Stop Chasing Perfection & Shatter the Image of Beauty
Posted on January 22 2017
How Beauty Marketing Can Have an Impact on Our Self-Esteem
Since the inception of print media, the beauty industry has been a tremendous influencer on defining the idea of what is "beautiful" and guiding both genders to look at women a bit differently. After reading various research studies and articles, it is no longer a myth that beauty marketing has had an impact on our self-esteem and how we view ourselves and those around us.
It starts to feel like Goldilocks and the Three Bears; this dress makes me look too fat, this dress makes my butt look too small, this foundation will make my skin look just right! The unattainable and overly photo-shopped images often make us feels like we’re not quite up to snuff as "ordinary" women. If we just bought another anti-wrinkle cream, or lost another five pounds, maybe it's our waist - yes, I need to cinch it until it squishes my organs, or if we only got that one nip and tuck procedure to ensure when we sit our stomach doesn't wrinkle - what will it take to finally reach our epitome of perfection? Why is perfection expected and why are the things that make us wonderfully unique an imperfection?
The problem is, no matter what we do, advertising will often be right there, showing us we need to go just one bit further. And what about us as consumers? Well, we’re buying it---hook, line and cincher. Women have even stepped up their criticism of other women too - take a look at what other people take the time to post in response to a new selfie shared.
The History of Beauty
Appearance enhancement dates back as far as we could record. Beauty creams and make-up were used regularly by Cleopatra and women in India, Ancient Greek and Roman cultures adorned themselves with beautiful gold jewelry and accessories to dazzle and attract a mate. For as long as written history allows, it seems there’s always been a pressure to look more than our best and spread our peacock feathers. Not all of this is a bad thing. Social pressures aren’t a totally negative experience - they help ensure we have combed hair, proper dental hygiene and helps keep us mindful of our health.
I love being a woman. I find beauty and fashion fun! Getting dressed up and wearing a new outfit you absolutely love, with a pretty pair of pumps and eye catching accessories sound like the perfect Saturday night for me! As for makeup - as you can see I love it - it allows me to change up my look according to my mood and enhances the enticing features we already have!
The problem is a large portion of the industry and influencers became extreme and took control of our what our social norms are, because they saw dollar signs. The more insecure we feel about our appearance, the more likely we are to spend more money to try new products. It started a pattern of being overly critical about how we look, which in turn affects how we feel. Even I, who admittedly has a slight addiction to trying new makeup and beauty products, don't feel the need to always wear them. It took me years to not feel less for leaving the house with face lotion and lip balm on!
Harper’s Bazaar released their first fashion magazine in 1867. But who would have foreseen that in less than one hundred years, women would have found themselves increasingly aware of the inability to live up to a perfect standard? Somewhere between the 1900's and today, we lost sight of female empowerment and instead became increasingly critical of our female counterparts. With the rise of the golden age of advertising in the 60's, women were viewed in terms of the almighty dollar. The more advertisers could play on their weaknesses, the more products would fly off the shelf. Even Barbie herself, with her tiny waist and high rosy-cheekbones, provided a huge amount of pressure for little girls in the 60's (ages 3 and up!). In the 70's and 80's, big brand advertising played a role in how marketing reached the masses. Celebrities like Madonna were seen as the beauty standard for a changing nation. In the 90's, clothes became smaller and waistlines trimmer on magazine covers, leading to a rising trend of drug abuse and eating disorders. With the introduction of Photoshop, consumers had no choice but to try to live up to the idealist beauty queens that were plastered on T.V. screens and magazine stands in all their airbrushed glory. A little airbrushing may not hurt now and then, but alternating reality for someone to try to achieve a look that does not exist is a bit unfair.
Today, we also have the added pressure of looking fabulous in our selfies, belfies, or snap chats. So now, we’ve thrust ourselves into a world with 24/7 access to a mirror that everyone in our friend circle can see. That’s a lot of pressure for anyone, but especially for a young girl just trying to figure out her place in the world.
The Real Cost
So what’s the big deal? We all have the right to think whatever we want about beauty standards, right? But unfortunately, the evidence is building that we’re causing irreversible damage to our self-esteem. According to the 2016 Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report where 10,500 women across 13 different countries were interviewed, women’s confidence around the world is taking a nosedive. In the study, 7 out of 10 girls say they won’t express their opinion on a matter if they feel like their appearance isn’t up to snuff. More shocking? 9 out of every 10 girls interviewed said they would rather not eat, even with health consequences than negatively impact their appearance. And if you’ve watched the news lately, it’s hard not to feel completely heartbroken especially with stories of the suicides of 11-year-old Bethany Feucht and 18-year-old Brandy Vela who reportedly killed themselves after they were relentlessly bullied about their physical appearance. Both beautiful young ladies in the prime of their lives, gone too early.
The Dove study shows girls know the problem comes from the images they see on the screen but they feel helpless to control it. It states that 71 percent of women and 67 percent of girls are calling for the media to do a better job portraying women of diverse physical appearance, age, race, shape and size.
Sparks of Positivity
Thankfully, amid the backlash from community upset, positive changes are beginning to take place. Stars like Alicia Keys have sworn off make-up until the beauty industry stops “fixing” images of celebs. Plus-size models, like Ashley Graham, are redefining the modeling world and giving girls a different level of beauty to strive for. Designers like Christian Siriano are creating collections that give curvy woman access to runway dresses. And celebrities like Adele, Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer are showing the world that just by using your talent, you can be considered accomplished, sexy, hilarious and a down-right positive role model. It's women like fitness clothing entrepreneur Kortney Olson, companies like us, The PrettyPout, Grrl Clothing, TOMS and Dove are redefining the way companies do business. Even Barbie recently added a few healthy inches to her physique. Hashtags like #effyourbeautystandards are giving the social media and beauty world a clear message that people are tired of it and are starting to define their own beauty standards. This is all a good start, but the movement needs to become stronger.
So what can you do to make a difference in your own community and world? Start a conversation, talk to your children about how they feel and what they may see on social media. Celebrate the diversity of women and applaud someone for being an individual. If you don't like how someone looks in a picture on social media, keep scrolling instead of leaving a nasty comment. We’ve all been given amazing gifts—some of us are great singers, some are nurturers, some are writers, some are believers. It is not just our long eyelashes that make us lovely, it's what you can see in our eyes. It's also our heart, intentions, resiliency, spirit, courage and drive that makes us who we are. These are the things that truly make us feel more beautiful.
P.S. We would love to know your thoughts on beauty marketing and what changes you would like to see!