A few weeks ago, I was on a work trip. On my way home, I strolled through one of the airports I had to stop at, looking for my gate. I was feeling tired, and I just wanted to get home. As I walked, I caught the eye of one of those salespeople who have samples on a tray. The next thing I knew, I had a free sample of soap, and I was being lead over to his booth. He was selling beauty products. "Well, what the heck, why not?" I said to myself.
He did his sales pitch, and I bought myself a nail cuticle kit and a skin scrub. But then he started on the face creams, and I was starting to get tired of spending money. "On a scale of one to ten, how much would you say you care about your appearance?" he asked me.
I thought about it and replied, "About an eight." I care about what I look like, but it doesn't consume my every waking moment.
"Ok, I want to show you something here. Have you heard of collagen?"
Of course I'd heard of collagen. I'm a biology major, after all. But then he was applying a cream to half my face, and it did a pretty good exfoliation job. And then he was applying a moisturizer, and it felt pretty good. But it was pricey, and as I said: I was getting tired of spending money.
"I don't think I'll bother," I said.
"You say you are an eight out of ten on how you care about your appearance, and you don't want to buy this?" Then he told me to compare the one side of my face to the other, and to note what it was doing with the fine lines around my mouth, and the redness... and suddenly, I felt like I SHOULD buy it, like I SHOULD do something about those lines... and the redness... my skin hadn't been looking so good over the winter... maybe other people were noticing my acne and the scars...
And then, I was buying both the exfoliator and the moisturizer. And then he let me go. And I felt... numb.
Later on, I felt stupid.
Then, I felt angry.
Why did I do that? Why should I be so sensitive about my appearance that it should make me want to buy products that will promise to make me look better? Why was I so vulnerable?
Because he found a way to make me feel ashamed. And it worked.
I read a quote somewhere recently. It went something like:
Imagine how many industries would go out of business if all of the women in the world stopped feeling ashamed of their appearances?I made up my mind that day that I would never, ever let anyone use my insecurities against me like that. And the only way to safeguard against that was to feel proud of myself every day, in every way I could think of. And the only way to do that was to practice feeling proud of myself.
In reality, that face cream is pretty darn good. My skin does look and feel better for it. I just wish I'd made the decision to buy it out of a real desire to have it, rather than out of shame. I won't let that happen again.
So anyway, over the last three days, these are the things I've been feeling proud of:
- My ability to feel comfortable cold calling suppliers and asking for quotes and information.
- My ability to strike up easy conversation with people.
- My legs. They're good, strong legs that let me run and cycle and walk as much as I want.
Take that, beauty product salesman. That's the last time you shame me into buying anything.