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Will Carpenter


Posted Monday, March 16th 2020

Daisie Mayes: Body image, confidence and the community programme inspiring Bristol's girls

Even during the heat of battle in the Tyrells Premier 15s, Bristol Bears Women back row forward, Daisie Mayes admits to feelings of insecurity around her body image.

It’s a worry that has troubled the 24-year-old for as long as she can remember, but Mayes is now fighting back and has thrown her support behind a new programme from Bristol Bears Community Foundation, designed challenge and discuss some of the wider issues faced by young girls across society.

‘Bear in Mind’ is a brand-new 12-week programme, encouraging girls in Years 8 and 9 to not only maintain an interest in sport and physical education, but also to analyse topics such as mental health, body image and the impact of social media.

And Mayes believes the programme could be a game changer for young women in the city.

“It’s vital that sport clubs and athletes continue to have conversations around mental health in sport - especially in women’s rugby,” she said.

“Body image has a massive impact on women both consciously and subconsciously, and on and off the field.

“Personally, I’ve struggled with my body image for as long as I can remember. Even now, in the middle of a Premier 15s game, I worry about whether my shorts look too tight or if my playing jersey makes me look fat.

“However, over the past few years I’ve tried to reframe my mindset to focus on what my body can do and not what it looks like.

“For example, I’ve hated my arms for years, but I’ve recently learnt to love them because I’m able to do pull-ups with a 10kg weight attached to me which I’m pretty proud of.

“For these reasons, I feel that the Bear in Mind programme is important to help teach young girls - and boys too because body image issues doesn’t just affect girls, and toxic masculinity is a growing issue for young boys - how to reframe their mindset and help young people to place more value on the functionality of their bodies rather than the aesthetic.

“I really believe starting these discussions and facilitating body image programmes like Bear in Mind can help to remedy the drop-off issues in females between the ages of 13-17.

“I’m proud to be a part of a club dedicating to leading the way.”

The programme, which is set to formally launch in the New Year after a successful six-week pilot scheme at Merchants Academy, has received huge support from the Bristol Bears Women squad.

Wales international, Elinor Snowsill believes another of the scheme’s key topics, social media, is now one of the most problematic aspects for young people growing up.

“For me, growing up now is so much harder than it was in the past, and it’s all down to one thing - social media,” she said.

“We are all spending far too much of our lives staring at tiny screens, scrolling through the airbrushed highlights of other people’s lives. The problem with this is that social media isn’t real life, but it’s very easy to compare other people’s ‘perfect worlds’ to our own imperfect reality.

“My advice to teenagers growing up today is put your phone down, have a laugh with the people around you, go play sport, paint a picture, write a song, read a book. Do things that make you feel better, instead of spending the few years you have being a teenager doing something that makes you feel bad!

“Stop being a spectator in other people’s lives: start living YOUR life.”

The programme’ pilot scheme generated some impressive feedback from both students and teachers, with 98% enjoying the sessions and reporting an increased knowledge and awareness of the themes covered.

In addition, 88% said they felt more confident talking about the topics, and 75% believed the programme had a positive impact on their personal actions and behaviours.

And with the support and passion of some inspirational female sporting role models, in the form of Daisie Mayes, Elinor Snowsill and the rest of the Bears Women squad, Bear in Mind could well be the catalyst for huge change in the lives of women and girls in Bristol.