Love Yourself Challenge takes aim at media ideas about women’s beauty

Hillary Oliver didn’t measure up.

At least that’s how she felt about her own beauty after the use of a cleansing product for oily skin went wrong and led to a long-term breakout.

“I was mortified, as I had never had acne before,” Oliver said. “My face was sensitive in the sun and hurt to touch. My doctor told me [the product] had poisoned my liver. I dreaded washing my face because it was so painful.

“I wore thick layers of makeup every day to hide the acne. I was embarrassed and I felt that my acne was all anyone ever noticed about me.”

She judged herself more and more against the unrealistic popular conception of beauty, she said.

“As long as she feels there is a need to hide behind makeup, it means her thoughts about herself are distorted,” said Ivana Pejakovic, an empowerment coach for women.

Breaking free from the intangible prison bars that media has placed women in is unbelievably satisfying.

—Hillary Oliver

But since then, Oliver has changed her thinking and has broken free of her severe condition, thanks, she said, to several juice cleanses lasting up to three weeks. Now she embraces the natural look.

“I appreciate it so much more,” Oliver said.

Recently, Oliver participated in the Love Yourself Challenge, which encourages women to nominate other women through social media to post a picture of themselves without makeup on.

“We judge ourselves based on this image of perfect and we, more often, judge other women in our lives,” Oliver said.

Rae Smith, a survivor of anorexia, agreed.

“In order to boycott this craziness, I surround myself with real women like my friends, mom and mentors who aren’t airbrushed and Photoshopped, and aspire to be strong, passionate and encouraging like them,” said Smith, who posts inspirational art she’s created on her own Love Yourself blog.

According to personal care product brand Dove, a girl’s inner beauty critic is established by the time she is 14 years old and continues to erode her self-esteem as she gets older.

“I think we’ve become socially conditioned to move away from the feelings and positive regard we naturally have for ourselves,” Pejakovic said. “Throughout life, we lose sight of what’s really important, what defines us.”

For Oliver, though, what’s important to her has come back into focus.

“Breaking free from the intangible prison bars that media has placed women in is unbelievably satisfying,” she said. “Though it took almost a year for me to wrap my head around how dangerous and destructive media is and how women are so much more valuable than half-naked women on paper, it was worth it.”