Insecurities – should you let the cosmetic industry play on them?

You don’t see so many adverts that flagrantly play on your insecurities nowadays.  This is just as well.  There is only so much vomit available to respond to them.  But that doesn’t mean that the same basic technique isn’t still at play.  

If you look at adverts for beauty products they often hint strongly that there is something wrong with the way you look.  Are your eyelashes as long and strong as Cheryl Cole’s for instance is the message of a recent campaign by L’Oreal to promote their highly priced and intricately packaged mascara. I picked that one at random, there are simply so many.

I have been reading Stephen Fry’s autobiography, the Fry Chronicles, and it is tragic to read how insecure he is with his body.  He wouldn’t comply to the Classical Greek ideal of beauty to be sure (though he could probably write an essay on the subject).  But he is far from being an unattractive man in a big bouncy hugmuffin sort of a way.  Given that he is highly intelligent and very perceptive you might think he would be able to cope with his body image problems.  But it seems not.  If he can’t see himself for what he is I don’t suppose the rest of us have much chance of viewing ourselves with scientific detachment.  I dread to think what the number of adverts that highlight what is wrong with us do to vulnerable people who are not happy with the way they look.

If it is any consolation, that we are not good at assessing ourselves has been shown in several scientific studies.  Men tend to underestimate how fat they are, and woman to overestimate.  Body image is an easy target for advertisers.

I think a good trick is to think through what the real message of any advert you see is.  If it is trying to play on your insecurities it is best to ignore it.  This is easier said than done, but it does help to label it as such in your mind. We all want to look our best and there are products out there that help us do so.  But make the companies work for your cash by coming with something that does something, not by making us all feel bad.

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