Here are some things that count as ‘showing off’: loudly telling everyone your mock results when they didn’t ask. Doing perfect cartwheels during hockey practice. Instagrams from your beach holiday when you know it’s raining back home.

Here’s something that doesn’t count as ‘showing off’: lifting up your arm when there is some entirely natural hair underneath it. Nope. Not even a little bit. That’s called, well, lifting your arm up when there’s some perfectly natural hair underneath it. Ipso facto, Lourdes Leon isn’t ‘showing off’ her underarm hair any more than I’m showing off my elbows by wearing a t-shirt. Or showing off my nose by… having a nose.

But we’re all agreed on that, aren’t we? Because we’re all cool with the fact that bodies have hair in all kinds of places, and that it’s 100% up to us whether we choose to get rid of it or embrace it tenderly. Shave it, wax it, trim it, grow it, plait it, glitter it, or just let it do its sweet thing.

Sadly though, certain corners of the British media are still playing catch up as far as being chill about women’s bodies goes. And so when Madonna’s daughter went on a lovely beach holiday this week, she made headlines in loads of tabloid papers for ‘flaunting’, ‘parading’ and yep, ‘showing off’ her unshaven pits on the beach. Boring, guys. We are bored.

Lourdes

Instead let’s take a moment to salute Madonna Junior for following in her mum’s iconic footsteps – by not giving a s**t, doing her own thing, and being fantastically hirsute while she does it. Besides, Lourdes, you’re just saving yourself a load of painful shaving cuts. And nobody has time for this kind of hassle.

Images: Instagram.com/lourdesmariacicconeleon

When the results of this years Girls’ Attitudes survey by Girlguiding revealed that girls as young as 7 feel pressured to look ‘perfect’, we were upset. But not surprised.

Almost every woman and girl alive knows how it feels to be judged on our appearance – by friends and family, by boys in the street, by strangers, by the world – and how it feels to be so conscious of our appearance that it holds us back in life. From getting down and dirty on a sports field to seizing the most exciting opportunities, so much is sacrificed because of the pressure to be pretty.

But it turns out those 7-10 year old girls also have the answers sussed, saying loud and clear that the most important thing to improve their lives right now would be to stop judging girls and women on the way they look.

Got that, society? Stop. It. Now.

Newsflash: that means thinking twice about the nice comments, as well as the nasty. The ‘compliments’. Because obviously, being told you have great hair or a beautiful smile can make you feel great – but while we’re only praised on our appearance, it’s so much easier to believe that’s all we’re worth.

So inspired by Girl Guiding’s #YouAreAmazing campaign, we had a go at coming up with a whole list of lovely compliments you can give girls (or anyone really) that have nothing at all to do with their appearance.

And you know what? It wasn’t hard.

1. You are so clever.

2. You are so creative.

3. You are so brave. 

4. You know the lyrics to so many songs off by heart.

5. You’re perceptive.

6. You’re a brilliant listener.

7. You give really good advice.

8. You give quite bad advice, but always with the best of intentions.

9. You have the fiercest moves on the dancefloor.

10. You’re completely hilarious.

11. You’re a fantastic problem-solver.

12. You’re kind.

13. You’re generous.

14. You’re amazing at whistling.

15. You are very good at seeing the best in people, even when everyone else sees the worst.

16. You are very good at seeing the worst in people, even when they’re not as great as everyone thinks.

17. You have the wisdom of a very old oak tree.

18. You always pick the best place to eat lunch.

19. You have an excellent sense of smell.

20. You can always pronounce the non-English words on a menu correctly.

21. You’re tough, resilient and not afraid to take risks.

22. You’re the person everyone wants on their team.

23. You can probably hang pictures perfectly straight, first time.

24. If I threw something at you with no warning, I bet you’d catch it.

25. You’re such a quick learner.

26. You have the best taste in books.

27. You always have the perfect reaction gif for every occasion.

28. You’re the kind of person who can sing the harmonies in Happy Birthday.

29. You make the perfect cup of tea.

30. You have an adventurous spirit.

31. You have the brightest future ahead of you.

32. If I ever went on Pointless, I would want you for my teammate.

33. You have the best sense of direction.

34. You embody all the best qualities of each Hogwarts house, rolled into one.

35. You inspire me.

Share the love! Tweet us your best compliments @bettycollective, and join the Girl Guiding campaign with #YouAreAmazing.

There’s more pressure than ever on girls to have the ‘perfect’ body, and that’s not good for anyone.

In this video, Girlguiding ambassadors Alice P and Alice W talk about the different pressures girls face these days, how to fight the problem, and how girls can increase their confidence without having to worry about being perfect.

Girls in the UK are in the midst of a body confidence crisis, and the cult of ‘perfection’ isn’t helping. Our guest writer Adeola Gbakinro tells us how we can help change that. 

