Consumerism And Self Worth: Part One

Hey friends! This is the first part of my new series, Consumerism And Self Worth in which we examine the correlations between the two. I’ll be releasing parts two, three, and four on every Wednesday over the next month. Stay tuned for Part Two next week!

Part One: Media & Beauty Trends

Oh, the glorious beauty trends of the 2000’s – sparkly lip gloss, crimped hair, spiked and bleached hair, thin eyebrows, soul patches, Spartan-esque abs, belly button piercings, and boob jobs.

My personal favorites I’d seen in my early teenage days were the layered polos with happily flaunted popped collars, decorated and doodled upon converses in all their colorful glory, and god did I want a hideous ruffled mini skirt. Who else is feeling way too grossly nostalgic right now?

Examining these fashion trends of the 2000’s, which were questionable at best, it begs the question, who comes up with this stuff?

With all the images we are bombarded with on a daily basis, the media is a strong influencer on how we perceive and think.

goodbye sweet soul by Britt-knee
Image Credit: goodbye sweet soul by Britt-knee is licensed under CC by ND 2.0; Source: link

One of the most detrimental messages that we receive is that our bodies are not good enough because we don’t fit the current societal definition of beauty. This is especially shaping and often damaging our youth and their growing perception of the world.

It is no secret that most of how we live today is enmeshed in a constant state of comparison. What does come as a surprise is that consumerism needs this collective cultural state to continue thriving.

How Industries Define Beauty

We as a collective sometimes fail to realize that these social definitions of beauty are constantly changing. What’s considered “hot” or “attractive” today may not apply five or ten years from now.

Just 18 years after the 2000’s trends began, we’ve traded a sparkly lip for a matte one, soul patches for full beards, thin brows for full ones, 300-esque abs for the Hulk physique, breast augmentation for Brazilian butt lifts.

The point being, the media definition of what our bodies should look like is constantly morphing.

Stop Looking! By Henry Jose
Image Credit: Stop Looking! by Henry Jose is licensed under CC by 2.0; Source: link

What we don’t recognize is how these images that we’re fed via commercials with impossibly sexy models, shows and movies starring the pinnacles of idealized human sexiness, and relentless product marketing are setting us up to fail.

Do we ever wonder who is in control of what’s in one season and out the next? Logic would stand to reason that we should be looking at the industries that profit from continued purchases fueled by the constant need to acquire an ever-changing palette of sexiness.

Let’s break down how this process works.

The industry or company determines what’s considered attractive based on the product or service they’re trying to sell. Numerous brilliant, albeit more than slightly ethically questionable, commercials are released to market the product.

Said company also sponsors beauty or style influencers via the multitude of social media platforms to influence and sway the general public – Look! I’m doing it and you should be doing it too. The general public flocks to buy the product.

The industry counts their profit and changes what is now considered “hot” to market their next product. Wash, rinse, repeat.

It’s all starting to make scary sense, isn’t it?

How Media Eggs On Insecurity

In this rapid evolution of what’s hot and what’s not, we play this endless game of catch up. We continuously struggle to fit into an ideal projected by people (read: actors paid by giant corporations that are thirsty for your money) that we are shown are dangerously sexy, ecstatically happy, and definitely having way more fun than you.

beach party by Filip Pticek
Image Credit: beach party by Filip Pticek is licensed under CC by 2.0; Source: link

Does anyone else (besides myself) ever feel a twinge of guilt that you don’t look like the people you see on the television? This leads to feeling just a tad pathetic you’re having a Saturday night in for one rather than partying it up in the city. All followed by a heaping dollop of insecurity and self loathing?

Good! That’s precisely what advertising wants from us!

The worse you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to spend your hard-earned cash on their product, conveniently designed to improve your self worth.

It’s genius really.

I mean, think about it. We are first fed the image of what attractive people having fun looks like – a slender young woman, typically blonde, accompanied by her equally freakishly attractive posse goes out for a night of dancing and locks eyes with the rugged, devilishly handsome man over your favorite marketed adult beverage. (Nothing wrong with our blonde friends of course! I heard y’all have more fun.)

We are of course at the moment, lounging on the couch in sweats while munching on snacks before having to go to a job we can’t stand the next day. So we begin to spiral into a black hole of self pity and lack of personal fulfillment.

But wait! The product advertised will make you look younger, feel happier, and don’t you want to be as cool as the people in the commercial?

Shopping by Andrew Rodriguez.jpg
Image Credit: Shopping by Andrew Rodriguez is licensed under CC by 2.0; Source: link

That’s some on point psychological warfare to keep consumers in a cycle of doubt and insecurity in order continue the never-ending pursuit for the perfect product that will make us happy, beautiful, and irresistible. All while making them a profit.

It’s no surprise that we are desperately unsatisfied with our bodies and our lives when we are constantly being fed reasons why we don’t quite measure up.

The problem with chasing this particular dragon is that the game is continuously changing.


Interested in this topic? Share this post with a friend and check out Part Two next Wednesday! Thoughts, questions, comments? Start a discussion in the comments section below!


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