This add recently popped up on the sidebar of my Facebook page.
And it got under my skin.
It is so misleading. I thought.
Chances are the photo shoot for this ad has been on this woman's calendar for a while. And for the past few months she's been hitting the gym, maybe even twice a day. She's probably cut all carbs from her diet and is subsisting on steamed broccoli and chicken. She's been focused because she knows her body is going to be in front of a camera and she wants it to look good. She's getting paid for it to look good. And there's nothing wrong with that. You can earn a living doing that (or supplement a teacher's salary).
But her image next to the phrase "Goodbye size 14, Hello size 8" is misleading. She is most likely NOT a size eight. Maybe a two or a four, but not an eight. And she doesn't take a pill to get where she is, she works hard, she's meticulous about her diet. Which is fine. But the whole ad implies that if you take the product you'll get the results pictured. Not true.
So how does this make the viewer feel? What if you're thinking: "Hey! Wait I'm a size eight and I don't look like that!" Or what if you're thinking: "Gosh I wish I had her abs. If only I hadn't eaten that brownie." Or maybe your thinking: "I bet she has no kids, that's why she looks like that." Or: "If she has kids she must not be a very good mom because she must spend all her time in the gym to look like that." Or maybe its: "This ad is misleading, someone should do something."
Someone should do something and that someone is you.
For years people have lobbied the ad industry to change the way they depict women in advertising. But it hasn't really changed: women are often objectified and ads are often misleading, showing "unrealistic" figures. And it is not going to change. In fact it is getting worse. All you have to do is browse Pinterest to find all kinds of pinable images that mimic the very ads women are lobbying against. The thing is that advertisers aren't the ones making them, we are.
To blame the ad industry or ban yourself from Pinterest or Instagram isn't the answer. Because that makes you the victim. It takes the responsibility out of your hands and puts it somewhere else, where it doesn't belong. The truth is that the responsibility rests solely on you. It is your mind. You have the power to take every thought captive.
Take every thought captive. Wrestle and wrangle the negative thoughts. Identify them as unhelpful and replace them with truth.
We spend so much time comparing and criticizing: "I bet she has no kids, that's why she looks like that. If I didn't have kids to chase after then maybe I'd have the time to have a six pack." It's a sign of insecurity. And I'm the first to get into that line. Insecure. It is the shadow that's haunted me most of my life. Insecurity leads to comparison.
I love the way Dr. Brene Brown puts it in her book Daring Greatly:
"We rarely engage in self-righteous judgement when we feel confident about our decisions: I'm not going to practically knock myself unconscious with a shaming eye roll about your nonorganic milk if I feel good about what I'm feeding my children. But if doubt lurks beneath my choices, that self-righteous critic will spring to life…to confirm that, at the very least, I'm better than you."
I used to compare for two reasons: to disparage myself, rip myself apart and goad myself to do better or I'd compare myself to others to build myself up by taking them down a notch.
I've gotten better at silencing that self-shaming critic, the one that would have looked at this ad and heaped guilt upon my head for whatever thing I'd eaten that I wasn't "supposed" to. That voice is dead. Now I battle the critic that puts other people down; the thoughts that make me "the most right" or at least righter than her: "At least I'm not striving to look like that anymore. It must kill her to have to keep that up." And that thought is just as damaging as the self critic because it boosts my confidence at HER expense. What kind of confidence is that? A quick fix for the insecurity I feel, certainly not a lasting, life changing confidence. THAT kind can only come with believing the truth and living with grace that lets other people be who they are.
The next time you find yourself beginning to compare and criticize, do yourself a favor. Take that thought captive. Wrestle it. Wrangle it down. Identify it as unhelpful and replace it with truth. And if something truthful and positive escapes you, you can at least think: "I hope that woman has a nice day."...even if the woman is the one staring back at you in the mirror.
How do you deal with your inner critic? What was your first thought viewing this ad?
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