But what if I DON’T hate myself?

Marketelle's Jessie Sternthal on why self-loathing insights are getting old (and kind of dangerous).


By Jessie Sternthal

I have a confession to make. And I don’t want any of you to feel sorry for me, think I’m weird or make that little scrunched up empathetic face you make when you don’t really know what to say to someone. Promise? Okay. Here goes.

I don’t hate myself.

I know. I know I probably should. Because based on almost every ad and piece of video content out there right now aimed at women, I should have chronic low self-esteem. I should be super uncomfortable with what I look and feel like. And I should be a bit sad – waiting for friends or strangers to tell me that I’m fit or pretty or good enough to belong. Shouldn’t I?

Well. Like every other woman in the world with a beating heart, I haven’t always liked what I’ve seen in the mirror. Far from it! I haven’t always felt comfy in my skin, in my body, in my hair or pretty much in anything from Zara or Urban Outfitters (for some reason).

In other words, I, like every other woman, have at one time or another felt sub-beautiful. So very human. And I, like so many other women, have thankfully finally grown to accept – and even like! – who I am and what I’ve got (love you mom, even if I’ll never have killer legs).

But that took time and a little growth. Which is exactly why I think we need to start changing the story we seem to be constantly telling.

And it’s exactly why I think brands that are continuously leveraging that “women don’t like themselves” insight as a door in are actually setting us back a little. I’ve been asking myself lately as I’ve watched the latest spots from Dove, for example: can’t we start somewhere else? Can’t we continue to create super insightful, empowering and genuine ads and content that don’t rely on self-dislike to get the party started? I wonder.

When Dove started its absolutely brilliant and bar-setting Real Beauty campaign back in 2004, women were captivated. (I was more of a girl back then, but just starting out in the biz and only wished I could have been part of this at the time). Finally! A brand that got us. A brand that challenged the way girls were spoken about and spoken to. And a brand that had the chutzpah to be real and flawed and imperfect and honest. How awesome that was.

But as more brands continue to try and reach more women in more compelling and more effective ways, I’m not sure the pattern of starting with the assumption that we are unhappy with ourselves is a healthy or fresh angle anymore.

In fact, I’m almost certain it’s becoming a bit eye-roll inducing.

Instead, we’re starting to see work as insightful and smart that starts somewhere else. That doesn’t rely on insecurity to tell their stories, but rather on acceptance and strength. I’ve been loving this Missy Elliot-scored spot.

Because from where I’m sitting, girl truths are abundant. Sure we may have days when that bad lighting or that guy or that co-worker or that frilly coral bridesmaid dress make us feel less than lovely. But I can promise – we have many more days where friends, workouts, lovers, music, careers, family and life make us feel pretty damn beautiful.  So let’s try to start there and see where it takes us.

jessie_1Jessie Sternthal is a senior writer at Marketelle.