What is low body confidence? When I was younger I felt like I needed to fit in, I believed there were criteria I needed to meet. If I didn’t fit into those criteria, there was risk of ridicule, or even being bullied. The peer pressure from friends, the ‘ideal’ girl that we thought boys liked – it made me want to be ‘perfect’.

According to the Girls’ Attitudes Survey, published by Girlguiding, 49% of girls aged 11-16 fear people will criticise their body if someone takes their picture. I know all too well how this feels and just what a detrimental and lasting impact it can have on the happiness and mental wellbeing of a young woman. If an individual has a negative perception of their body, perhaps they feel they’re not ‘pretty enough’ or don’t look the ‘right way,’ then hearing one negative comment can increase this x 100.

I can’t help but think that if I’d had a safe place and time in school, to discuss the core issues and importance of positive body confidence, I would not have let the pressure around me sink in. I would have been better prepared to deal with the situations I faced and to challenge them.

In the Girls’ Attitudes Survey  75% of girls aged 11 – 21 told us they believe  women are judged more on their appearance than on their ability and 47% aged 11–21 said the way they look holds them back. One look at the media and you see thousands of airbrushed photos, portraying this ‘perfect’ image of a woman where she fits a particular size and shape, where the person she is and the things she achieves are rarely mentioned. 

It is so easy to compare yourself to everything you see in magazines and on billboards. Recognising that your own body doesn’t look anything like that can make you feel inadequate and it becomes increasingly harder to ‘be yourself.’

As a Girlguiding advocate, I believe this needs changing and the time is now!

Girlguiding is campaigning for compulsory Personal, Social and Health Education and Sex and Relationships Education to include body confidence and healthy relationships. We want girls to be confident in their bodies, from their school years through to adulthood, and we believe education can play a major part in this. By teaching body confidence in schools, girls can learn how to increase their self-esteem and learn how to value themselves.

Girls and young women need to be reassured that there is no perfect image. Their size, shape or height does not define how far they can reach in life.

We need to teach girls that they are awesome whatever their shape and size.

In Girlguiding, through resources such as our Think Resilient and Free Being Me badges, we inspire girls to be confident within themselves. But we know much still needs to be done and we believe it can start in school.

You can help us achieve this by signing the petition here.

Adeola Gbakinro, 20, is a member of the Girlguiding Advocate panel. The Advocate panel is made up of 18 girls and young women aged 14-25 who speak out and call for change.

Image: Manjit Thapp

I was fifteen when I was diagnosed with anorexia.

I had never kissed a boy, or a girl for that matter. I had never had a pint of beer or driven a car. Yet, somehow, I had decided to fight against the most basic of human instincts: that you eat to survive.

Anorexia is a difficult illness to explain because even when I was firmly in its suffocating grasp, I was aware that I was sick. Not in a hand-on-your-forehead, take-a-paracetamol, have-a-good-night’s-sleep sort of way. But sick in a Saturday-morning-weigh-ins, every-meal-dissolving-into-a-fight, missing-entire-weeks-of-school sort of way. In fact, I was the type of sick that would come to define the next few years of my life.

The only way I can attempt to explain my anorexia is to say I felt that I was both too much, and not enough. I was too loud and too enthusiastic. And also, not smart enough or pretty enough. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do with my life, and that frightened me.

All I knew was that I wanted to be perfect.

I felt like people had expectations of me – some real and some totally imagined – and I felt I could never meet them all. Somewhere along the way, I got confused. I forgot that my happiness was more important to anyone than the grades I got or the way I looked. Instead, I began hating myself for not being the Lily I thought people wanted me to be and so I took it out on my body. I wanted to shrink everything until I became invisible.

It wasn’t even so much about being thin – it was about what being thin represented. To me, being thin showed that I was the type of person that exercised, the type of person who ate salad, the type of person that always submitted her homework on time, and always made the honours classes. Somehow thin, to me, had come to mean clean and disciplined and healthy.

But of course, I wasn’t healthy at all. I was starving myself, I was depressed and I was falling behind at school because I no longer had the energy to raise my hand in class, to do my homework, to keep my eyes open while the teacher explained the fall of the Roman Empire (to do this day, I still don’t really know what went down back then).

The thinner I became, the more I hated myself. I pushed my friends and family away, convinced they couldn’t love a creature as awful as me. I felt like I’d trapped myself in a nightmare that I had quickly lost any control over and I was really, really scared.

Of course, I knew something was wrong. My family had tried to talk to me. My teachers had pulled me aside after class. My friends had asked if I was okay. I knew that all the things that were happening to my body were not the signs of a healthy 15-year-old, but part of me thought it would be arrogant to ask for help, to assume that this thing, whatever it was, was a serious mental illness. That a doctor would take one look at me and laugh and say, “What are you talking about? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.”

