A Pandora Ad that Got Me Thinking

The other day, I found myself in the comfy, upholstered rocking chair in my room, snuggled under a blanket with a book from the library that needed to be returned the next day. I was trying to power through the final few chapters and a cup of Earl Grey tea sat next to me on my dresser as I read. My Pandora Classical Piano station played softly in the background, making the scene feel even more idyllic.

Pandora is a lovely invention, and one that I take advantage of quite often when reading, writing or working. However, they do seem to have a knack for interrupting my contented enjoyment of Mozart (or Michael Buble, depends on the day) at just the wrong moment with one of their peppy, just-a-little-too-loud ads that disrupts my peaceful moment. If only there was a thumbs-down button for the ads as well as the songs, right?

I’ve got to give Pandora credit, though: I don’t remember giving them much information when I signed up except for my gender and email, but they have an uncanny way of targeting ads that are just close enough to my interests to make me wonder how they know me so well. A few weeks ago, an ad played repeatedly throughout my day for a bridal show going on that weekend that I had just attended the day before. Pandora knows I’m engaged?? It was a little creepy, I’ll be honest.

I’m sure Pandora doesn’t actually know that much about the details of my life, (hopefully?) but it’s amazing sometimes how they seem to hone in on just the right ads for my demographic.

Back to the other day, though. I was enjoying my book and the sound of gentle piano music coming from my speakers, when the sonata ended abruptly and a perky female voice came on and asked,

“Ladies, now that the holidays are over, it’s time to start thinking about yourself… Have you been considering a tummy tuck, breast augmentation, or other cosmetic procedure? St Louis Cosmetic Surgery wants to make this your BEST YEAR EVER! For a limited time, save 15% on any surgical procedure. Some restrictions apply. Call today to set up your consultation at St Louis Cosmetic Surgery!…”

Now, I know that plastic surgery is becoming more and more normal for women these days, and I’m not trying to get on a soapbox about that right now. But what caught my attention about this particular ad was the connection being made between the perfect body and the best year of your life. Did you catch that?

“St Louis Cosmetic Surgery wants to make this your BEST YEAR EVER!!”

Do you see the subtle – but certain – assertion being made?

Ladies, if you just get that nose job, tummy tuck, or breast augmentation that you’ve been longing for, then this year is going to be your BEST ONE YET. No matter what happens, if you get this surgery, your year is guaranteed to be AMAZING!! 

Wow, that’s a pretty big claim, in my opinion.

What about all the tough, heartbreaking things that could happen in 2014?

Getting laid off from a job
Grieving the death of a family member
Dealing with financial instability and debt
Trying to make a stressful marriage better
A falling out with a close friend
Dealing with infertility
Battling serious health problems

Not trying to be a downer here, but there are a LOT of unknowns and uncertainties about the year ahead, for each and every one of us! We don’t know if this is going to be the BEST YEAR YET, and that’s ok. But do you see what this ad is subtly trying to say? They’re not just selling plastic surgery, they’re selling happiness. Peace. Courage. Stability. Comfort. All of the answers to the not-so-great things you or I might face in this coming year.

It’s as if they want us to believe that having the “perfect” nose, tummy, or fill-in-the-blank body part is going to get us through the struggles, heartaches, and agonies that might come at us in 2014. Like somehow when we’re trying to figure out how to make the rent this month or stop fighting with our spouse every day, having had that breast augmentation or liposuction is going to magically make it all better.

And you probably already know what I’m going to say next: it won’t.

love yourself firstYou might think I’m taking this Pandora ad waaaay too seriously, but it’s because I believe this is a much bigger problem than one cosmetic surgery clinic trying to sell something they can’t deliver. This is something that’s thrown at us every day from many different angles.

The media, culture, whoever you want to call it, wants women to believe that having the perfect body is the holy grail of happiness. If it’s not plastic surgery, it’s dieting, calorie counting, following a weight loss plan, or some other method. The premise behind it all is the same: having a better body would solve your problems. But it’s not true.

I bought into that lie for several years, and guess where it led me? Um, nowhere. I worked my butt off (literally) trying to get the “perfect body” and fantasized about the day when I would be tiny and skinny and subsequently never have any stress at school, work, relationships and especially the fitting room of Macy’s.

But even when I got there, even when I achieved “the perfect body” I’d been running after, I looked in the mirror and thought, “yes, I finally feel thin and pretty and model-like, but now what?

