Dove has launched a new campaign to shill its skin care products by highlighting women’s insecurities about their physical appearance. (The Peak Photo/Sylviana Hamdani)

True Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholden

APRIL 30, 2015

Selfies have become a worldwide phenomenon for women these days. Many of those whoare active in social media take pictures of themselves and upload them to Facebook, Path, Twitter and many other channels daily.

This phenomenon surely shows their strong confidence in their physical charms. But does it really?

“Those who take selfies don’t necessarily feel confident in themselves,” says psychologist and lecturer Efnie Indrianie. “Most probably they’re seeking validation from others’ likes and comments.”

She says selfies are especially popular in Asia, including Indonesia, because of our collectivist culture.

“In the collectivist culture, the opinion of others matters much more than our own opinion,” Efnie says. “Therefore we’re actually trying to validate ourselves when we post selfies to social media.”

Efnie also cites a recent study by Cornell University in the United States about self-exposure in social media.

“Most of the [participants] feel insecure about themselves,” she says.


Talking about physical insecurity among women is like addressing the elephant in the room. Almost every women feels it to some degree, yet very few are willing to admit it.

A global survey by Dove, a beauty and skin care product line from Unilever, shows that 96 percent of women surveyed did not choose the word “beautiful” to describe themselves.

In Indonesia, a similar survey was conducted by an independent research body, BMI Research, among 300 women between the ages of 18 and 64 in Jakarta, Surabaya and Medan earlier this year.

The results show that 80 percent of them feel grateful for their physical features, yet only 10 percent of them described themselves as beautiful.

“It happens all around the world,” Efnie says. “Women define themselves by their limitations.” Actress and model Nadya Mulya agrees.

“I’ve been in the world of entertainment for quite some time, and I felt so insecure of myself in my first years,” she says.

That confession, coming from her, is quite surprising. Not only is this runner-up of Puteri Indonesia (Miss Indonesia) 2004 endowed with ideal physical features that any women would covet, but her pictures have painted the main pages of newspapers and fashion magazines in Indonesia.

“There’s always someone who is taller, slimmer and more beautiful in the world of entertainment,” Nadya says. “You’ll never feel enough.”

Sadly, this is the feeling that some of us secretly share. And what happens if you don’t feel enough?

“You become very self-conscious,” Nadya says. “You can’t really focus on what you’re doing.”

But what is beauty? Is it only physical charms? Or is there really such thing as inner beauty? Efnie says beauty is “the whole package.”

“It’s a good balance between the mind, body and soul,” she says. “So no matter what your physical features are, women should always feel beautiful and confident in themselves.”

Dove recently released its “Choose Beautiful” video campaign on Youtube. In the 3:41-minute video, which was filmed in Shanghai, San Francisco, New Delhi, London and Sao Paolo, Dove encouraged a number of women to enter a building through one of the two available doors, labeled “beautiful” and “average.”

Many of the women hesitated before the doors. The movie also includes snippets of interviews of the participants for why they chose to enter a door with a certain label.

Most who hesitated or walked through the “average” door said they felt they were not beautiful enough to walk through the door labeled “beautiful.”

“The message of the video is that beauty is just a state of mind,” says Eva Arisuci “Uci” Rudjito, the marketing director of skin cleansing and body care at Unilever Indonesia.

In the video, the friends and relatives of those who walked through the “average” door or hesitated before picking later confirmed the beautiful qualities of the participants.

“So the shortcomings exist only in [the participants’] minds,” Uci says. “The people around them, on the other hand, see them as beautiful.”

Dove encourages Indonesian women to watch the video and participate in the online voting at the end of the video.

At the end of the video, the audience is asked to choose “average” or “beautiful.”

Each choice leads to a microsite that shows how many women have watched the video so far and chosen to click on the “beautiful” button at the end of the video.

There are also psychological guidelines in this microsite to help boost your confidence and help you feel beautiful every day.

“Through the video, we’d like to encourage all Indonesian women to feel beautiful in spite of their shortcomings,” Uci says. “By feeling beautiful, they’ll be empowered to do great things.”

Dove has launched a new campaign to shill its skin care products by highlighting women’s insecurities about their physical appearance. (The Peak Photo/Sylviana Hamdani)

Film producer Sheila Timothy agrees that feeling beautiful is necessary in her day-to-day activities.

“It’s tough being a producer in Indonesia,” she says. “There are a lot of people that I have to deal with, including actors and actresses, sponsors and investors. So feeling beautiful is important, as it boosts my confidence and helps me present my best in dealing with these people.”

And yet, choosing beautiful in real life is certainly more complicated than going through a certain door or clicking a certain button on a video.

In fact, according to Efnie, women need to have a strong foundation, built since the early years of their lives, to have strong self-confidence and to feel good about their appearance.

“If I may shout out one thing to Indonesian parents is that they should never mock or belittle their children’s physical features, even jokingly,” Efnie says.

She says negative jokes, if repeated through the early years of a child’s life, will indent their personality for a lifetime. Instead, parents should realize the positive features of their children and help them recognize them too.

“If possible, find celebrities with similar physical features to your children as role models,” Efnie says. “Kids will identify with the celebrities, accept their own physiques and excel in what they do.”

She says that children are especially fragile during puberty and need a lot of positive affirmation, especially from their parents.

“Most importantly, lead by example,” she says. “If the parents are insecure of their own physiques, the children will sense it and become insecure themselves.”