WITH social media and constant images of seemingly perfect models, television and pop stars bombarding us it is no wonder there is now a younger generation desperate to emulate them.

And the seemingly innocent need to conform to fashions is now putting even greater pressure on young girls, in particular, to not only wear the fashions famous people follow but also physically resemble them.

With the story of Southend mum Karen Green buying a waist trainer for her teenage daughter to give her school blazer a better shape hitting the national headlines the issue of body confidence in young girls has once again been thrust into the spotlight.

Thomasin Newton is a personal stylist and mum to two daughters aged six and eight.

She says the current obsession with reality television stars and their bodies concerns her as a mother and in her work trying to improve the self-esteem and body image of women.

“It is something I feel really strongly about.

“I do think it is much harder now than it was when I was at school.

“Of course there were fashions and things we wanted to wear and people to a certain extent that we wanted to be like but it is really heightened now.

“And I do think that is down to these shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians and The Only Way is Essex.

“When I was a teenager you only had to think about what your peers were wearing at school, now it is all about the Kardashians and what have they ever really done?

”I don’t think anybody actually knows,” says Thomasin, who lives in West Bergholt, near Colchester.


  • Thomasin Newton

She says children, in particular young girls and teenagers, totally buy into the lifestyles and fashions of the people they see on the television and feel pressured into being like them.

“There is also a huge amount of airbrushing so young girls think that they have to do things like wear corsets under their school uniforms to accentuate their figures when actually they are trying to emulate figures which are not real,” she said.

Thomasin says she regularly sees women who want help with choosing clothes and suffer from a crippling lack of selfconfidence and that building positive body image must begin when girls are younger.

“There is a real herd mentality as a result of it and it does lead to girls thinking they are not good enough.

“It is worrying to hear even little girls of my daughters’ ages say that they think they look fat in something when they have not even developed their figures yet,” adds Thomasin, 43.

“But they are seeing images all around them of girls like themselves and older who are all talking about how they look and what they are doing to achieve that and it is putting enormous pressure on them to be like everyone else.”

Yet Maria Hales, a counsellor at Colchester Youth Enquiry Service who works with young people from across Colchester and Tendring says those who come to counselling solely for body image issues are probably quite low, surprisingly.

She says: “What normally happens is young people present with low mood, self-injury, anxiety, sleep disturbance, eating issues etc and during my assessment, it becomes clear that a good percentage of those teenagers are unhappy with their own image which feeds into the other symptoms presented.”

But she says it is absolutely normal for all teens when hitting puberty to become much more selfconscious about their looks and begin to scrutinise others much more closely as they start to explore their own identity and compare themselves with those they admire and want to look like.

Maria explains: “It is often at this time they look in the mirror and all they see are their superficial “faults” and not their other qualities or achievements and their self-esteem plummets.


  • Maria Hales

“Of course, self-esteem can be affected by treatment in early years and parental attachment so each case is unique and therefore it is difficult to point the finger at one specific thing.

“I have often found that what causes most distress for teens is criticism and judgement by their peers and other family members.

“The ability of young people to say the most hurtful things anonymously has grown with the use of things like Instagram and Snapchat, and people often measure themselves by how many “likes” they get.

“I agree the media often appears to use images of beauty and youth to sell and it is easy to blame them.

“However, the media responds to what sells and makes money.

“To use an example with supermarkets and fruit and vegetables, the public will not buy misshapen fruit or veg or those with marks and choose perfect shapes instead.

“It is the same with clothes and beauty products.

We are attracted by beautiful things and aspire to own those things or look like those people that will make us or our life beautiful too.

“This increases sales so increases the popular use of the “best images”

advertising companies can use, even if the pictures are airbrushed and modified so people look almost alien.

“I believe there has been some progress in the use of mature and plus size models but we are still a long way away from a true representation of a crosssection of the public,” she adds.

  • The Colchester and Tendring Youth Enquiry Service in Colchester is based in 9 Trinity Street, Colchester, and in Clacton at 6l Station Rd, CO15 1SD. It works with young people and families offering counselling, information and support with a wide range of emotional and mental health issues. It also offers young people housing advice and teenage pregnancy support. Visit its website colchester yes.org.uk or book an initial assessment appointment by calling Maria Hales or Jane Williams on 01206 710771, or 01255 434601.