You Are More Beautiful Than You Think

Usually when I watch videos on YouTube, I’m either:

  1. ecstatic that there isn’t an ad preceding the video
  2. begrudgingly pleased that there is an ad, but I can skip it in 5 seconds
  3. hellfire angry that I have to sit though a 15-30 second ad before I get to watch the kitten video I originally clicked on

While preparing to watch a board game review on YouTube yesterday, I was presented with option 3, and I prepared for my own wrath.

But then something different happened. The ad that appeared was absolutely riveting. It ended up being significantly longer than the video I had planned on watching, and while I can barely remember the original video, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the ad. Here it is:

If you’re reading this at work and can’t watch the video with sound, what you’re watching is an artist drawing women based on their own description and then drawing them based on other women’s descriptions. You can see the difference in the images. Perhaps more notably, you can see that the way the women are described by others is much more similar to how they look in real life than the self-descriptions.

The video has over 23 million views and counting, so this probably isn’t the first you’ve heard of it. I had two basic reactions to the video that I wanted to share, and I’d love to hear what you think about it:

DoveFirst, I’m grateful that Dove created the ad. It feels like an insight into human nature. I think I understand women–and people in general–a little better now. Sometimes I feel like life is a series of events and experiences that help you know how people work. If that’s the purpose of life, I’m all for it.

Second, the ad showed only a few women, so in no way can it represent ALL women. In fact, I’m sure there are women out there whose portraits would be reversed–they would describe themselves as incredibly beautiful, while the rest of the world sees something else.

Regardless, the ad was a great reminder to me that I judge people (especially women) way too often based on how they look. I see a woman wearing too much makeup and I think she’s insecure. I see a woman with an orange tan-bed tan and I think she’s oblivious and naive. I see a woman in an outdated dress and I think of her as out of touch.

I do this all the time, not just with women, but with people in general, and it has to stop. Because the way a person looks has nothing to do with who they are. In fact, as the video shows, sometimes they way they look is the exact opposite of who they are.

I want to be the type of person who learns about people by talking with them and seeing how they interact with others, not the type of person that decides who people are based on a quick glance at the mole on their face or the brand of their jeans. I want to be the type of person who sees the kindness in someone’s eyes, not the globs of mascara on their lashes. I want to be the type of person who looks at a person and sees a fellow human being, a partner in this life that we’re all so incredibly lucky to live.

Thanks, Dove, for making me watch your ad.

If you’re looking for a light way to end this conversation, watch this parody on how men view themselves. It’s scarily accurate despite the humorous intent.

10 thoughts on “You Are More Beautiful Than You Think”

  1. I’ve been over-analyzing this ad for a few weeks (and there are TONS of blogs and reviews) but I cannot quite determine my final verdict on it. Do I like that Dove pushes the envelope? Yes. Do I like that it is a non- traditional format for an ad? Yes. But there is something about it that is odd, something about beauty being a high value, or certain types (they basically only went in-depth with white women). For instance, the woman says she has a large chin but the stranger says a thin chin, and the discussion seems to suggest that the thin chin is better and she was being hard on herself. What’s wrong with a non-thin chin? Like I said, still mulling it over, because I like the underlying concept, but I think maybe depressed vs happy women describing themselves would have been neat to see (confidence comes across in a drawing). Anywho, now I am rambling but if you’re intrigued by this ad, check out some of th critiques online, they are interesting! I don’t agree with all, but they’ve made me watch it a few times now with different lenses.

    Beyond this ad, I like what you took away from it and strive to do the same!

    • Now that I typed this, what bothers me might just be what you said, why are we judging people by their outward appearance anyway? I am ALL for self esteem and loving your body, but shouldn’t that come from accepting it the way it is, not having a stranger tell you your chin is smaller than you think? Can’t we just be who we are and let our looks be a small part of our identity, rather than the forefront thing?

