I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve fallen head-over-heels for the lies women are told by the beauty industry today. We all want to be accepted, to be told that we’re beautiful, to feel worth something, but – unfortunately – that also means we’re often convinced that we can find those things if we only look a certain way or buy a certain product.
After my experience on America’s Next Top Model, I wanted it too. I spent years chasing the idea that I could prove my worth, all the way to New York City, and it wasn’t until I was standing at a photoshoot, about to step in front of the camera, that I realized it was all a lie.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong wanting to look or feel beautiful, there are a few important things that I’ve realized over the years that women of all ages absolutely must know.
1. You don’t need us.
The beauty industry doesn’t actually add anything to our lives, if you think about it. Instead, we see advertisements filled to the brim with beautiful people who can barely even live up to those impossible standards. Instead of equipping us with the tools we need to feel beautiful, we’re often left feeling jealous, inadequate, and lost in comparison.
2. You are good enough without us.
Lipstick won’t save you. The very best concealer can’t hide what’s in your heart. Why spend your time chasing standards that are always changing and nearly-impossible to achieve to begin with?
3. Lasting beauty has nothing to do with a product.
It might be cliche, but the old adage is true: beauty is only skin deep. I’m reminded of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who – while she might not have been particularly beautiful according to current beauty standards – was consistently described as beautiful by everyone she encountered. This is a woman who devoted herself to doing good, and that beauty is everlasting and can’t be mimicked by a facial cream.
4. We want you to look like everybody else.
The beauty industry loves to find a way to make us look like the person next to us, all the while touting uniqueness and individuality. We’re somehow supposed to fit into this set of ideals when, in reality, our diversity is so much more beautiful than the six shades of foundation we currently see on the shelf.
5. Your focus on your flaws keeps us in business.
Think back to the first time you saw a wrinkle. Did you think it wasn’t beautiful? We’re taught to believe that these things need to be erased – that they need to be fixed – from pimples to aging to the curve of our hips. And, by touting a solution, the beauty industry is subtly reminding you that you are less than perfect.
6. We may be harming you, but we don’t care.
Many of the standard beauty products you see on the shelves are filled to the brim with chemicals and toxins. In the United States, there are only eleven toxic ingredients banned from use in beauty products. In Europe? Over 1,300 are banned. The last time the FDA updated its guidelines on regulating cosmetics was 1938, meaning we’re willingly putting this toxic gunk on our bodies without knowing it.
Want to find out what’s really in your beauty products? Try using beautycounter.com as a resource.
7. We love how insecure you are.
Insecurity pays the bills. Insecurity keeps us in business. The less you like about yourself, the more money we’re going to make on products and artificial fixes that don’t last.
8. We’re insecure too.
Robots aren’t behind the beauty industry, people are. These people have the same insecurities, the same flaws, and the same questions about self-worth. That’s why changing the one beauty industry isn’t enough – these problems are woven into this society as a whole and is making us question ourselves and our true beauty. A larger societal and cultural shift is necessary.
9. Me. Me. Me.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the lies of the beauty industry that we forget to look up. We’re so preoccupied with ourselves – what we need, what we want, our desire to ‘fix’ ourselves, what the ideal is – that we don’t notice the rest of the world.
Think of the lies you tell yourself when you’re looking at the mirror, the little voice criticizing your every step. Would you tell your best friend those things?
Keeping us focused on ourselves and our own flaws helps the beauty industry stay in business. The time we spend on ourselves, the more money they earn. Take that away and focus on others? Bye-bye, paycheck.
10. Being beautiful will never be as important as doing something beautiful.
Life isn’t about being pretty. It’s not about looking or acting a certain way. We should be focusing on how to improve ourselves – and our world – in ways that are less-than-superficial. Being generous, forgiving others, forgiving ourselves…all of these are important and absolutely necessary.
Did you know that 24% of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize? This focus on the internal – on these intangible and impossible standards – means everyone is suffering.
What does it say about our culture when we’d rather look good than do good?
For me, I want to help shape a world where beauty is more than a product on my face or a dress size. Instead of spending countless hours obsessing over my appearance, hours that most likely won’t even make me happy, I’d rather spend that time doing something to better myself and the world around me.
[Article was written for and first posted at Harness Magazine.