From Jennifer Aniston, to Renee Zellweger, to Claudia Winkleman, it’s no secret that women in the public eye constantly find themselves under pressure to look a certain way. And that, in turn, feeds down to the rest of us, whether it’s the onslaught of rumoured celebrity pregnancies, speculative stories about weight loss/gain and plastic surgery or general body-shaming.
So, when we venture into the changing rooms of our favourite high street stores, it’s hardly surprising that those misogynistic messages stick with us. And that, combined with unflattering fluorescent lights and an array of full-length mirrors, is enough to shatter anybody’s self-esteem.
Which is why Dr Susan Albers, a psychologist in Ohio, USA, has decided to take a stand on Facebook.
Sharing a smiling selfie of herself from inside a shop changing room, Albers revealed that she had overheard a pair of women criticising themselves in the cubicle next to her.
It was in this moment that she realised just how negative an experience shopping can really be – and she called on her training as a psychologist to come up with a solution.
This is the #DressingRoomChallenge (or, to put it in terms we Brits will understand, the #ChangingRoomChallenge).
“[It’s time to] speak mindfully,” writes Albers, adding that a simple ‘no thank you’ or ‘pass’ will do when it comes to turning down items of clothing.
“Please remember that, whether they are six or 60, everyone around you absorbs every word you say about your body. You are a role model [when it comes to] the words and phrases that are ‘okay’ to attach to women’s bodies.”
Describing her challenge in greater detail, Albers continues: “Don’t let your inner critic enter the dressing room with you. Leave her behind. Have fun in there. Say something affirming to yourself – or, if that is too difficult, try directing positive vibes to someone else.”
Albers practises what she preaches, too. The doctor revealed that she regularly bestows praise upon other women in the changing room – and encourages others to do the same.
“Whenever I see a stranger who is looking in the full-length mirror, and I genuinely like what she has tried on, I don't hesitate to tell her she looks absolutely amazing,” she says. “And, that dress/jeans/shirt has her name written all over it.
“Watch her reaction. I invite you to do the same.”
Albers is not the first to cite the psychological benefits of positive affirmations; in a blog post on TED, psychologist Guy Winch – who has 20 years experience working with patients – insists that “you are what you think”.
Filling your mind with positive thoughts, therefore, is a great way to help to build up your self-esteem and confidence.
And Aniston, in a powerful essay on sexism and the male gaze, has also previously encouraged women to ignore misogynist beauty standards in the press and start living by their own rules.
“We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone… we get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.”
You can’t say better than that.