Who's profiting off of your insecurities?

Did you know that the idea that we needed to cover gray hair came from an advertising campaign from Clairol in the 1960s?


Before then women didn't really dye gray hair. Part of this was because hair dye wasn't as easy as today. Part was the stigma around dyeing hair in general. And part of this was because women didn't believe they needed to dye their gray hair. Going gray wasn't a big thing like it is now.

But in the 1960s Clairol started asking women, through advertisements, when the last time their husband had brought them flowers or asked them out on a date? Then not so subtly implied it stopped happening once they went gray - but that's okay because you can just "rinse away the gray." How convenient.

When interviewed about this campaign later the creator of the ad, a woman, said that she knew they needed to expand the market beyond the women who already hated their gray hair by "reawakening whatever dissatisfactions" women had when they first started to notice they were going gray.

In other words, they knew they could make women insecure about their grays if they connected them to unmet desires or needs. But the connection isn't real. And fixing the gray didn't actual fix their dissatisfactions.

So, when I say that someone is profiting off of your insecurities - I mean it. And this still happens today.

Next time you're feeling insecure about something, ask yourself who is profiting off that insecurity. It's likely someone is.

Jessica Jo Fisher
There's nothing special about the smallest part of your body

Here's one of the big lies of style culture: You should be making your body look as small as possible, which means emphasizing the smallest part of your body.

There genuinely isn't anything special about the smallest part of your body.

You don't have to emphasize it.

You don't have to call attention it.

You don't even have to consider it.

It doesn't matter if the smallest part of your body is considered small by others.

It doesn't say anything about you if the smallest part of your body gets bigger or smaller over time.

It's absolutely possible to have an awesome personal style that you love, that serves you, and that you feel good in without worrying about whether or where your body is small or not.

That doesn't mean that you must avoid highlighting the smallest part of your body if that's the look that speaks to you.

It simply means size, and more specifically smallness, shouldn't be so important in our style considerations.

There are countless things that I can think of that you should consider well before size: What are you trying to express? What makes you feel good in your skin? What colors bring you joy? What look raises your energy?

I could keep going, but you get the idea (I hope). There's a lot of lies of style culture that mirror the lies of diet culture and our culture obsession with being a certain size, shape, and such.

One of the big parts of feeling good in your style is identifying these lies and how they're impacting you.

If this is new to you, consider starting here: How has this particular lie impacted how you think about yourself, your worth, and therefore your style choices?

Jessica Jo Fisher
Looks are temporary

One of the popular myths out there right now is that we need to love how we look.

We're replacing the belief that if we get the ideal look everything will come our way with the belief that if we can only love how we look right now everything will suddenly work for us.

Both are problematic. Both are based on appearance ... and looks are temporary.

Even if we come to love ourselves just as we look right now, flaws and all, we're bound to change. And then we have to go through the process again and again and again of convincing ourselves we're worthy when looks and bodies and features change.

It isn't true that if we can come to love our pooch now we'll love our wrinkles later. It isn't true that if we come to love our freckles now we'll love our postpartum body later. That's not how this works.

Even if you love your appearance and body now - you think you look hot and love seeing yourself - the same holds true. You're loving a fleeting moment.

The women I know, have worked with, and look up to don't place an importance on loving how they look. Sometimes they do love their appearance. Sometimes they don't. But, more importantly, they've found their place and worth and confidence from what's true to them and who they are.

So, if you're fighting to love how you look right now know that it's not the thing you need to fight for. Fighting to put less emphasis on appearance and its importance in your life and sense of self will serve you far better.

Jessica Jo Fisher
why i don’t judge you for caring deeply about how you look

I’m not judging you for caring deeply about how you look.

I’m judging a culture that tells you how you look determines your potential and worth

Oftentimes when we dig in to do the deep personal work our ego kicks in and starts acting like my toddler when I cut her sandwich the wrong way.

It throws the tantrum of all tantrums.

We start assuming that we're being judged. Who we are and the choices we make are found as lacking. So we rear up and start defending the very thing that we actually need to release in order to grow. We get defensive or offended or annoyed.

This is normal. It's part of our development cycle.

I was reminded of this earlier this week when discussing the work I do on de-centering appearance. I'm pretty blunt in my assessment of our appearance-focused culture. But what that can often feel like on the other side is judgment.

I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't judging. I am. I'm just not judging you.

I don't judge any person who is simply trying to do their best.

