I heard a commercial on the radio the other day. It started out sounding so empowering and encouraging. A nice young woman began by saying something like, “Do you struggle with insecurities and low self-esteem? Do you sometimes feel bad about yourself?” My ears instantly perked up. I was so excited that my favorite topic, healthy self-esteem, was finally being addressed—that someone was bold enough to advertise and advocate for self-confidence right there on the radio! I eagerly awaited the name of some tremendous life coach or a mentoring program for girls. I just knew something great was coming. And then she said, “Have you considered breast implants?” I could not believe it. I was in shock. Then she went on to sell the wonderful sense of empowerment that comes from breast augmentation. Then, the plastic surgeon came on to really drive the message home.
AM I ENOUGH?
I’ll be honest, it hurt my heart to hear them use ones deep feelings of insecurity—their deep-seated belief of, “I am not enough,” to sell breast implants. Imagine a young lady who is struggling with her sense of self-worth, hearing this commercial, opening herself up in anticipation of a solution to her insecurities, only to be offered another reason to look in the mirror and wonder to herself, “Am I enough?”
Of course, from a business perspective, I get it. The radio stations need advertising dollars so they’ll air the commercial. And I have a bachelor’s in advertising so I know that the plastic surgeon’s ad agency did an amazing job of getting to the core issue that will, no doubt, lead to A LOT of consultation appointments… But my heart still hurts.
It is hard for me as a mother of a beautiful little girl, who is beginning to notice differences between herself and those around her. She is at that point where meanings are placed on those differences. I can’t help but think, “My daughter could have been in the car when that commercial came on.” And what would I have said to her to combat that message? I mean, we listen to that station every day, and the way that the commercial started, I was eagerly expecting something good and empowering. I would have totally let it play to “see” what was coming next.
What new belief could I have possibly introduced to my daughter’s impressionable mind? Without thought, I could have unintentionally poisoned my daughter’s self-concept, and left her questioning if she is enough. What about all the preteen girls… and high school girls… and college girls… and even adult women who will hear that commercial and actually begin to believe (if they don’t already) that bigger boobs will be the cure for their low self-esteem?
YOU ARE ENOUGH
For me it’s always more about the message than anything. Despite my outrage, I am not completely against plastic surgery. Honestly, someone dear to me has breast implants and I totally supported her decision. She chose to have her surgery based purely on a fact, not on a hope. She did not have some unrealistic belief that if she had the surgery, she would feel better about herself. She already felt great about herself. She is far from insecure and purely wanted bigger…. ones. This is why I was able to freely and honestly support her.
What I don’t support, is selling plastic surgery, or fake hair, or tanning, or bleaching, or contouring, etc. as a cure for low self-esteem. I’m an advocate for first learning to love the skin that you’re in. Because no amount of surgery will help a person to feel that she is enough. If that underlying belief is not cut away first, and replaced with “I am enough,” she can nip this and tuck that until she is grossly deformed and will still never feel beautiful. And ultimately isn’t that what it’s all about?
Marisa Peer is an internationally known therapist whose work I’ve come across recently. She teaches that looking at yourself in the mirror while repeating the affirmation, “I am enough,” can have a tremendously healing effect on one’s self-concept. I recently added my own version of this exercise in my S.I.S.T.A.TM Girls’ Empowerment Workshops. One young lady came back to talk to me after our session and told me that was her favorite part. In my workshops, I have the girls affirm each other, then affirm themselves. It is such a powerful time. I really get to see how uncomfortable it is for some of them to accept the attention and the words, “You are enough.” So, of course, I’ll keep doing it until they are comfortable saying it and hearing it.
If you would like Author Marlene Dillon to visit your institution, please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!