I’m a fan of Margaret Atwood – I like feminist fiction, and I REALLY love the idea of reading novels that other people haven’t heard of. So, naturally, once The Handmaid’s Tale shot to the top of the Amazon charts following some very well-informed concerns about the parallels of our current administration and the one that exists in Atwood’s most famous novel, I needed to find a book that was a more elitist Atwood novel.
The Edible Woman is her first, and after a weekend where I felt like I was not in control of what was happening to me, the book made me realize how personal brand how impactful it is on any person with a PR background.
The book revolves around a woman named Marian – she works in market research, she’s normal. Her stake of integrity is autonomous, the life she leads is peppered by people, places and things: she defines her reality by those around her, and the consumerist culture she is in she actively engages in.
Through the book, however, she finds her situation changing, and she eventually feels as if she is the one being consumed: consumed by her fiancee, consumed by the cultural balances around her and consumed physically. This is a problem for everyone, but if put into this position, is especially bad for PR professionals.
Being consumed by others is something that Public Relations actively embraces – you come with the brand, and in that way, it’s easy to watch yourself become consumed by others – just like in The Edible Woman.
The key is to make sure that you don’t become consumable – by keeping your head in check and making sure that you’re not swept away in your work.
Some may ask why we’re at particular risk of consumable culture: and it’s because when you work in PR, you live and breathe for the clientele you’re serving. You’re attuned to people’s thoughts and emotions, and you live for the masses. I have this mindset in my studies, and it’s translated to my everyday life, and I’ve really had to learn to separate it from my day-to-day.
Letting yourself be consumed by common opinion is good in your professional life, and is honestly one of the best traits you can have as you pursue your career in public relations – having a drive to make sure that the brand you’re resonating the world with is good.
But then letting it creep into your daily life, like I have, is not good. If you find yourself anxiously waiting for a text back, worrying constantly that nobody likes you even though plenty of people do, comparing your experiences to others and feeling that everything you do could be a potentially embarrassing action, taking a step back to make sure that the professional mindset you have isn’t creeping into your real life and consuming you alive is an important thing to do.
Be kind to yourself, and don’t let yourself get consumed: in the book, the consumer is societal and social expectations that come with femininity, and in my world, it’s not getting consumed by a mindset that makes so much sense to carry with you all the time.