    • Emma–That’s a fantastic point. I thought something similar when one of the women said, “I have a round face.” Is a round face bad? Dove seems to be saying so. However, I think if most people described themselves, they could describe what they perceive to be their “flaws” in great detail, much more so than their assets. We tend to obsess over our flaws. I don’t think Dove used the best examples in the commercial, but perhaps to that woman, the roundness of her face is a flaw even though no one else sees it that way.

  2. I love this ad. I’ve seen it about 3 times now, and it makes me tear up every time. Why? Because it’s so real. You said it made you want to view people differently; it makes me want to view myself differently. As harsh as you think you opinion might be towards women, know that our opinion of ourselves is often much harsher. We are our worst critics. (Note: That last comment doesn’t specifically apply to women. I think ALL people criticize themselves way more than other people do.) The message I got from this ad was “give yourself a break.” It’s a heads up that we don’t give ourselves enough credit. Kudos to Dove.

    • I agree with you Tracy and I too tear up whenever I see it. My husband saw this ad first and put it up on my Facebook page knowing that I needed to watch it because I would be one of those women who sees only my flaws when others see beauty. I know I am not alone. A lot of women are harder on themselves and carry the wounds of past critics as well. What I came away from the ad is that we all have beauty… inside and out, sometimes we do not see it within us but others do.

      • Tracy and Melanie–Thank you for sharing. Tracy, I think you’re right that all people are their own worst critics when it comes to the way they look. And Melanie, I like that you pointed out that the beauty that we all have in some shape or form is not only on the surface, but also deeper inside of us. I would be curious to see a sketch artist draw how people perceive their personalities vs. how other people perceive them.

      • My boyfriend posted it to my Facebook with the tagline “You are way more beautiful than you think.” It was sweet. 🙂

        • Tracy, your boyfriend is awesome. When will more men realize that little stuff like that is SO MUCH BETTER than flowers or expensive gifts?

  3. Being in marketing, I’m very familiar with the Dove Real Beauty campaign’s many executions over the years and this one is one of my favorites. It hits a nerve, a truth about women—and despite what some blogs etc infer, it’s not just unhappy women or women with low self esteem, it’s the majority of ALL women. Get a group of girlfriends together in the right setting and you’ll hear them all, no matter how beautiful, criticize parts of themselves while they’re friends’ disagree. It just doesn’t sink in.

    Dove did this campaign based on research that showed only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful. I was at a conference recently where they shared that statistic as a consumer insight before sharing another awesome Dove campaign (the Dove Ad Replacement campaign—look it up) that came out of that research. During the Q&A someone stood up and said they worked on some of the original stuff Dove did with the Real Beauty campaign (6 or 7 years ago now?) and that Dove had done that same research then—but the number was only 2%. So yes, there are women out there for who might describe themselves as more beautiful than a stranger would, but they’re very rare.

    Overall, I’m really a fan of the whole Real Beauty campaign, despite calls from some about how real it is or is not, or that Dove is just doing it to make money—of course they are, we do live in a capitalist society and they are selling a product—but the people who work at Dove and advertise for Dove are real people too. There’s an authenticity behind it—and campaigns like that don’t come from brands that are only half committed. If you look at the years of advertising they’ve done around this overall branding identity, they hit on all sides of the issue of women not feeling beautiful (however you decide to define the word) and trying to change that perception. I’d like to see more brands take that leap. I’d much rather have a brand’s advertising make me feel good about myself than just remind me how moisturizing their body wash is—the product itself can speak to that. The branding makes me feel good about buying that moisturizing body wash—not to mention making the advertising more entertaining to watch.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Christine. I’m surprised that blogs have been so quick to condemn such a moving campaign. Even if it’s completely made up, there’s such much true to it–otherwise people wouldn’t connect to it the way they do.

      “I’d much rather have a brand’s advertising make me feel good about myself than just remind me how moisturizing their body wash is—the product itself can speak to that.” Well said. I support that 100%, and I look forward to other brands taking Dove’s lead.


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