What’s Your Secret to Avoiding the Trap of Letting Popular Images Define or Affect You Negatively?

 In Being A Woman, Influences, Self Love, Women in the Media

Being Wise… taking in the wisdom across generations
by Christine, age 37

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Once upon a time, my life was all about creating the popular images that would entice people to buy, desire and lust after products, lifestyles and images. Yes, I was what they call a ‘brand marketer’ and it was my job to get into the minds of people so that I could connect our product – be it potato chips, minivans, salad dressing or yes, even tartar sauce – to their pocket books. Somewhere around the age of 29, I had what I call the “potato chip revelation” when I realized that I was working 80 hours a week, we were spending millions of dollars and countless brain power, to figure out how to sell, you guessed it, more bags of potato chips, which ultimately were contributing to the rising obesity of adults and kids. That is when I decided I would only do marketing for good. And now I spend my days as an inspirational catalyst, coach and author trying to help people break free from their self-limiting images.So as a former marketing gal and a woman dedicated to inspiring women and girls to fall in love with themselves, I think I have a super hyper critical eye when it comes to the images, and icons and more that surround us daily. I can smell being marketed to a mile away. I look at an image that shows a vacant looking woman displayed as a sex object for the sake of selling a product and I see the sacredness of a woman’s body and spirit being disrespected and ignored. Maybe you think I should lighten up a bit… shrug it off to ‘entertainment’… or look past to all the good images that are out there. And you know, if it was just about me, I could. I am a self-confident woman who loves herself and who doesn’t feel bad because my thighs aren’t airbrushed. BUT, it’s not just about me. It’s about the way we, as a society still portray women… it’s about the impact, silent and overt, that these images and ideals are having on girls as young as 7 and as old as – well as old as it takes one to get to a place where they know and love who they are without question (and that can take awhile!)

While I realize that it may take this entire century to create a world in which ALL images are  affirming and positive — and yes I do believe it’s possible! — I think we can all do things today that help ourselves, and the girls and women around us. Here are the two challenges I have given myself, and that I offer to you:

1. If I don’t like it, I don’t look at it! Only pay attention to the images, stories, etc. that make you feel good about you. If you click on it and it makes you feel like crap – close window! Surround yourself with inspiration.

2. I talk about it, with friends and younger girls. Talk openly with your friends or with girls younger than you about what the images are saying and how we each have a CHOICE. Be a role model and a conversation starter.

Imagine living in a world in which every image was inspiring and made you feel good about you. It sounds pretty darn good to me!

Olive, age 14, says:

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Often when we read magazines we first see… THE COVER!!! You tend to see a celebrity. Imagine: Long and wavy flowing hair. Tan and toned body. Beautiful makeup. Bleached white teeth. Couture dress. This is what some women aspire to be. They get a picture in their head and strive long and hard to become it. Why? The most common thing is simply not being pleased with how you look because it’s obvious that if you LOVE who you are and the way that you look that you’re not going to be trying to be something else. But women who do feel like they “must look like Jessica Beil” tend to have issues with themselves. We see our unnoticeable flaws from the EVIL OBJECTS!!!!!!!

EVIL OBJECT 1: The mirror. Everyone has one yet they are so bad! They are where we check ourselves to make sure we look our best. The mirror is where we see that non-flat stomach. The mirror is where we see our zits, unwanted hair, cellulite, etc. It’s where we stare at ourselves and it just stares right back. It tends to be an image of hatred and judgment simply from not loving yourself. Isn’t that the look when you see people judging you when they don’t love you or think you’re beautiful?

EVIL OBJECT 2: The Wii. No we do not all have the Wii but happen to own one. It has several tests where at the end it will tell you what age you are based on how well you did. I have gotten my age, 14, but I have also gotten (drum roll) 47! The Wii then tells me that I am out of shape for my age and I should continue the exercising every day will help me to become basically more close to my age. The Wii is extremely fun but evil as well. You just have to learn how to take constructive criticism.

FINAL EVIL OBJECT: MEDIA! All those magazines. TV shows and commercials, Ads, etc. are what tend to make people think they must be something they aren’t. The problem with all of these is that they are unavoidable. When you see an ad that makes you feel fat, forget about it! Getting mad about it is bad for the mind. It’s good just to forget about it.
In a nutshell: What makes everyone want to be something they’re not is lack of confidence.

You must LLLOOOVVVEEE yourself!!! And you must remember, when people tell you something mean about your looks, it’s just because they are jealous and/or self conscious themselves.

