Your insecurities are being bought and sold. We can literally be manipulated in to buying anything.
In a time where we like to think we revel in progressive thinking, where we have the freedom of speech and think we are leading our own path, without the unwanted influence of others, we are in fact selling out. Selling ourselves out that is.
Consumerism makes billions in multiple industries around the world and it’s easy too. You just convince people that whatever it is, is going to make their lives better in some way and there you have it. A formula to make an endless amount of money, because we are always looking for the next best thing to give us that quick fix.
Let’s take it back (way back) to the 20’s. At the time, 50% (approx.) of the population was female and they didn’t smoke. Simply put, this was because it was seen as distasteful for a woman to do so and that was just not good for the tobacco industry at the time (imagine how much money they were missing out on because of ideologies surrounding what was and wasn’t ok for women to do at).
So, what did those in the tobacco industry do? They hired a man named Edward Bernays, who was the marketing genius of his time. He compiled a campaign where woman would be photographed (in a flattering way, of course) smoking and passed it around to all the major newspapers. He campaigned it in a way that smoking represented lighting “torches of freedom” for women who wanted to assert their independence and own freedom. Of course, this was all a façade, but it did exactly what was intended – it sparked the “appropriate emotional responses in women” and “appealed to them on an unconscious level” (Amanda Amos, 2000).
The funniest thing about all of this is that Bernays was actually Freud’s nephew (talk about really getting inside peoples’ brains!) (Psychologytoday.com, 2016). Freud argued that peoples’ inner most insecurities are what allows them to be easy manipulated. Bernays realised something, no one had actually applied this psychological theory to the business world before. He realised that if you could “tap in to people’s insecurities – if you could needle at their deepest feelings of inadequacy – then they would buy just about any damn thing you tell them to” (online, 2016). And that became his get rich quick technique. He carried on promoting this as well as many other campaigns during the next 20+ years (one which even included increasing the sales of Betty Crocker’s instant cake mix – look it up and see just how manipulative he really was) which fed off of the niggling voices we have in our heads, which tell us we are not good enough.
Now, obviously today there are more consumer protection laws in place protecting us from misleading information and we know that smoking (even though it was campaigned as making you “skinny and beautiful” [Dailymail Online, 2012]) is definitely not good for you. But, the idea of feeding off of insecurities to make money still very much exists. And, there are always loop holes when it comes to what you can and cannot say to consumers.
Today, our quick fixes just come in many different forms. The dieting industry alone is a multi-billion (BILLION) dollar industry. From Special K adverts that claim you can drop a jean size in a couple of weeks to weight loss pills, shelves and shelves of stores are stocked with products that claim they can help us fix everything that we think is wrong with us.
This has become so normal to see/hear that we don’t even question why we believe we need to lose weight in the first place, or why we need to remove our stretch marks and cellulite or have the perfect eyebrows or pouty lips. The answer is simple, we have been conditioned to believe that with/without these things we are not the best version of ourselves. In order to fix this, we need certain products or brands to help us.
This thought process has become so innate that anything that is considered a flaw, we go about a path of changing it before even stopping to think why we believe it’s something that needs changing in the first place.
But, it’s not even just physical things which now make us feel inadequate. We now live fast-paced, hectic lives, where we are made to feel like if we don’t have everything figured out before the age of 25 and don’t have a plan to get rich – we are failures.
And what does this lead to? Us paying to listen to motivational speakers and for self-help books with the hope that they’ll help us to add meaning to our lives and help us to figure out what it is that we actually want to do. We buy in to the idea of someone else being able to help us with problems (such as life coaches) that (in all honesty) don’t really exist in the first place.
Yep, we have stretchmarks. Yep, we may not be the slimmest person out there or have our lives all figured out, but is that really wrong? Social media has fuelled the idea of what perfection is and we are now living in a consumer age where women are “charged 37% more on average than men, for equivalent items” (The Times, 2016).
And what did the companies selling these products claim? That apparently, this is because the products have “additional design and performance features” (Tesco, 2016). As Arwa Mahdawi (2016) said (and trust me I couldn’t agree with more) – “Sorry, I’m not buying that. Dyeing something pink doesn’t really count as an ‘additional design feature’ – the more accurate answer is that they’ve been getting away with it, because they can”.
Again, it’s more about what the product represents that is a reflection of the price. Take razors for example. Tesco’s men’s disposable one’s cost twice as much for women (Guardian, 2016). Men’s blue ones are marketed as a convenient way to make you look presentable for your office job.
However, with the female razors, what you’re trying to buy is a guarantee that you won’t be a lonely old spinster with 20 cats because let’s just face it, if you’re hairy AF we’ve been conditioned to believe we are disgusting (and no man is going to want that now are they?).
We are literally a money-making scheme because no one is going to benefit off of the promotion of self-love, worth and acceptance.
So, what do we do now?
Let’s not be ignorant and pretend like the next time a new ABH palette comes out we won’t be dying to try it out or that the next time a serum comes out, which claims to make your eyelashes 10x longer, we probs won’t give it a go. But, let’s just not be ignorant to the facts of why we feel the need to make these changes in the first place. Companies get larger while we get thinner – and in the same way we are used at work in the corporate world (that’s a topic for another time haha) we should realise we are contributing to the money man up top.
If using certain products etc makes you feel happier, then do it. I’m honestly all for it. Just don’t forget that many of the natural things that are made to seem like imperfections, really aren’t. Be confident enough in your own skin to know why you make certain decisions and more than anything, be ok with them. Even if you’re the only one that thinks that way. At the end of the day, no one knows what best for you, better than you.