I don't judge the desire to do the very thing that you've been told will bring you love or happiness or wealth or connection or respect or that promotion or that perfect life or magic powers or any other huge need you have that you've been led to believe will come once you look the part. Once you look young enough. Once you look old enough. Once you have the perfect body, the flawless skin, the chicest wardrobe.

If you keep coming back to what I'm saying but you also feel resistance or defensiveness, look into that feeling. I'm not judging you. So, why is it there?

Could this work be the next thing you're being called to take on?

Jessica Jo Fisher
I am at my most whole as a woman when I show up fully as myself

Not as I think I should be.

Not as someone once told me I needed to be in order to be loved.

Not as I learned was the only way to be if I wanted to be respected.

Not as I believe I must be if I am to be accepted.

Not any other way than how I am designed to be.

What if the most powerful, inspiring, respected, loved, and beautiful you was actually not found on the other side of your next diet, promotion, makeover, or coupling?

What if she can only be found within?

Jessica Jo Fisher
It's not about if :: it's about why

In college my boyfriend worked at the local grocery store and he often worked morning shifts, which is when I preferred to schedule my classes. So, most days we wouldn’t see each other during that time but if I wanted to pop in I knew I could always find him and say hello.

Well, one day I was super pumped about a project I had completed in one of my classes. It was a favorite class learning something I just loved and I had just completed the biggest project to date and did better than I ever hoped. And I wanted him to see what I had done. Joy is better when shared, right?

So I pop over to his work and peek at the cash registers to see if he’s there. He’s not. I get a few strange looks but I don’t care, I’m excited. So I go searching up and down the aisles looking for him on the floor. More strange looks. They don’t even register.

Finally I see him.

And he sees me.

And then I see his face. Sheer terror.

It takes me a moment, but it finally clicks what I just did.

You see the class was make-up for stage (theatre design BFA holder right here, remember). The project was special effects make-up. And I had chosen to recreate a car crash victim.

As I mentioned at the beginning, it looked good. Good as in realistic. Good enough that people were seeing this bloody, bruised and cut up face walking around the grocery store and were concerned. Good enough that my boyfriend saw me and thought something had happened. Good enough that I probably should have thought a bit more about whether or not I should just go out in public looking like this. Not because I cared. But because people are inherently good and they cared and were concerned.

I had been too excited about what I had created to even think about how others might react.

So, when people today assume that de-centering appearance means I don’t think people should care about style or wear make-up, I just have to laugh.

I love make-up. More specifically, I love sometimes bloody special effects make-up. But it’s still make-up. It’s fun. It’s playful. It’s a way to express yourself and tell a story. Special effects make-up or beauty make-up - it doesn’t make a difference. It’s still expression. Same with style.

I don’t care what you choose or how you choose to adorn yourself.

I just hope you approach it like I did my project that day in college: Too excited with what you create to even think about how others might react.

Jessica Jo Fisher
Find the magic where you find the tension

I was on the track at the gym today starting day one of the C25K (couch to 5k) program for the umpteenth time.

Fortunately, I have been walking long distances for a bit now so I’m not nearly as out of cardio shape as I have been in the past. As a result, the first few sixty second runs were faster and easier than I remember. And I let them be fast because I forgot. I forgot that you’ve got to pace yourself when you’re running. It’s been a while.

As I hit the end of the workout those sixty second runs felt like far longer a single minute. They weren’t hard-hard. But they weren’t so easy anymore. I had slowed down some … more out of necessity than trying to be smart with my workout. I was too winded for ego. But I didn’t stop running before the sixty seconds were over.

Somehow all of those starts and restarts of the C25K program had taught me that the magic happens when I find the tension spot where I can still push forward but also kinda want to stop. That’s when the body starts to grow its capabilities. That’s what’s required to move on to the next workout.

If I were to push harder I’d stop running. If I were to stop I’d, well, stop. Either way, no running means I’m not going to get better at running.

The magic happens where I find that tension of two competing desires.

The magic also happens where I find the tension of two competing beliefs. Two competing ideas. Two competing thoughts.

I realized that in my work I seek out the tension. In fact, all of this work started in a space of tension: We focus too much on appearance but I believe in the power of style as a form of communication and expression. I want people to both quit being so obsessed with how they look and also put more thought into their style (if that’s something they want to do).

How in the world can I hold those two desires at the same time?

I had to grow my understanding and belief about how we approach appearance and style … and that process turned into this work. And this work has become my passion.

So, find the tension. Find that space where you’re forced to confront something and grow.

That’s where the magic happens.

Jessica Jo Fisher
If I advocate that we're more than our appearance, should I share pics of myself?

