Are you REALLY worth it? Designer bags, luxury holidays even affairs - how celebrity culture is dangerously deluding women into think they deserve to have everything
By Flic Everett
Last updated at 8:29 AM on 14th June 2010
Comments (129) Add to My Stories
Every time Cheryl Cole throws back her shining mane and twinkles, ' Because we're worth it,' a generation of women nod along in agreement. Cheryl has just been voted our Woman Of The year, by Glamour Magazine. Not only is she Tv gold, she's had a number one hit, she's in the most successful girl band ever, and she's probably the most eligible single woman in Britain.
So perhaps it's no wonder that we're willing to believe whatever she tells us.
Cheryl may be talking about shampoo - but for many of us those four little words go a whole lot deeper.
Brought up in an age where self-help mantras have replaced old-fashioned concepts such as duty or self- sacrifice, and where, according to Oprah Winfrey, lack of self-esteem is 'the root of all the problems in the world,' it's no wonder we now believe we deserve the very best from life.
Once, the pinnacles of achievement were a good job or a happy home life. Now, we're encouraged to believe we're entitled to everything we want, the moment we crave it, 'because we're worth it.'
Want a £300 designer bag you can't afford? Go on - you deserve it. Or that New york mini-break with the girls? Treat yourself - you're fabulous.
Married women even admit to indulging in affairs, simply because: 'I wasn't getting what I needed at home.' Perhaps once, they'd have stuck it out, or sought counselling - but now, a 'cougar' affair between an older woman and a hot younger man is simply their reward for staying married to the old dullard.
Surrounded by images of celebrities from ordinary backgrounds who have 'made it', we're increasingly convinced that we're no different from them. We may not be hosting the breakfast news or singing to a packed O2 arena - but we work just as hard as they do, we tell ourselves, and we're just as talented.
It's easy to assume that 'good self-esteem' is the passport to a happy, successful life. But compelling research proves quite the reverse.
A major study from the London School of Economics found that excessively high self-esteem can be even more damaging than low self-worth. Social psychologist Professor Nicholas Emler found that people with high self-esteem are more likely to hold racist attitudes, reject advice from friends and take risks such as drink-driving, as they believe they won't be caught.
'It's worth remembering that high self-esteem is very far from being an unconditional benefit,' warns Professor Emler.
'Our language contains many unflattering words to describe people with high self-esteem, such as "boastful", "arrogant", "smug", "self-satisfied" and "conceited".
'Perhaps we should be more willing to accept that very high self-esteem is as much a problem in need of treatment as exceptionally low self-esteem and be more open-minded about the benefits of moderation.'
Yet culturally, we're constantly encouraged to assume that, as the song says, 'If I can dream it, I can be it'. Once, a truthful friend might have pointed out that it's called 'a dream' for a reason. But now, simply 'having a dream' is considered to be as valid as having a business plan and start-up funding.
TV shows overflow with ordinary folk who may possess a modicum of talent at cooking or singing, yet vibrate with evangelical zeal as they explain: 'I want this so badly, I know I can win.' Self-awareness has been replaced by mindless self-belief, regardless of the evidence.
'We have fallen for a filtered-down pop psychology message that says: "If you believe it, it's true," ' says psychotherapist Rachel Morris, who specialises in women's issues. 'Best-selling books such as The Secret basically say that if you want something badly enough, you can have it, and that's a very seductive promise.
It's basic, Californian-style positive thinking - but we're now in danger of believing that high self-esteem is equivalent to talent, opportunity and ambition.