Photo: Internet & Sana Habib

On June 14, the US first lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey joined hands through ‘United State of Women Summit’ at the White House to shed light on the issue of confidence, mentorship and women empowerment. The summit welcomed a pool of diverse women from different backgrounds and professions who shared their respective journeys, celebrated their progress and promoted further change. Some of the key points touched by Michelle Obamad struck a chord among the women including myself.

United State of Women Summit
United State of Women Summit

“To know yourself and to love yourself is your first job in life,” stated the US first lady. She also emphasised that, often times we get so caught up in trying to please and satisfy others and expecting them to reciprocate and appreciate us that in the process, we let them define who we are and stagger our potentials. Michelle Obama also mentioned: “Once you start liking yourself, you begin to understand the value of your time and become more aware of your worth.” This notion helped her secure a higher paying job after she was blessed with her daughters. She elaborated that our goals are constantly evolving therefore we cannot be stagnant; we need to move forward and adjust to these changes. “Knowing your worth and what you have to offer to the world and your society can be very challenging, especially when you don’t have a good understanding of youself. Once you discover yourself and your fullest potentials, it will be easier for you to discover things that excite and motivate you,” she told Oprah.

Sana Habib
Sana Habib

For many women, self worth is what they see in the mirror. “Often times it’s our outwardly image that we are focused on perfecting,” says Sana Habib, an educationalist. In her early thirties, her hair started greying, however, she didn’t let her silver locks define her age or appearance. “I never thought it was important for me to dye my hair since I felt confident and beautiful despite my premature greying,” she adds. Sana also highlights that for many women be it, hair, complexion, body weight or other outwardly appearances weighs down their self-worth. Accepting your flaws is a journey to loving yourself.

Dove chooses beautiful
Dove chooses beautiful

At the forefront of brands that promote women empowerment is Dove. Their recent short film, Let’s Break the Rules of Beauty, portrays the diversity among Indian women and raises awareness about disregarding beauty stereotypes. The add campaign is gaining popularity and is reflective of the current scenario, be it India or any other part of the world. The social media revolutionising the use of filters and photoshop feeds the ever escalading cycle of image perfecting. The research done into building the Dove campaign in India found that over 76 % Indian women believe that in today’s society it is critical to meet certain beauty standards. They also expressed that they need to look a certain way to succeed in life. “This campaign is designed to encourage women to embrace their uniqueness and spark change against the variety of pressures and influences that keeps narrowing down the ideals of beauty,” said Sjardin, Brand Ambassador at Dove India to Adweek. This is not the only campaign by Dove that deals with such a sensitive issue. Over the years, they have run a series of successful campaigns globally. In 2006, the video ‘Evolution’ went viral; in 2013, they launched ‘Real beauty sketches’ that showcases women who describe their appearances to a forensic sketch artist; and recently the ‘Dove chooses beautiful,’ campaign which highlighted how insecure women felt about their looks. Many of the advertisements are now shown in classrooms to discuss image positivity with teenagers in order to start a dialogue about image and self worth.

It is ironic how we rummage through the glossy pages of fashion magazines and ask ourselves – What is beauty? What is our self-worth? And do we love what we see in ourselves?

Staying within the fringes of mainstream cultures, Aidha Cader, ICE Today’s culture connoisseur has inculcated an appreciation for food, history, travel and art beyond her comfort zone.