One of the big questions I confront in my business is whether or not I should share a picture of a person.

This question takes up a lot of my time. More than one might think it should.

My work focuses on de-centering appearance for womxn. I focus specifically on two of the Big 5 Body Image industries, fashion and beauty. (The other tree industries are diet, health and wellness, and fitness.) So, this question directly relates to the work that I do.

I don’t have a good answer yet though. Nor do I have just one answer. I tend to take it case by case and my answer is still evolving.

But I think why this question is so complicated for me in my work is actually far more interesting than the answer (at this point).

My belief is that it’s not that appearance has no role to play, it’s just that we’ve elevated it to a place of such importance that we are letting it guide our judgments of people and their worth, ourselves included.

So, when it comes to sharing pictures, how do I do this in a way that doesn’t further promote the very thing I’m working to change? How do I not undermine my point by inadvertently making it all about someone’s appearance?

Before and after pictures? They’re common in style work and in body positivity postings. But I don’t do them and I think they’re more problematic than not. They still emphasize appearance.

Pictures of client results? Nope. My work is focused on shifting the relationship between yourself, your appearance, and how you feel about how you show up in the world. That relationship doesn’t reveal itself in a photo. So I don’t share these.

But pictures of me? This is where I struggle a lot with this question.

I want you to know me and seeing me is a part of that. But, I hold a lot of privilege because of my looks. Is it right that I use that privilege to my advantage knowing that many people will be more receptive of what I say because my looks align to cultural ideals (for the most part)? Or is that playing into the dynamic and perpetuating it too much? I don’t know. I’ve come out on both sides of this debate.

I also don’t want my message to get mixed up with saying we should avoid looks altogether. I have a visual design background. I believe in the power of visual communication and think we can use it as one of many tools or forms of expression. I just don’t think we should ascribe as much value to personal appearance as we do. And I worry that becoming a faceless voice would actually communicate that appearance is irrelevant, which is not my belief.

So, I don’t know the answer to whether or not to share pictures of people across the board.

In some instances I’m clear on where I stand. In others I’m not.

But I know that the fact that I have to spend so much time thinking about this question in order to be thoughtful and aligned to what I believe and value is further evidence that we are too appearance-obsessed in our culture.

Jessica Jo Fisher
Why those shirtless pics of male actors are problematic for womxn

I ran across an article online yesterday that was simply 40 pictures focused on one particular actor’s body to celebrate his 40th birthday.

This is an actor who has spent time honing his craft.

This is a man who has values and passions and beliefs and purpose in his life that he cares about.

This is a man who is so much more than his body.

I fear that in our search to be held to the same standards as men, we womxn have taken to unapologetically adopting the same behaviors as men. Often times this includes the very behaviors that make us feel like we are only appreciated for the beauty and desire that we bring to the world.

If we want to live in a world that sees us for more than how we look, we have to start being the people who see others for more than how they look. Lowering the standard and making both mxn and womxn targets of unrealistic beauty standards and dehumanizing objectification doesn’t help us. It doesn’t free us from our appearance focused obsession. It heightens it.

I don’t think this is the equality we seek but if we’re not careful it will be the equality we get.

Jessica Jo Fisher
De-Centering Appearance

A lot of times when I talk about not focusing on appearance what women hear is that they're not going to look good.

I've asked clients to describe to me what they see when they think this and I get these vivid descriptions of a person who hasn't brushed their hair in ages wearing oversized clothes covered in food and sweat stains and who has aged decades or whose body has changed shape and size dramatically in an instant.

The change they describe is extreme and dramatic and nonsensical if you think about it logically. I work with extraordinary women who understand this even as they're saying it.

Yet what I'm asking still feels that intense.

You see, it's not that anyone believes that their appearance will change that dramatically. Rather, they fear that people will start treating them as if their appearance changed that dramatically. They fear rejection and judgment and being seen as less than because of their appearance.

And in a world that's appearance obsessed, that feels pretty scary, unappealing, and something to avoid.

I get the hesitation.

But continuing to focus on your appearance because you're afraid of how others will see and treat you only further reinforces and deepens the beliefs that are holding you back and making you feel bad.

It's a vicious cycle.

You can't get out of it by buying the right clothes, getting blemish free skin, fixing some part of your body. Trust me, I've tried. My clients have tried. There's billion dollar industries counting on the fact that we'll keep trying without success.

You get out of it by de-centering appearance. Making it less important. It's not about not caring ... it's about caring about other things more.

Jessica Jo Fisher