We're facing a self-love crisis: one in two women globally feel more self-doubt than self-love

The Body Shop's global self-love index, backed by activist Jameela Jamil and exclusively shared with MC, indicates a worrying new trend.

The Body Shop Global Self Love Survey
(Image credit: Marie Claire UK)

The Body Shop's global self-love index, backed by activist Jameela Jamil and exclusively shared with MC, indicates a worrying new trend.

Everyone suffers from self confidence wobbles at times. Whether it's worrying about your savings, questioning if you're doing enough at work or falling out with your favourite (now slightly-too-tight) jeans, having off days and questioning your worth is normal.

But it shouldn't define you. You should be able to identify it as just that—a worry, not a defining factor of your personality.

Saddening new stats from The Body Shop's Global Self Love Index - which they've shared exclusively with us here at Marie Claire - has found that we're not just having off days. Instead, we're letting low self-worth shape our perception of who we think we are.

Identifying what they're calling a 'self-love crisis', their global survey found that one in two women feel more self-doubt than self-love, with 60% per cent wishing they had more respect for themselves.

The study is one of a kind - that is, research into self love on this scale simply hasn't been done before. Sharing the news in an exclusive, The Body Shop want to use the findings to spearhead a new movement, helping everyone to build on their personal self love and self esteem philosophies.

Linda Campbell, UK & ROI Managing Director at The Body Shop, shared: “As an activist brand, our mission is to fight for a fairer and more beautiful world. In order to create a positive change in the world, we must start with creating a positive change within. We call for people around the world to rise up with self-love, especially in a society that promotes self-doubt and insecurity. We are excited to embark on this journey to drive change individually, in the beauty industry and beyond.”

A first-of-its-kind study

The groundbreaking study, conducted by Ipsos, was conducted in late November and early December of last year. It's important because of its sheer size - they surveyed over 22,000 people living across 21 different countries. For context, most research papers study around eight to 25 participants at a time.

It's main aim was to explore the different dimensions of self-love, including perception of oneself, frequency of experiencing emotions such as nervousness or anxiety, personal confidence, resilience, and reported drivers of self-esteem.

Low self-love, globally? 

Surveying 22,000 participants, the study found South Korea, Saudi Arabia and France rank lowest for self-love. At the other end of the spectrum, Denmark, Australia, and the United States rank highest.

Other key findings to have on your radar: perhaps unsurprisingly, social media users have lower levels of self-love; 47% of women in the UK feel they are ‘no good at all’, compared to 27% Brazilian women; and 72% of women in the UK often wish their body was different.

Plus, interestingly the stats show that single and minority women rank lower for self-esteem than married and non-minority women. 37% of single women and 38% of minority women suffer, compared to 21% of married and 25% of non-minority women.

The top three causes of low confidence among women? Financial status (32%), not achieving their goals in life (25%) and looks (23%).

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Identifying the cause

The stats are saddening. In 2021, self-love and self-care are promoted far and wide. The concept of body neutrality has now even come to the fore: that is, using the energy you usually waste on viewing your body as positive or negative for other ventures. But, as the survey reveals, this doesn't necessarily mean women are feeling more self-confident in themselves.

Could COVID's new normal be partly to blame? According to The Body Shop self-love expert Sara Kuburic, otherwise known as The Millennial Therapist, it could. She reckons that the isolation of lockdown may have forced many women to face some uncomfortable realities.

“For many, the pandemic – although unpleasant – has offered a space for reflection, reprioritisation, and authenticity. Many have embraced who they are, stripping themselves of pressures to show up or “be” a certain way. But, for women who struggled with self-esteem prior to COVID-19, the isolation and lack of social support may have been confronting and painful. It may have robbed them of the external sources that masqueraded as self-esteem," she explains.

Learning to self-love

So, how do we move forward? The answer's not a simple one, but its one British activist and actress Jameela Jamil is determined to get to the bottom of. She's backing the campaign and helping to launch The Body Shop's global movement in response to the survey, 'the Self Love Uprising'. In short, it's a long-term commitment from the brand to use its voice to build self-esteem globally.

The aim is to spread one million acts of self-love in one year, to create more love and positive change in the world. But for more on that, head to their website

Jamil said of the survey findings: “I see the lack of self-love as an emotional pandemic, and one which is sadly hitting younger generations the most. Self love is an inside job, so let’s all take just one positive action towards loving ourselves. As a woman, being proud of yourself and believing you are ‘enough’ as you are, is an act of social and political resistance.”

Jameela Jamil is one of the leading lights supporting The Body Shop global self-love campaign. The activist beauty company believes self-love is the next frontier in creating positive change in the world and hopes to inspire one million acts of self-love in one year. Find out more at www.thebodyshop.com/selflove and @thebodyshop #SelfLoveUprising.

Ally Head
Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.