When I worked as a makeup artist on tour with Revlon, I had direct access to the spectrum of women’s insecurities about their looks. 9 out of 10 women who sat in my chair had nothing good to say about their appearance. Surprising? No. Depressing? You bet. I knew I didn’t have to go far to find the source of this discontent – a media which constantly tells women that their skin isn’t smooth enough, their hair not shiny enough, their bellies not toned enough.
However, fixating on media sexism doesn’t give us any practical solutions. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge that the media is more powerful and ubiquitous than it was in our grandmothers’, mothers’ and even older sisters’ day. And none of us can fool ourselves that we are immune to the effects of media manipulation. But we can still be critical consumers, because “however crafty the media is, we still are not at a point where we will completely suspend our rational thought process or belief system”.
In my forthcoming book (releasing October 2012) I want to look at how women can actively reject the low self-esteem epidemic. The book looks at how women need to start seeking change from within, instead of thinking beauty-related quick-fixes will give them what they need, then blaming the media when this fails. The beauty myth and the media aren’t going anywhere – so women need to develop self-care strategies that will keep them feeling empowered when the beauty industry comes knocking.
I believe that caring for ourselves, rather than looking to outside sources for affirmation, will give women the power to know they are beautiful both inside and out. My book gives a step-by-step beauty ritual that allows a woman to re-program her negative thoughts and incorporate a nourishing mind-body-spirit exercise into her busy life.
Low self-esteem comes from roots far deeper than irritating television commercials, although these may be unhelpful triggers for already-established behaviours. When we allow the media to make us feel ugly and worthless, we’re often re-enacting past conflicts and buried traumas that we’ve failed to deal with. When we buy a new pair of shoes or spend huge amounts on a face cream that promises eternal youth, we’re masking the real problems – that we haven’t attended to our mental and spiritual well-being. In my book I ask the reader to consider how past hurts have shaped their present insecurities, and provide practical exercises at the end of each chapter to help the reader let go of their inner ‘delusional diva’. I encourage women to practice forgiveness, learn how to trust their intuition and work towards a new personal ‘declaration of beauty’ based upon deeper qualities than just the physical.
I feel there’s a strong need for us to break the cycle of blaming our looks for our bad feelings, then blaming the media for making us focus on our looks in the first place. This strategy just allows us to convince ourselves we are helpless to change anything. As Alice Walker put it, “The easiest way people give up power is by thinking they don’t have any”. Women need to realize they do have plenty of power, and start using it to change and reclaim our perceptions of our God-given beauty, talents and abilities.
 Jennifer Pozner, Reality Bites Back (Berkeley, CA: Seal Press, 2010), p. 97.
- Fearless Beauties of the Week: 2012 U.S. Women Olympics Team (kenetia.com)
- Fearless Beauty of the Week: Nina Curtis (kenetia.com)
- Fearless Beauty of the week: Amy Poehler (kenetia.com)