It wasn’t until I read a book about anorexia that I was able to finally able to ask for the help that I so desperately needed.

One night, I emerged from my room, crying. My mum was watching TV and I curled up next to her, ‘Mum,’ I said quietly, ‘I think there’s something wrong with me.’

I know those are the exact words I said because they are seared into my brain. After I uttered those words, my life took on a different trajectory.

There were years of therapy. And then some more therapy. There were anti-depressants. And then more anti-depressants.

There were screaming matches with my mum, who believed that my life should amount to more than knowing the calorie content of every food in the supermarket.

There were some appointments where both my parents, one of my brothers and his wife would turn up to support me and we had to nick some chairs from the room next door – because how many people are lucky enough to have four people who will turn up to what is, quite frankly, a long and harrowing doctors appointment?

There was a teacher who let me sit with him and talk about US politics when I wasn’t up to going to class. There were my friends who kept turning up, no matter how awfully I treated them, which is pretty much all I ever needed them to do.

None of these people needed me to be perfect; they just needed me to get well. And so I did.

Even so, it took years of therapy before I became even a shadow of my former self. Years before I accepted my personality and stopped confusing my weight and my self-worth, as if they were almost the same thing.

My desire to be perfect nearly ruined my entire life because I am so massively imperfect (so much so that I just had to ask a colleague if it was imperfect or unperfect). I am consistently seven minutes late. I knock over my water bottle at least once a day and every time my editor bursts out laughing. I get really obsessed with crafting projects and then abandon them three quarters of the way through.

And all that is fine, because it’s who I am. The most important thing I learnt from those years? That the moment you let go of trying to be perfect and you learn to forgive yourself for all the ways in which you screw up, you get to be happy.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

It’s great to have goals. Dreams and ambitions are what light our paths, propel us forward and make sure we actually get out of bed in the morning instead of clutching a drool covered pillow and saying “You know what? I refuse to do this.”

We’re told that no self-respecting girl or woman lets herself rest until her better is best. Even the women who celebrate slackerdom, like Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, achieve incredibly impressive things and work astonishingly hard. We’re told to embrace our flaws, but where do we start? Surely we’d be happier if we just stopped labelling flaws, and got on board with the fact that we’re not pretty pictures of womanhood, but human beings that fart, fall over and spill things?

The pursuit of perfection won’t make us happy, but finding a way to feel content about who we are just might. Here are some steps to start living a life unfiltered:

1. Wear something white and make a snack covered in ketchup, brown sauce, chocolate or gravy. You’re human, food is delicious and sometimes things are going to get spilled. Otherwise washing machine technologists would be out of a job. Otherwise you have to stick to see through foods, or spend every meal dressed as if you’ve volunteered to move the scenery for the sixth form production of Yerma, and that’s no fun.

2. Try to use one word a day that you avoid because you’re not entirely sure of its spelling, meaning or pronunciation. If you get it wrong, let someone correct you, and then you’ve learned something and don’t have to be afraid of the word any more. (And you can always blame autocorrect.)

3. Ladder your tights. Shrug your shoulders and if someone feels the need to point it out, say “And?” and stare them down until they leave. You’ve done tight wearing humans everywhere a favour, as they will never do it again.

4. Volunteer to do something – anything – where you have to speak to an audience, or read out loud. Afterwards, you will feel like a confidence ninja, no matter what comes out. Remember that a very experienced, distinguished radio broadcaster once started Radio Four’s highly respected Today programme with the words “Oh, ****!”

5. Challenge yourself to invent the silliest, least sexy dance in the history of time. Dress up in a really unflattering outfit, and as you move, spend a lot of time focusing on the parts of your body that you don’t love. If you can, record it and play it back. You’ll realise that laughing is always more fun than looking good, and that thing you hate is probably much better on camera than it is in your head.

6. Sing to yourself and don’t stop when someone else walks into the room. Ideally, pick a song where you’re not entirely sure what the words are because the lyrics you think you’ve heard don’t make any sense. This is how we learned that the song is called Cake By The Ocean, not Keep Billy Ocean.

7. Think of the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you, and draw a picture of it. If you’re feeling particularly confident, you could put it in a frame. You’ll either be impressed by your artistic skills or laugh so hard at your efforts that you’ll be able to appreciate every mistake has comedy value.

8. Turn your jumper inside out and see if anyone notices. If they do, say that it’s an homage to Chanel’s 2014 supermarket themed collection and the discussion about whether fashion is art or commerce. If you can do this and keep a straight face, you’ll know that you can style out every awkward moment forever more.

9. If you’re feeling brave, call your teacher “Mum” on purpose and see what happens. If that’s too daunting, call your Mum “Mr Brown” and see if she notices.

@NotRollergirl

Image: Amber Griffin