The Cosmetic Industry Wants You To Feel Terrible About Yourself

By Sonakshi Samtani:

There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

t1@dd240b10-f458-4349-a058-62d1394f9852When was the last time you looked into the mirror and pointed out that extra pound of fat which you were so desperate to lose, just so you could step out more confidently? Not really long back, was it?

According to a Psychology Today survey conducted back in 1997, Indian women were far more satisfied with their weight and appearance as compared to their American counterparts. However, the current situation is a relatively new phenomenon. In the past decade, Indian women have become overtly conscious of their weight and appearance, excessively scrutinizing and pressurizing themselves to meet the superficial and unrealistic standards of beauty set by the National and the International media.

Due to the booming communication technology and entertainment industry, we are flooded with thousands of pictures on a regular basis, telling us what is beautiful and desirable. However, they project us with such a narrow and superficial definition of beauty which most women fail to identify themselves with it. Nonetheless, we are conditioned to consciously or unconsciously compare ourselves to those images we see everywhere.

We are so obsessed with trying to attain that flawless skin and tiny waist, that we ignore the fact that most of those images are photo-shopped or digitally enhanced. Moreover, our favorite models and actors undergo numerous corrective surgeries, spend hours in the make-up room and follow meager diets and strenuous workout regimes to look that way, most of which are not feasible for us.

The Indian cosmetic industry’s revenue is projected to be around Rs 812.7 billion by the end of 2014, consequent of women trying to look radiant and perfect all the time. Self-help magazines and internet portals are full of fad diets and weight loss tips which are anything but beneficial. Models and actors themselves have fallen prey to this vicious phenomenon and are victims of various eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa) and anxiety disorders (depression, stress) to such an extent that many of them lose their lives finding themselves unable to meet the perfectionist standards of beauty.

It is hard to imagine a world where idealized female imagery is not plastered everywhere. What we fail to recognize is the constant objectification of women in such scenario, ranging from ads to commercial cinema. Sadly, most women vehemently comply with this; a glaring example is Bollywood’s commercial cinema where most female actors hold no qualms in portraying ‘candy floss’ or ‘eye-candy’ roles in male centric movies.

What you can do is look up to women like Vidya Balan who puts substance before appearance, refuses to comply with the superficial norms of beauty and has carved out a distinct position for herself. Look at women beyond the entertainment industry, like Indira Nooyi, who has achieved great heights with her hard work, women who are everyday heroes – our mothers and every woman who stands up for herself. Women need to realize that they are more than just a number which determines their weight; there are more important things like inter-personal relationships, achievements and strength of character which actually matter. They need to stop objectifying themselves.

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  1. Raj

    What is wrong with physical beauty? It takes a lot of hard work and time to cultivate it. It is in the same boat as intellectual ability. Why should one be better than the other? Just as Nobel Prizes celebrate intellectual achievements. beauty pageants and body-building contests celebrate achievements in physical beauty.They both celebrate the best humanity has to offer in their respective areas.

    While you complain that the media that it forces unrealistic standards of beauty on women (and much lesser extent, men), but does it not do the same to men, by celebrating only the most successful, most powerful and most wealthy men? What about the remaining 99% of men who will never get a chance to say a single line on national TV? How different is this from the fact that vast majority of women will never achieve the same standards of physical beauty as models and actresses ?

    So shouldn’t this cause anguish to the vast majority of men and women who are never going to make it to the top 1% ? I say it shouldn’t. We should work towards our own personal happiness with whatever we have. For example someone may have no interest in working himself to death so that his wife and kids can enjoy the money and success he earns. So he may choose to pursue what he enjoys, perhaps becoming an artist who earns modestly but enjoys his work. But the downside is that he may find himself not an attractive option for a lot of women. He can choose to change his ways or he can find someone who will accept him for who he is or simply stay the way he is. In either case it is his decision.

    And regarding Vidya Balan, she’s rare and awesome because not only is she “hot” (in a sensual as well as sexual sense) but also she’s a very talented actress. Mind you she’s done a great deal of exposure through movies like Dirty Picture and her revealing photoshoots. The thing that sets her apart is that she has both beauty and brains. Some actress have just one of them or even none of them :P
    But that is seen all across the spectrum, across genders. Many men are really successful as well as handsome. Other men have one of those quantities or even none. It isn’t really a trade-off, it is much more to do with who wants to expend more effort in what traits and to what extent.

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