Confronting Appearance Issues

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An Interesting Program confronting Appearance Issues

In a recent report, Euronews visited the Bristol Science Centre and spoke with Nicole Paraskeva from the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England.

She talked about an interactive experiment her team has developed that challenges appearance stereotypes. The experiment asks users to match images of people to possible jobs and activities just by looking at their faces, a task which draws attention to our own deep-seated preconceptions.

Paraskeva explains:“We recently conducted a survey with 77,000 adults in Britain and found that 60 percent of men and women, aged between 18 and 27 years old, feel ashamed about how they look. We find that already children as young as five years old are worried about being fat, or worried about their shape and thinking about going on a diet in order to change the way they look.”

“Children can’t escape the media pressure, the media influence, they’re watching TV programmes at a young age and they see attractive people. The media constantly shows them how they’re expected to look.”

The Appearance Matters project underlines how important diversity and differences are.

The project is part of the European Commission’s Leonardo Da Vinci programme. Its purpose is to train teachers and guidance counsellors to help young people overcome serious appearance issues.

Project coordinator Martin Persson told euronews: “Somebody who has poor self-esteem, or a disfigurement, we teach them social skills on how to interact – to make people see them as the person they are.”
“Forty percent of students do not raise their hands in class because they don’t want to attract attention to themselves because they have some low self-esteem about their appearance. For young people in Europe today, there is a very difficult labour market to find employment. And if you have additional challenges it becomes even harder.”Specific cases of People confronting Appearance Issues

Alexandria Barker, born with a cleft lip and palate and featured in my last blog, can see the advantages of the Appearance Matters project.“It would help greatly with self-confidence and esteem. It can get people back in the job market and do jobs they want to do, instead of hiding away,” she told euronews.

Martin Persson, referring to a young person with, for example, a disfigurement or some visible difference, said: “If they attend a vocational training school where trainers and guidance counsellors are aware of these issues, they can help these young students to overcome this barrier and have a better chance of finding a job at the end of it.”

It is important to start addressing appearance issues at a young age in order to change the social consciousness. What then can we do for our own schools? Uniforms can hide social status but they don’t do much for physical appearance.

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