Oprah and the worth of a bag

October 09 2013

By Sarah Calleja from Action Psychology


The owner of a luxury goods shop in Zurich has denied racism was involved when Oprah Winfrey, who runs her own TV network, and is ranked number one on the Forbes Most Powerful Celebrity list in July, was discouraged from buying a 35,000 Swiss franc ($41,000) handbag.

This raises the notion that there is a capacity to ‘judge’ a woman’s worth (never heard of it happening to a man) to purchase an exclusive handbag, at the risk of a ‘not so pretty woman’ diminishing the brand. The price of this handbag is equivalent to the requisite 5% deposit on a new apartment in an exclusive suburb.

So why the fuss? Is our worth, self-esteem and confidence as a women tied up in our possession of luxury goods? The answer for some is YES, and even backed by science.

WOMEN WHO BUDGET WISELY know they can afford some special accessories without compromising the necessities in life or putting their financial security at risk. Financial security is one of the indicators of well-being.

WOMEN WHO PUT A VALUE ON THEIR EFFORT AND SKILL, benefit from rewarding themselves with a special accessory which gives them pleasure and can be a symbol of their personal success. The way we view ourselves will translate into every situation and encounter we have. A reminder that we can inspire and reward ourselves for our effort helps us to believe we can also inspire others. Appreciating our worth is what self-esteem is all about. Having an optimistic outlook provides the key to staying more resilient and helps us to focus on achieving our life goals.

WOMEN WHO DRESS TO IMPRESS know that luxury or novelty items imply success. Coaching psychology endorses great grooming when promoting yourself in your workplace. Women find that owning beautiful and functional accessories reflects their capacity to achieve their goals and promote themselves in a positive way with others. This is relative. My daughter found a stunning and unusual vintage luxury bag for $5.00 in an op-shop and she received a lot of positive reinforcement by other woman. Promoting your personal strength and idiosyncrasies by ‘dressing the part’ signals you as different and worthy of attention.

The current trend in therapy is Mindfulness. Dr Russ Harris defines mindfulness as “Consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience, with openness, interest and receptiveness.” A friend of mine practises mindfulness when she wears her grandmother’s engagement ring she inherited a number of years ago, which helps her to engage with the love and happiness she shared with her grandmother. Recently, I visited my mother overseas and while there, I purchased a handbag. It’s my signature colour red and I now use it every day to remind me of my great good fortune to be able to share quality time with a loving family.

Oprah doesn’t need a handbag to bolster her self-esteem, but knowing she has the capacity to make that choice for herself celebrates her success. Oprah might be one of the world’s most successful women, but all women can go through a healthy process to wear with pride any symbol of their success.