Confidence: are companies using it against you?

With the uprise of the self-confidence movement, an emergence of concern with using it in the wrong context extends to issues of ignoring major social disparities against women—and such issues are found in the very brands aimed at the concept.



Female empowerment is being soured over by industries as something unquestionable and optimally attainable; how does reality reveal its fault?

Jasmin Parrado, Staff Writer

Brands upon brands that preach the wonderful airs of self-confidence seem to dominate the fashion and media industry today, and all seems merry—but what if we were to draw back the curtains and ask how the very promoters and sellers of our confidence are faring?

How interesting is it, that brands familiar to us—Brandy Melville, Lululemon, Abercrombie & Fitch—reportedly seem to contain employers and entrepreneurs that are actively corrupting the definition of confidence to more easily accommodate to the spiraling discrepancies between workers and their environment?

Resonating from a plethora of media platforms and organization campaigns, American social media culture has made it so that confidence, above all, is the apparent key to a woman’s life fulfillment and prosperity. What the culture fails to tell you is that confidence, by its terms, actually equates to the capacity to suffer a good bunch of strenuous and unnecessary basic social prejudices imposed by said companies, all with clenched teeth and a persona of strength through nonchalant approaches and sharp-shoulder blazer suits.

There seems to be a meter that only goes so far as to where you can utilize your “confidence” to overcome the situations that expose you to your hardships; the more severe issues of blatant racism, ignorance to limitations caused by poverty, sexism, and poor employee and customer treatment within the workforce are glossed over by a generalized notion of a carefree and unproblematic life being led through even harder work and a headstrong belief in oneself to just be better; to live up to an expectation of endless, unrelenting confidence. Instead of addressing the inappropriate conditions and complexity of issues under which customers are receiving care or services, as well as bringing to light the poor treatment and equivalent complexity clouding the lives of workers as well, a string of self-proclaimed female-empowering and diverse-representation-oriented companies seem to have a thing where employees just have to rise up accordingly and are accountable for their responses if not deemed “confident” enough to face whatever comes at them. In Mina Le’s video analysis discussing the phenomenon of the suffocating confidence persona, she relates the story of an ex-employee at Lululemon who recalls how she was told by her boss that her taking offense to an angry customer’s spitting and violent outbursts was “her choice.” It seems to be that if one is not treated normally, that’s just their problem; there must be clearly something wrong with their self-esteem, and they’re probably not confident enough to get over it. Shoulders shrugged. Papers placed. Such a simple solution, right?

These brands seem to have taken the essence of their message towards women to have self-confidence and twisted it into the ultimate answer to all the problems of the world, including the problems within the confines of their own force. They now seem to lay back in lawn chairs and turn those same words of empowerment sour, repeating and preaching the concept of confidence so that they don’t have to address, change, or acknowledge anything that kind of, kind of requires a bit more than conceptual application in real-time to be helped. The gap in reaching a balance between your problems and how you “deal” with it remains all the same.

Companies and influencers still like to pretend that all problems can be solved; goals met, worries defeated, with anything but what is actually necessary. No; it’s not often likely that repeating exactly ten affirmations of “I love my life” to your reflection will magically alleviate the entirety of your anxiety, mental exhaustion, and trauma within the span of six weeks. By some nick of the brain, it may just give some leeway for positive emotional influence, perhaps, and that’s harmless, but the issues we face still stand before us, tangible and yet just as everlasting. Business suit combos are chic and just awesome, but does a woman solely need to constantly sport the fit and equate her mannerisms to those of her male coworkers in order to be as respected as a man is? Aren’t I just as powerful wearing my black slip dress and ruby red heels? Aren’t I just fine being me, even if I’m not interrupting a conversation like Jonathan and speaking as low as Carson? It’s a basic courtesy to hear your coworkers out and have respect, but instead of striving to reverse the comfort of sheer inappropriate behavior that has prevailed throughout the years within the workplace, numerous brands just seem to love this cult-esque encouragement to just fight fire with fire or pretend like the fire isn’t burning one’s skin, and it’s becoming ridiculously irritating and even harmful in the long run.

This reveals a concerning pattern of social downgrade, where instead of wanting to improve a bad environment, we’ve developed a habit of just lowering our standards and expectations of etiquette, reform, and improvement, and instead have to compromise with unjust situations on the daily.

But, of course, no matter; we, with our sky-high pumps and long sharp manicures, are more than equipped to handle our problems; because, as our bosses tell us, we can conquer anything. Awesome! You see, all Asha has to do to evade the oh-so-bothersome little attempts to commit physical assault on her at the counter is just wink at her bruised reflection and say, “You got this!” As simple as that. Qadira just needs to amp up her work ethic, I swear! Of course the company’s not going to keep covering health insurance for that lazy princess; look at her, requesting to take leave for a surgery that could potentially alleviate her life-threatening disease. The audacity! Where did that girl’s perseverant energy go? Where did her seamless power drain off to? She lacks soooo much confidence in her health.

And all Lisa needs to do to stay motivated is drink more lemon water and eat more veggies. Honestly. What’s she doing buying these cheap and processed ingredients for her kids (as they cram inside their one-bedroom apartment and sleep on Saturdays for lunch—stomachs growling, headaches pounding, depressive thoughts and panic attacks festering at the brim of dawn)? Have you seen her hair lately? Her clothes? Her body?

If she doesn’t respect herself, why should I? She just doesn’t do enough. She doesn’t solve her problems. She totally has the capacity to, like we all do. She lacks sooooooo much confidence in herself.

Don’t you know? Work is the anthem of our identity, and work ethic is the new confidence! Go get ‘em, girl!