes they have at school where they’re taught about social responsibility, and being respectful in relationships. It’s amazingly positive. I want to reassure parents with younger kids who might be freaking out about the teenage stage that it’s really not going to be as bad as they imagine. Teenagers are awesome! They’re incredible company, funny, smart, and have such a good view of the world and the right things to do. It’s for another post, but my daughter is my harshest critic if I even begin to intimate something negative about say, an X Factor contestant’s hair or accent (and yes, I have made that mistake, and I hold my hands up – it’s wrong).

They’ve even had lessons on exactly the issue this tee represents. She told me some shocking statistics about what happens when you share a naked picture with your boyfriend or girlfriend. I forget the numbers, but the vast majority of people who’ve been sent a nude selfie will share it with someone else, and over half will share it with more than one person. That photo going round the boys changing rooms – that’s the one. I feel sick just thinking about it.

Teenagers need a positive self image to stand up to the world

Self image amongst teenagers

This is my daughter. Again, it’s for a different post – one about how experimenting with make up is the teenage version of crafting. It’s creative. She knows this look is for a time and a place, and her usual make up is totally age-appropriate. But my point here is that this girl is interested in how she looks, fascinated by fashion and make up like most girls her age are, and certainly not averse to being edgy in her clothing choices. But she was still horrified by Missguided’s slogan top. So if teenagers hate the message they’re giving, who are the 14 people Missguided’s website is telling me bought this top in the last 48 hours?

My best guess is that they’re the girls who feel under pressure to conform to a stereotype that’s so outdated, and yet still perpetuated by the wrong elements in society. They’re the girls who feel they have to be sexy at 13 in order to be liked. Or the women who think they have to be sexy in order to be liked, because that kind of notion digs itself in deep and perpetuates into adulthood. It’s what prevents women from being strong, from saying no – with authority, from speaking out.

Or worse, it’s the younger girls, who haven’t yet been taught that this is all kinds of wrong. Whose schools don’t give lessons on it, whose parents haven’t yet picked up on it, or who’ve already felt the pressure. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Where to get a great slogan top

If you really want a slogan top, there are any number of amazing places you can buy them. Slogans that make you feel amazing, that encourage you to go out and rock this world, and everything in it, to make your mark, do what’s right, and live – as the slogan goes – your best life. Here are a few of my favourites. Please do add more recommendations in the comments if I’ve missed a good one.

And if this post has hit a nerve, please let Missguided know.

Tee links from left: Well-behaved women from the Spark Company; A little less judgement from Mama Life London; A Woman’s place from the Spark Company.

11 thoughts on “Self Image and Body Confidence in Teenagers”

  1. Brilliant blog. Thank you so much for supporting the #nonudesforthedudes campaign and getting right on to writing something so reassuring. ??❤️

    • So happy so many people joined in and we managed to get Missguided to remove the item from sale. That’s social media working for good! Thanks for letting me get on board.

  2. Someone else had shared this Tshirt on social media and I was gobsmacked that this sort of thing could be on sale in this day and age. Some people were commenting that it was marketed at adults so it was fine. But a) adults should have more respect for themselves and b) since when have teenagers chosen not to buy clothes because they’re supposed to be for adults?!
    It’s great to hear about your daughter’s attitude and what her school is teaching. My daughter isn’t quite a teenager yet, but early indications are good and she’s at a girls’ school that seems to teach some very sensible life lessons.

    • What?? I can’t believe anyone thinks it’s okay, aimed at adults or not! Yes I think most schools are undertaking to educate in things like this as well as regular subjects. Hopefully we’re creating a generation of people who believe in respect.

  3. Excellent post Helen, well done for publishing it. I can’t believe that Missguided were selling this dreadful thing. Your daughter sounds brilliant btw – you must be very proud of her.

    • Yes that’s the thing I can’t understand – how do these things even make it to the shop floor? Boots has had one this week on a make up palette with shades called milf, and foreplay. Though they’ve withdrawn it pretty quickly when challenged, I can’t even believe someone thought it was a good idea in the first place!

  4. I love this!! I think it really highlights the problems with society and how “sex sells” when actually that’s not what we need anymore. I love that your teenager was a massive advocate for how big of a problem it was and you were both of the same side. I hope my little girl when she grows up recognises problems like this.

    Katie xx

    • Thanks Katie. I think schools generally do a great job of encouraging responsible behaviour online, but it must be so tempting to succumb to peer pressure. Which is why there is definitely an onus on retailers and producers to think about what they’re stocking.

  5. I’m not going to sit here and preach. But when I was a bit younger (24 now) I would get an absolute rollicking for wearing some of the clothes I see on sale for young girls these days. I am all for individuality, and choice, but items like the one you highlight here. NO WAY! I felt a wave of anger within the pit of my stomach. And I wouldn’t mind betting, that panel in the meeting room, probably men. But I’m not here to belittle anyone. I’m sorry if I cause any issue saying what I have.

    I’ve recently found out that I’m expecting a little girl. And I have promised myself that she will have the choice in everything that she has, but equally I have vowed to educate her as best I can about body image, and feeling comfortable in herself.

    I apologise yet again if anything I have said has caused offence.

    • No offence taken at all. I completely agree, and thankfully all the girls I spoke to were of the same mind, that this top was completely inappropriate for teens. They did, however, reinforce that Missguided is a brand loved by teenagers. I’m sure Missguided know that a lot of their customers are young girls, and with that understanding, I think they have a responsibility not to market items like this. Some people have said they are comfortable with it for older women, however I think it conveys an overall message that letting the lads see you naked is a cool thing for women to do, and expected by men. That’s a message I think should be reviled for any age group, not just teenagers, as it contributes to the objectification of women we’re trying so hard to move away from.
      Thank you for commenting.

  6. social media is also a crucial factor to affect teenager’s body confidence. We always see a lot of “unreal” body shapes on social media but no one look like that in the real world. Maybe photoshop is also a big factor too. Everyone should know about this problem. Thanks for sharing!


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