Culture of Anxiety

The more I look at advertising for beauty products, skin products, make-up, etc., I find it’s all about:

Do you have _____? (Insert problem here, whether actual or imaginary)

Well, here is the solution: __________ (Insert “solution” here)

Really, guys?

A majority of the advertising that I see for women and beauty products (and also for men, too!)  focuses on capitalizing on our fear that we aren’t enough: Our eyes aren’t big enough, our lips aren’t soft enough, our skin isn’t flawless enough, etc.- despite the fact that Perfection is impossible, these advertisements make it possible to have Perfection, but only with this equation:

Your Money + This Product

Perhaps I am being overly simplistic, and I am certainly not claiming that ALL advertising plays upon fear, or even that 100% of advertising for beauty products does this, but one must admit that A LOT of advertising plays upon the fear of lacking. That without the product advertised, you won’t get kissed by that gorgeous guy, or your friends won’t admire you, or you might even miss the chance to find your next lover – a few scenarios that have been shown in the media, among others.

Below is essentially a few forms of advertising:

Naturally, it’s been effective for almost a century. Listerine is a GREAT example: It actually had advertisements that suggested that mouth wash would help a woman’s chances of catching a mate because she’ll have fresh breath, and that without it she might be putting herself at risk for BEING ALONE FOREVER!!! (The ad shown is from 1923)

Seriously, though, this form of advertising is effective for making money, but what harm does it do to the psyche and self esteem of people? It would be nice to say that many Americans are media literate enough to realize when they are being tricked into feeling that they aren’t good enough, and that with “x” they could be, but that simply isn’t the case- the fact that these advertisements continue proves this.

My realization is not original, nor is it really anything shocking. I think we all know this. It just gets tiring to be told through multiple mediums that I am not enough, and this exhaustion is surely felt by others.

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2 thoughts on “Culture of Anxiety

  1. I liked your post here. At a different time in my life, I may have thought, “Hey, no big deal.” But, I have 2 daughters, both who have paid pretty high prices because of exactly what you’re talking about. They both had close bouts with eating disorders that were just on the edge of being out of control. All this because of image … image that the media projects and (as you so eloquently stated) advertising projects. I think that its a pretty serious problem. We don’t have to look too far to see it’s effects anymore. The issues that are being created are no longer just in Hollywood … they are right in our own backyards. Thanks for the reminder that we have to be, not only aware, but on guard.

  2. Seriously, I am so so with you. If we’re not “lacking” something, the idea is we won’t buy it. So someone’s gotta convince us we need it, whether we do or not. Especially women. It’s really freaky how much worse it’s gotten, even in the last decade. I cannot tell you how many women I know who have dealt with those feelings of being less than enough or have starved themselves over and over. I’ve been there and so have my close friends, and each times it never gets easier to accept.

    I tend to write over and over again on my own blog about that feeling of “less than enough” and how to reclaim the idea that You Are Enough. As much as Hollywood and the media bombard us with feelings of worthlessness, it can’t hurt to keep pushing for the opposite, right?

    You should check out soworthloving.com. I am a huge fan and it sounds like it’d be right up your alley.

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