The Dark Side of Summer – How Not to Be a Slave to Media Manipulation

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attractive larger woman in a bikini

Fat? Gorgeous? Or are these labels simply irrelevant? Fashion blogger Gabi Gregg, posing in her ‘Galaxy’ bikini, is trying to change the plus-size swimsuit industry.

For Women Everywhere – and Those Who Love Them!

In the Northern hemisphere it’s now officially summer. And everywhere I look I see ads for “the perfect swimsuit”, suncreams and self-tanners. In women’s magazines and online I see the question, “Are you ready for summer?” (READ: “Will you look hot in swimwear?”)

One of the biggest problems we have in our culture today is the vigorous and mean inner critics so many of us have (the voice that’s saying – inner critic? What’s she talking about, I don’t have one of those – it’s a mean version of that voice…).

Our inner critic keeps us “behaving”. We’re afraid to stand out, be different or say what we really think. And this doesn’t just affect our lives – it affects us collectively! When few people are willing to stand out and be different, that means there are few role models of anyone doing anything differently. So everyone keeps their head down and ‘fits in’.

And it gets worse. With few role models to show us anything different, we’re easier to manipulate. This fear of standing out, being different – and of being anything less than perfect is used by corporations to sell more stuff!

  • “Use this cream to banish your cellulite” (READ: No-one wants to look at that ugly cellulite on your thighs)
  • “Here’s the perfect swimsuit to disguise a thickening middle/small/large breasts/thighs/arms” (READ: We don’t want to see a body that’s different from the norm! Quick! Hide those bits of you that aren’t perfect!)

And it’s not just our body shape (slim with an hourglass figure and no blemishes or cellulite), but how hairy we should be (not very, preferably not at all), our complexions, the colour of our skin, how shiny our hair is…

I know a lovely young woman, who is slim, beautiful and naturally blonde. And she feels the need to shave not only her lower legs and armpits, but also her thighs AND her arms too. Yes, arms! Even though her hair growth is blonde and barely visible. What messages has she received growing up? Is this what we want for our young women of today?

We are caught in “double-binds” wherever we look:

  • To be attractive you need a golden “glow” or tan. Oh – but the sun ages your skin, buy this SPF50 Moisturiser.
  • You need vitamin D! Get some sun. Oh – but watch out for skin cancer…!
  • If you’re light-skinned, a “golden” tan is more attractive. But if you’re dark-skinned, lighter skin is more attractive. Buy this self-tanner/skin lightening cream…
  • Natural beauty is best! Oh – but don’t look washed out with piggy eyes. Buy this lash thickening and lengthening mascara. And here it is in a waterproof formula so you can go swimming and still wear make-up because you’re not attractive enough in your natural state…
  • Do exercise, be healthy! Oh – but don’t sweat. And whatever you do, don’t smell! But this anti-perspirant deodorant.
  • A natural “glow” is youthful and attractive! But not too much. Here buy this face powder…

Enjoy the summer!?!

We spend so much time worrying about and disguising our flaws that we don’t fully enjoy ourselves. Our brain is so tied up planning the perfect swimsuit to enhance our too-small breasts and buying the latest tinted moisturiser, that we’re not having fun!

Woman in a Bikini

This image with the woman’s head missing, is an example of sexual objectification…

We hold our breath in at the beach to minimise our tummy – and we’re not loving and accepting ourselves as we are. There’s a great TED talk that outlines what sexual objectification is. In that speech she talks about how young women can’t fully enjoy sex because they’re too busy worrying how they might look to their partner. They position themselves to minimise the parts of themselves they’re embarrassed about instead of having a great time! How sad is that?

Advertising shows us not aspirational, but UNATTAINABLE levels of beauty and perfection.

And even though we now know that “models” get airbrushed, we’re still subconsciously influenced – because it’s all around us! See this 1 min 14 secs Dove video on the “evolution of beauty” here if you haven’t already.

And even if we could attain those levels of beauty, we CANNOT maintain it. Our leg hair grows, we take our make-up off at night, we wake up and our hair is askew, we get a pimple, bruise or insect bite. Oh – and we AGE! That’s right we’re all getting older. Every single day.

And while our inner critics are joining in with the advertising that subtly focuses us on the flaws in our appearance (and countless other personal failings – so you’re NOT Mother Teresa or Michelle Obama??) the world is being destroyed, factory workers abused, chemicals leach into our water sources and the atmosphere – by the very corporations that are fuelling our insecurities with false and impossible visions of beauty.

Don’t buy into it!

It’s truly endemic. In a recent film aimed at young women, Cameron Diaz says, “No man likes a bush ‘down there’!” I found myself wondering how we ever survived as a species if that were really true, and not something that is perpetuated by films just like this one!

Surrounded by impossible standards of beauty, we’re too busy figuring out how to LOOK the best we can, instead of figuring out how to BE the best we can be!

Fashion and make-up, instead of being fun – something we play with or use to express ourselves – has become a form of slavery. We lose ourselves. And more and more, this phenomenon is affecting men too.

What are we doing to ourselves? What are we doing to our young women? They should be making their way in the world; becoming our future politicians, carers, managers and executives with new ideas and energy. But instead of focusing on their educations, building careers and thoughtfully raising our next generation of boys and girls they’re wondering, “Does my bum look big in this?”

And what about our older women who should be celebrated, who should be sharing their accumulated wisdom and experience? Many of these women are worrying instead about aging, losing their looks and becoming irrelevant.

We ARE a visual species. People notice what we wear – and make judgements accordingly that affect our careers and who befriends us. Good grooming, a good hairstyle shows that we respect and take care of ourselves (remember we teach others how to treat us!). Taking care of our appearance IS important. It’s called playing the game.

But you don’t need false eyelashes to buy a pint of milk. We don’t need a tan to look beautiful. Your thighs are – well they’re yours! You are not your breasts, your nose, your cellulite, your armpit hair. You are YOU! Wonderful. Gorgeous. Fabulous.

So, don’t compare yourself to the hot model in the full-size ad at the bus-stop (although it’s hard when you’re stood right next to her!) and don’t compare yourself to anyone else either.

Because you’re INCOMPARABLE!

Enjoy make-up, clothes, hair colour and style. Make the best of your appearance. Look sexy on a date, appear professional at work but it should feel fun, and not mental life or death…

So, this summer, by all means play the appearance “game” – but don’t lose yourself in it. Stop comparing. When you notice yourself judging your appearance or body (or someone else’s) decide instead to love yourself AS YOU ARE. You’ll find you have a lot more energy for what really matters.

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”
Anna Quindlen

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This entry was posted in Balance & Vitality, Confidence & Authenticity, Inspiring, Loving Ourselves, New Ways of Thinking, Perfectionism, Self-Esteem & Self-Respect, Thinking Bigger! and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.