Janet, age 24, says:

janetbrace.jpgWomen constantly get caught in what I call the ‘perfect body trap’. We are constantly bombarded with images of super models, celebrities, and other famous people, in the grocery store, at malls, billboards on the highway, at home through your TV, and on the internet. With all these points of contact, it is no surprise that most women develop some sort of body image hang-up or get stuck in the ‘perfect body trap’. The articles written in some women’s magazine constantly talk about what is ‘perfect’. Defining ‘perfect’ is something that women should shape on their own, but the constant images and articles convolute our opinions. The flip side is what we don’t hear enough about; and that is how hard and demanding physical body image is in the spot light. The fame can drive some of these women to take drastic measures with their health and life. When you hear the bad stories, puts reality of life and body into perspective and famous woman are real people too. If the media put a healthier spin on image and what is accepted, it might be easier for women to be comfortable with who they are. Some magazines and celebrities are speaking out against traditional images, but aren’t given enough attention and resisting the change. If more women embraced who they are, it might start to influence the media to re-define ‘perfect’ body images.

The women that don’t get caught in the ‘perfect body trap’ seem to have a bigger self awareness. They know that their body has the capability to do amazing things, run a marathon, hug a loved one, carry a child, and so much more. I think they also have an inner understanding of what it means to be a real woman. I myself get stuck in the ‘perfect body trap’ all the time. When I start thinking negatively about my body image, I remind myself this is me and I do love who I am. My body is only a part of who I am, and if I treat it right, eat healthy, and take care of myself, I always feel more confident about my body image. Some of my close girlfriends feel the same way. We talk about how much better we feel when eating right and working out. It provides a sense of self about defining who we are as women in our 20s. When you have a strong self confidence about your image on the outside, the inner spirit starts to shine through!
Katie, age 35, says:
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The wisdom that comes with age has made all the difference in my life. When I was in my young 20’s, I had three friends who were all three years old than I. I was a starving college student, and they were all in their first jobs. To me, they seemed glamorous: beautiful, fit, tan, making their own money, and all with boyfriends.

By (what I’d thought at the time was) comparison (but what I understood later was just the difference in age and priorities between me and them), I felt “cute,” out of shape, pale, broke, and loveless. I fixated on the big diamond studs that all three of them had in their ears.

Adorned in their diamonds, my friends looked valuable, rare, cherished … everything I thought I wasn’t. I know now that I was all of those things; I just didn’t love myself enough to realize it. For a few years after that time, while I was in graduate school and still broke, I plotted about the diamond earrings I would buy for myself one day. Of course, my obsession wasn’t really about the diamond studs. Obsessions never are.

That was 1.5 decades ago. Between now and then, I’ve spent much time alone on beaches and in forests, reflecting on who I am. I’ve also written a lot in journals, in the dark of my living room at night, with candles lit and soft music playing. The more time I spend in serene settings, the more expansive my inner peace becomes … and the farther away I get from those diamond earrings. I know I’m inherently lovable, so I no longer need “evidence” to prove it.

Looking back, I see that I could have looked just like my friends did back then, by spending more time and money on my appearance, and less on school. I wasn’t wrong to go to graduate school, burying myself in psychological theory and spending weekends under library lighting; they weren’t wrong to join the 9:00-5:00 work force out of college, spending their Thursday nights at happy hour and their weekends by the pool. There was never a comparison; we were and all precious in our unique ways. With maturity, I came to know that.

I never did buy those diamond earrings, and I can’t imagine I ever will.

Debba, age 40-something, says:

debba.jpgI’ve heard it called ‘the Oprah Factor.’ We see Oprah and other celebrities with things we wish we had and suddenly we feel entitled to things beyond our lifestyle or any form of reality. We get coerced into feeling like we deserve expensive designer clothes and belongings, envying the plastic surgery-stretched or air-brushed faces and finding some appeal to the paparazzi-lives of the rich and famous.

My take on this, and I’m a bit passionate, if not obsessed, is that if we have friends that love us the way we are, that we’re much more likely to accept our bodies and ourselves. When we truly love our friends, we respect their opinions, right? And, if their opinion of us is that we’re beautiful and treasured, why should we doubt them?

Why would I want or need to emulate celebrities when I have true friends who accept me with or without make-up, love me dressed up or dressed down, and see the beauty in me when I can’t see it myself? How could I ask for a better life or situation that might mean that I’m removed from the very people who encourage, challenge, support and love me?

Research shows that female friendships make us feel more confident and beautiful. They also make us healthier, happier, less stressed and live longer. Girlfriends are ‘the secret to defining ourselves.’ They see past wrinkles, scars, gray hairs or bad hair days to the beauty we possess inside of us. They don’t compare us to celebrities or other popular images that may be society’s measure of beauty. They just love us as we are and they make us feel more beautiful, accepted and loved.

And, as the saying goes, “The best mirror is an old friend.” (George Herbert) With our girlfriends supporting us, we can define ourselves by looking within and by looking at us through their eyes. That mirror of an old friend reflects the beauty they see in us, and that we need to see ourselves in as well.

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