Seeing Through Perfection

The average person sees up to 5,000 advertisements daily, according to the New York Times, which can add to the pressure to look or come across a certain way when it comes to your appearance. Today is Love Your Body Day (LYBD), a project started by the National Organization for Women about a decade ago. I think this is a great time to stop and think about how all the marketing around us can potentially impact us to dislike or want to change our bodies.

Now you may be thinking, “Courtney, you’re whack! I’m not impacted by marketing at all!” Even if you feel this way and even if it’s true, think about your friends and family around you. Negative self talk about body image is everywhere. How many times have you been with a group of people and a cycle starts where one person will criticize their own body and a litany of complaints will begin. Remember that scene from Mean Girls?

Karen: God. My hips are huge!
Gretchen: Oh please. I hate my calves.
Regina: At least you guys can wear halters. I’ve got man shoulders.
Cady: [voiceover] I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there’s lots of things that can be wrong on your body.
Gretchen: My hairline is so weird.
Regina: My pores are huge.
Karen: My nail beds suck.
[pause. All look at Cady]
Cady: I have really bad breath in the morning.
Karen: Ew!

One challenge I pose to you today is to point out to your friends when this cycle starts. Don’t just sit by and watch the wonderful people in your life worry over the size of their thighs or texture of their hair. When we start pointing out when people are bringing themselves down, we can start the change the way people see themselves.

It’s a fact, and perhaps a sad one, that advertising probably isn’t going anywhere so there’s a second challenge I pose to you: Start to be critical of the ads you see. In Women, Fear and Makeup, I discussed the need to see through ads and realize when something is too good to be true. Let’s face the fact that even the most beautiful women in the world are photoshopped. The unrealistic standard of beauty doesn’t exist. Not even for them.

How are you planning on celebrating Love Your Body Day?

This post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival.

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  • Veshoevius

    Great post and you are right to raise how much marketing we are exposed to. And stopping that circle we are all so familiar with – that is a very very good idea!

    • Courtney

      It’s a different way to combat the issue at least! I don’t see any signs that extreme airbrushed ads are going away any time soon, unfortunately.

  • For Those About To Shop

    I agree with you completely about the juggernaut of beauty advertising not going anywhere. Our energy is better spent on discussing and sharing the truths about these unattainable images. That’s more empowering than fighting a losing battle like getting all airbrushed ads removed. It’s also way more positive and positive energy is uplifting rather than draining.

    • Courtney

      Exactly! We can’t change anything about what advertisers choose to show or not. All we can do is change the way we talk about them. Like looking at Julia Roberts in that (what was it? L’oreal?) ad where she was so airbrushed that the UK banned it–if you realize that you won’t EVER look like that because it’s not humanly possible, then we will be a lot better for it.

  • Autumn

    I always laugh when people say they’re not impacted by marketing (having been one of them myself). EVERYONE thinks they’re immune to marketing! But none of us are. We don’t consciously buy things because we’re all, “Wow I really want to look like that woman on that advertisement”–but we get those messages all the time.

    A little anecdote: I worked for women’s magazines for 10 years, and then added a personal finance magazine to my client load. And within a couple of weeks of reading about IRAs and compounded interest and the need to save, save, save, I found that I started checking my bank accounts. Not just a monthly review, either–weekly, sometimes daily. I’ve never been a financially anxious person; I’m good at controlling my spending and live within my means. But reading all this stuff made me worry about it to the point of comedy. And then it hit me: I’ve been reading women’s magazines five days a week for *a decade.* What has that done to me?

    • Courtney

      I think it’s near impossible to be immune to ads especially when you see 5,000 a day! As I look at my own ads to the right of this box. Oh the irony!

      I think magazines can have an good and bad impact. People should be worrying about IRAs and retirement and an emergency fund. But you’re right–many women in the US, myself included, are raised with magazines at their side. I started off with Seventeen and Tiger Beat (although I wish I had TigerBeatdown back then!) at 12 and STILL read the same stuff (well, but for older people) at age 25.

      I think in this age people just have to be aware of where their information is coming from and who’s writing it and why. It’s about getting more critical.