THE BLOG

Why the UK Is Finally Taking Low Confidence Seriously

20/10/2014 00:08 BST | Updated 19/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Last Thursday evening the unbelievable happened. An awards ceremony took place in the House of Commons for body confidence. No need for a red carpet or pomp and circumstance. No male politicians driving agendas to win elections. Just a group of individuals of all shapes and sizes, fighting for the right for us all 'to be ourselves'.

For self-esteem has never been lower in the UK, with 16million of us depressed, 1.6million with eating disorders and a quarter unable to do sport, go to the beach, go for a new job for fear of judgement. Its even worse with young people with four out of five worried they will be fat and three quarters generally unhappy with their appearance.

It is not surprising when you open any magazine and see a perfectly formed doll - airbrushed to within an inch of her life, after she has probably starved herself to fit the modern model mould.

Women are still judged by their looks and the benchmark has become impossibly high. Models are thinner than 98 percent of the population and the obsession with six packs and thigh gaps have triggered trends around social networks like wildfire. Image has become first and foremost - profile pictures, selfies and dating sites mean that our true essence is relegated to the background.

When I was little there was hardly any awareness of self-esteem at school and bullying was part and parcel of everyday school life. I was a very sensitive teen, at a bitchy girls school and little by little my confidence was eroded. After one too many sports classes when I was the last to be chosen, one too many insults from buck teeth to teachers pet and one to many puberty problems (my hair frizzed, teeth stuck out and spots erupted over night) I went from a bouncy girl to a nervous insecure teenager.

Those hang ups followed me around into adult life, affecting my choices - choose the bad guy as that's what you deserve, work for the tyrant boss as that's all your good for. All until I had some life changing events that forced change. I lost my Dad, job and got divorced and I had to get help to free myself from the constant feeling I was a failure. I was finally free to do what I loved - writing - and I ended up writing a book called The Ugly Little Girl, all about a child who didn't believe in herself but discovers a magic night school for misfits like her, called Oddbods.

At the awards last night I was so surprised to see so many others who have been through similar experiences. Juliette Burton, a beautiful and intelligent actress and comedienne was anorexic and even sectioned but has risen from the flames to write and create shows that dispel the myths of appearance. Jameela Jamil, fabulous and witty DJ host has been trolled for gaining weight. Joey Bevan was teased for being fat at school and is now a stylist for women. And James Partridge' moving story about having his face burnt in an accident in his teens and had to deal with the stigma of being ugly. And there were so many more.

The body confidence campaign is not just about ambassadors, there also brands and media behind it. We will only help the young if we change the conversation about beauty. So Dove and the GirlGuides are investing in workshops in schools, brands such as Lancome and Diesel are picking more diverse models and retailers such as Asos have launched a Curve range. All parts of society: education, health, sport, media brands, icons all need to embrace this if we are going to set a new precedent for youngsters today.

I recently talked about this on BBC London and one of the listeners had a son who was a late developer and didn't have a 6pack. He ended up anorexic in a clinic alongside a little 8 year old girl. We have to question a world that allows this, and so many millions of other stories like it, to happen?

I know that despite my excellent results at school, anxiety and low self-worth held me back for a long, long time. Had confidence been part of the curriculum I am sure I would have been more resilient. Had someone talked to me honestly about how I felt I would never have repressed my negative emotions that then manifested as nervous habits, eating disorders and generally a very low opinion of myself. Even now I wonder whether those reading this will think I am smart enough, or interesting enough.

We live in a most privileged society, with little disease and poverty yet we have an epidemic, a misery that can weigh you down no matter how rich or successful you are. For those who have suffered, there is an opportunity to make things different for youngsters today. We owe it to every child - to every human being - the chance to be happy.