Life is still stressful with skinny thighs and toned abs. You still have bad days at work and arguments with the people you love. Losing those “last 5 pounds” doesn’t magically bring you happiness or put you at peace with yourself.

My encouragement to you is this: don’t buy into the lie that happiness is wrapped up in that “ideal body” you’ve envied on magazine covers and Pinterest graphics for far too long.

Those models might have a great body, but it doesn’t mean they’re happy. Happiness is something altogether separate from the way you look or the number you weigh on the scale. Don’t let anyone – even a perky advertisement on Pandora – convince you otherwise.

Brides and Body Image …a little soapbox rant

Note: This is the first in a series of posts on my experience as a bride-to-be. Yep, that’s right – my guy popped the question on November 14th, and I said YES. Can’t wait to marry him this summer!! 

Stepping into the world of wedding planning websites as a newly engaged woman is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Thrilling, because who isn’t excited about planning their own wedding?? Terrifying, because of the bombardment of headlines and articles, proclaiming 10 Wedding Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make and 12 Things Every Bride Needs to Know. I can feel my stress levels rising already.

One of the more useful things on The Knot is the checklist feature, which organizes your to-do list and keep you on track with all the big and little things that planning a wedding entails. Sounds helpful, right? I thought so too, which is why I eagerly entered my name and wedding date and hit “create an account” a couple days after getting that ring on my finger.
bride ecard
A couple days into my relationship with The Knot, I came across an article titled 10 Things to Do As Soon As You Get Engaged. Sounded urgent and important, so I clicked the link. (Marketing at its finest, right? They sure know how to reel us me in.)

The first item in the glossy photo slideshow was “get a manicure” and I proudly made a mental “check” because I’d already given myself one at home the day before. Nothing like freshly painted nails for showing off the gorgeous diamond, right?

Feeling pretty on top of things, I continued to click through the slideshow, until I came to #5 which boldly proclaimed in big, black letters on my screen:

“Choose a Diet Plan and Start It.”

The picture showed the back of a (size 2) model in a wedding dress with a salesperson holding a tape measure around her waist. Talk about intimidating. And #5 went on to say that brides should “choose a proven plan like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.”

Excuse me?

First of all, since when does a bride-to-be want to start thinking about a diet in the first week of getting engaged?! I was still on cloud nine at that point and showing my ring to every checker in the grocery store that asked how my day was going.

“Choose a diet and start it?” Um, no thanks.

My deeper problem with #5 is this: why do brides even need to diet for their wedding in the first place? I understand that every woman wants to look gorgeous on her wedding day, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get healthy and fit before your wedding. My problem is with the endless pressure on women to always be on one diet or another – and never be happy with our bodies. What if I was a size 18 bride-to-be and I was completely fine with being a size 18 on my wedding day? What if I wanted to enjoy my engagement and the planning process without counting calories (or “points,” in the case of Weight Watchers) all the time and obsessing over every bite of food that enters my mouth? This is something that really makes me mad, so I apologize for the soapbox rant.
contentment

But seriously, can we stop pressuring women about weight loss and encourage them to be confident and happy in their own skin? Since when does a size 4 bride automatically look more gorgeous on her wedding day than a size 14 one does? In my opinion, the media – or whoever you want to call the forces behind these messages – realizes that us brides are a little whole lot of anxious about everything being “just perfect” on our wedding day, and they know just how to play into that fear. All around us there are subtle messages that if we just lose some weight and finally achieve “the body of our dreams” then somehow all the other stress of the wedding will disappear and the day will be blissfully perfect. Which is a big, fat lie.

Believe me, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my battle with food and body image, it’s that size and weight does not equal happiness. Period.

No matter how thin/toned/fit you get your body to be, that alone will NOT bring you true happiness.

So here’s my suggestion to myself and fellow bride-to-be’s:

Instead of starting yet another diet in hopes of creating the perfect wedding day or finally being happy with your body, step back and focus instead on what the wedding is really about.

You’re marrying the love of your life, and isn’t that more important than what size is on the tag of your white dress that day? I know body acceptance and self love isn’t easy – believe me, I still struggle – but let’s do what we can to treat our bodies with care and respect.

Rather than finding a diet plan to follow for the rest of your engagement period, why not start working on loving your body at the size you’re at? That doesn’t mean you can’t work on eating healthier or try lose some weight, but check your motives first. Are you counting on Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig to bring you happiness? Because I guarantee you, they can’t.

Begin today to push back on the messages of our culture. Realize that happiness can come at any size.  Make the decision to stop hating your body and give yourself some grace instead.

You’ll be glad you did.