The Piano Man Reveals Your True Power

Being a specialist in body image, self-esteem and weight-loss, an issue that I frequently address is the media’s impact on our perceptions of self-worth. There seems to be a great deal of concern about how “they” promote unrealistic standards of beauty to make us feel bad about ourselves. And, that may very well be true. But if it is true, our low self-worth is merely a means to an end – the end being revenue generating sales of the products and services the advertisers are hired to promote.

To help illustrate this concept with a less emotionally charged topic, I offer you my husband. Josh is an incredibly talented and accomplished musician. For many years he worked as a “Dueling Piano Player.” These types of shows feature two players on stage, fielding and playing requests from the audience. The audience holds the power to determine “the show” because the audience submits the requests.

So, to bring this analogy back into the realm of the weight-loss and beauty industries, we (the audience) demonstrate a demand for a result (i.e. younger looking skin) and cosmetics companies respond with a product to meet our demand. This scenario is the “all request show” – we’re asking for it and we’re getting it.

Now not all shows are dueling piano shows. Josh is currently working as a “lounge” piano entertainer. No longer in the world of the “all request show,” he chooses which songs to play based on the audience’s reaction. If Josh plays a song and the audience just sits there and stares at him blankly, he changes his tune – yes, pun intended. When he plays a song and the audience demonstrates a favorable reaction – by smiling, clapping, bobbing their heads, etc. – Josh will play more of those types of songs.

Josh is as capable of throwing down Snoop Dog, Flo Rida, and Psy’s Gangnam Style as he is of playing Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Hoagy Carmichael. And even in this format of piano entertainment, the audience still controls the show. They respond – or not – to what Josh plays. His job is to keep people in the bar by keeping them entertained. So if they do not demonstrate – through their behavior – that they enjoy the songs, Josh plays different songs until he finds ones they like.

So back to the weight-loss and beauty industry, the advertisers are the lounge piano players, if you will. Only instead of trying to keep us happily in the bar, their job is to get us to purchase products and services. Of course, they can’t see our reactions to their performances face-to-face. But they do see our reactions in metrics – in sales figures.

Advertisers are just as capable of using “real looking” women as Photoshopped models. They are just as capable of running campaigns that help us feel good about ourselves as running campaigns that minimize our self-esteem. The campaigns they choose – and will continue to use – are the ones that result in sales.

And just like the audiences for Josh’s shows, we are the ones holding the real power. We hold the power of perspective. We hold the power of perception. We hold the power of choice. And most importantly, we hold the power of the purse!

Advertisers may indeed run campaigns aimed a lowering our sense of self-worth. But we have the ultimate power over our own sense of self. And the best way to show advertisers that we don’t appreciate their campaigns is to refrain from purchasing the products or services in question. Our preferences will ultimately be noted in their sales figures. And just like the piano player confronted with an unhappy audience, they will be left with no choice but to change their tune.