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Getting real: beauty standards and building confidence

The Dove Self-Esteem Project has joined forces with Refinery29 and three incredible mother-daughter duos for The Confidence Code – a three-part series all about breaking beauty standards and building confidence. We asked youth leaders to have honest conversations with their mothers about navigating social media, the impact it has on self-esteem, how they’re reclaiming their self-confidence – and inspiring others to do the same.

Dove feature one Getting real beauty standards and building confidence
Candace and her mom, Elisabeth, sat down to chat about growing up on social media, body positivity and breaking beauty standards.

Why? Because social media sets unrealistic beauty standards. With digital distortion and face-altering apps available at the touch of a button, it's no surprise that social media can damage young people’s confidence and self-esteem. Alongside Refinery29, we’re on a mission to empower the current and future generations with positive body confidence, high self-esteem and radical self-love. So, young people can break beauty stereotypes and celebrate what makes them unique on social media and in real life, without compromising who they are. 

First up, body positivity advocate Candace Molatore talks to her mother, Elisabeth. They get together to chat about everything from the pressure of beauty standards on social media and how it became Candace’s space for self-expression to her adoption at two weeks old, growing up as a Black Girl in a white family, and the lack of representation she saw growing up in Oregon City. 

Read on to hear our mother-daughter duo get real about feeling seen, beauty stereotypes and tackling body shaming on social media. Together, they’re inspiring us with ways to boost confidence – like taking control of your online experience and making it a space that works for you.


Candace: “As a Black woman growing up in a white family in the deeper country of Oregon, I didn't have a lot of people who looked like me growing up. My parents did the best they could to make sure I felt beautiful. They were my cheerleaders from a very young age, but it's also important to have role models or people you can relate to. I looked to the media for that, but in the early 2000s, there wasn’t a lot of media representation for Black women, or fat Black women. It caused me to look inward for confidence, but at the age of 12 or 13, when you're in middle school, you just want to fit in. It becomes difficult to be your own cheerleader during those formative years.”

Elisabeth: “Candace, you have always been incredibly strong; you were just you all the time. I'm amazed at how confident you've always been, since you were two-and-a-half weeks old [...] You were shining with confidence, and you taught me how to give you self-esteem.”

Candace explains the positives and negatives of social media, including how it ‘blew [her] world wide open’ and became her space for self-expression, as well as the pressure of beauty standards online.

Candace: “Mom, you might not know this about social media, but there’s also a tendency to show a highlight reel of your life [...] and it’s fostered a culture of toxicity to a point where people feel like they can't live up to these highlight reels [...] Before I found the body-positive movement, I was definitely influenced by that "Instagram model” look [...] It took a lot of work for me to unlearn [...] so I don’t look at that content, I don’t follow people who push an unrealistic beauty standard. 

Elisabeth: “It seems that you didn't share or didn't talk about these things. But you found a way to say [...] That’s not okay.” And I know it took time — years — because once, when you were really tiny, you said your skin wouldn't wash off. And that was painful.”

Elisabeth: “When I was your age, I didn't have any self-esteem. I saw beautiful women in magazines and I compared myself to them constantly. But I knew I wasn’t going to give any of those feelings to you”

Candace: “Your upbringing showed you a lot of things you didn't want to pass down to me. You were taught to be modest, to not take up space, to not speak out of turn, or to not wear certain things.”

Elisabeth: “You don't want to just be waking up and working on yourself every day. It should be waking up and loving this body.”

Candace: “That's the attitude, but no one is positive all the time. It’s not realistic. That’s the hard thing about the body-positive movement. What some people may not understand when they’re starting their confidence journey is that when they have a down day, it’s their fault. It’s about accepting yourself on low days and high days. I will not have 100% positive days, and that's okay. When negative self-talk creeps in, that’s when I’m happy to have found practices, like self-affirmations and surrounding myself in real life with people who don’t bring me down. I hope that social media and everybody's persona online can start to lean in that direction.”

Elisabeth: “You let yourself be real. I imagine that sharing your less-than-perfect self gives trolls more things that will possibly hurt you. That's what I worry about when it comes to sharing yourself online.”

Candace: “Well, it happens. My body, by society’s standards, isn’t perfect, so that's enough ammunition, right? The point of the body-positive movement is to normalize these bodies and terms, like using “fat” as a descriptor and not as a negative word. That’s what we have to lean into, otherwise no change will happen. The bigger goal is to have these bodies feel welcome in any space; online is just a small snippet of the grander mission.”

Elisabeth: “I didn't realize trolls were so prominent or so present in social media.”

Candace: “I am swift with that block button”

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