We live in a time and place where the pursuit of physical perfection is a paramount goal for most people. The amount of money, energy, and time the average person spends on their physical appearance is truly unprecedented. Americans spend about $7 billion on cosmetic products each year, according to a 2008 report by the YWCA. We spend another $1.5 billion on breast augmentation, $1.3 billion on liposuction and almost $1 billion on tummy tucks. As staggering as these numbers are, they are increasingly on the rise. So, what does all of this suggest about who we are as a society? What is really behind our beauty obsession? Are we simply a culture of naïve and duped consumers who believe everything advertisers tell us to believe; that if we buy certain creams and make-up products or diet pills that we will attain instant happiness?
There are many who believe that consumerism has so permeated our culture that most of us are completely unaware of how enslaved we are by it. Others, however, argue that if one has the means then there is nothing wrong with taking extra measures to improve one's lifestyle and appearance, even if it involves surgery or spending on expensive products. They cite mental health experts who have long purported a definite link between having a healthy self image and being successful and happy. Although those who maintain a positive and healthy self image do tend to be happier and successful, the beauty industry is capitalizing on our vulnerabilities and insecurities by encouraging the over-consumption of beauty products. The truth is, it's completely possible to achieve a healthy self image without any dependence on external beauty products or placing too much focus on physicality. Unfortunately, in our pursuit of perfection, we've created an incessant need to splurge on weekly trips to the tanning, hair, and nail salons or purchase expensive oils, perfumes, and creams. We justify all of this as an expression of self-love and hope that it will rid us of any shame, guilt, and accountability for our excessive behavior. When one's mantra is, "I love myself and I want to be happy. I deserve to have the finer things in life," buying designer clothes, shoes, and accessories and living extravagantly is instantly legitimized.
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