Kate Moss in the tube
I am standing waiting for a tube and on the wall opposite me is a picture of Kate Moss advertising Rimmel. The first thought to pop into my mind is: ‘She is beautiful. I wish I looked like her. Maybe I should make more of an effort, buy some new make up.’ Indeed this is the effect that the advertisers have spent millions of pounds in order to achieve. And I can’t help it then if my immediate emotional reaction is envy, sadness or anxiety at what I see as my own inadequacy.
But I can take responsibility for what happens in my mind subsequently. I can let myself become aware of the thought that I don’t look like Kate Moss and how it is making me feel. Then I can take back control of my attention and direct it to far more useful thoughts. I can think about how a company is trying to make money from me by making me feel inadequate in comparison to Kate Moss. I can think about how much professional styling and lighting went into the image. That what I am seeing is not even Kate Moss but a computer enhanced version of her. I can be aware that, unless I want it to, the advert has no relevance to me. If I want to, I can then think about something else altogether. Or I can stick with beauty. I can think about how I liked what I saw in the mirror this morning. I can think about how everyone is different, how everyone has their own beauty. I can remember that when I am secure in myself, when I feel beautiful, when I see the beauty in everyone else, I am at my most radiant. I can think about how no make up is needed for that.
Most of us care deeply what we look like because every day we are told in a hundred different ways how important it is to look like the current culturally accepted ideal. The more insecure we are about how we look, the more ads that promise physical transformation grab our attention and the worse they will make us feel. A vicious circle for us that makes billions for the cosmetic industry. My mum who hasn’t worn make up since the 70s, who has never heard of Kate Moss or Rimmel could stand in the same spot for hours and literally not ‘see’ the poster. Her eyes would register it of course as they take in all visual information they are able to but there would be no trace of it in her memory. For her there is no emotional hook, no insecurity about how she looks, that will cause it to register in her consciousness. It is the equivalent of listening to something in an unknown language – hearing the sounds but taking out no meaning.
The more we can direct our attention inwards, strengthen our own self image and mental robustness, the more we will be able to stand in front of ads like this and not even notice them.