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How Does the Beauty Industry Negatively Impact our Mental Health Without us Even Realizing it?

Interview w/ Dr. Gloria Lee, Clinical Psychologist

Last Fall Dr. Lee did an Interview with Demee Koch
on Beauty and Mental Health, we wanted to share an excerpt from Demee’s article.   

What is the role of beauty in life?

We are all intrinsically attracted to beauty. The human brain is designed to enjoy and appreciate things that are aesthetically pleasing. Beauty elicits a sense of pleasure, awe, joy, and calm. This may include beauty in nature, animals, visual and creative arts, stories and poetry, and music, to name a few. It also includes beauty in people.

What are common misconceptions about beauty today?

To be beautiful, you must fit the mold of what the media and the beauty industry define as beautiful. This artificial, man-made definition (literally), restricts and undermines the true meaning, value, and experience of beauty. Further, when women are evaluated and defined by this standard, their true beauty is debased and devalued, because somehow, we just don’t “measure up” to the mold.

How does a child perceive beauty?

A child perceives beauty in the purest form. They see and experience beauty for what it actually is (as described above) and not by how it has been defined for them. Their perception is not yet tainted. We have the most to learn from children on how to understand and experience real beauty.

How can beauty/self-care practices empower mental health? Please give an example.

Reclaim your definition of beauty. Challenge if it is defined by others or what you think others are perceiving about you. Beauty is really about who you are and how you perceive yourself. When you appreciate the beauty that is in you (inside and out), you start to own your beauty and reject media and society’s projection of beauty on you. This practice leads to conscious thinking, empowerment, and a healthier way of living.

How can beauty standards affect mental health?

When we passively accept society and media’s definition of beauty, we unconsciously start to compare and judge ourselves against this definition (and with others). We inevitably end up disliking ourselves because we cannot measure up to this impossible and unrealistic standard of beauty. Our mental health is affected because we become anxious that we’re never beautiful enough, skinny enough, or young enough. Thus, we become depressed about our looks. Some turn to self-harming behaviors such as binging, purging, and dieting to control our looks. Many have also turned to cosmetic surgery to improve and enhance our looks so we can become more “beautiful” according to industry standards. The multi-billion dollar makeup, hair, clothing, and shoes industries have dictated what we need in order to look and feel beautiful. This chase for beauty is never satiated because industry standards keep changing. Thus, we inevitably and constantly end up feeling not good enough.

What is a healthy way to approach beauty?

Know who you are and own it. Beauty really does come from within. A confident woman is the most attractive and beautiful thing. Be conscious of what you’re feeding your mind. Challenge its truthfulness and consider how the message influences your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Do you own your beauty or does someone else?

What are trends in beauty that you find healthy, which are trends that are unhealthy?

The Dove ads campaign, Nike women campaign, and others like this are healthy because they are inclusive of all body types and looks and diverse in representation (e.g., color, age, ability, and gender). Trends that are unhealthy are the ones that have an artificial, one size fits all mold of beauty (e.g., young, skinny, tall, and white).

What needs to change to create a healthier image of beauty?

Women need to become conscious of the “brainwashing” and its negative mental health impact. We need take back power and control of the media and industry’s standards and definition of beauty, and redefine beauty for what it actually is. When we own our beauty, we give other women permission to own theirs. The opposite is also true. That is, when we compare ourselves with each other, we all lose out. Society has taught us to pit ourselves against each other to be the most beautiful. That’s patriarchy at its best.

What do you wish people knew about beauty?

What I mentioned above. It’s within. It’s not one size fits all. It cannot be defined and measured by man-made rules.

Is there anything you would like to share that we have not asked you here?

There are so many young girls and women who suffer from beauty/image related mental health issues due to the incorrect and damaging influences of media and society. Their worth and acceptance is based on how they look. Only we as women can start doing something about this. Let’s not fall into this trap of judging and comparing ourselves with each other, thus, set up the next generation for more unnecessary suffering. Instead, let’s redefine the industry together in unity.

To read Demee Koch’s original article please CLICK HERE

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Brentwood Counselling Centre

For over 20 years, Brentwood Counselling Centre has been offering counselling and therapy services for individuals, couples, relationships, marriages, families, and groups, serving clients from Burnaby, Vancouver, North Vancouver, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Surrey, and beyond.

All therapists at Brentwood Counselling Centre have extensive education and training in their areas of practice. Furthermore, they are all registered for clinical practice in BC and adhere to the strictest ethical guidelines as set out by their corresponding governing body.

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