We have all seen the new Dove commercials that feature “real” women rather than the impossibly “ideal” models that are usually selected. While the Dove girls are universally attractive and fit, they also reflect different sizes and shapes, designed to represent the average American woman. Is that what we want?
Glorifying our diversity seems like a positive development which should lead to increased self-content and improved self-esteem. Comparing ourselves to the imperfect bodies displayed is supposed to lessen our self-criticism and sense of inadequacy.
We are a race of strivers, constantly seeking to better ourselves. Self-improvement is the biggest marketing niche of the Twenty-first Century, from books and classes to online information products, magazines, and television. The gurus of our day, from Oprah, to Martha Stewart, to Dr. Phil, to Donald Trump, all entice us towards improving ourselves, our looks, our relationships, our finances, our surroundings — our whole life. We are dissatisfied with ourselves as we are because we have caught a glimpse of what we can become.
To keep us motivated in that direction, we need a vision of perfection to work towards, even if we know we’ll never quite get there.
When it comes to weight control, what will keep us riveted on our goal? To look as gorgeous as the cover models on Cosmopolitan or the chunky figures in the Dove Ads?
We don’t want to be patronized by the marketing mavens. We don’t want a subtle reminder that we need to set our sights lower or aspire to something less than excellence. We want a dream that soars, that inspires us to unbelievable heights. We want a vision to move towards, no matter how unlikely it is that we will reach that destination. So keep your condescending “Go ahead and settle for this” approach away, please.
Robert Browning suggested: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”