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Many people in this world compare themselves to models and other individuals they encounter in their daily lives. They aspire to an idealized version of beauty, perpetuated largely by social media. This is particularly prevalent among teenagers who are grappling with health and mental issues. They constantly feel inadequate and fear judgement and ridicule. Today’s society emphasizes physical attractiveness, pressuring both men and women to conform to perceived standards of beauty, which often involves altering their natural body shape. For many, fitting in and being accepted appear important, and rejection instills feelings of self-consciousness and unworthiness, thus compelling them to change their physical appearance.
In extreme cases, this obsession with body image can lead to serious health problems, inducing individuals to starve themselves, thereby developing disorders like anorexia or bulimia. Moreover, some physically fit individuals may engage in bullying, criticizing those who do not conform to their standards, shaming them and negatively impacting their mental health. Living in an environment where having a fit body is glorified can greatly damage one’s self-esteem. Societal beauty standards that promote unattainable levels of thinness and associate it with positive traits such as attractiveness, health, love, and success are unrealistic. The media, as a powerful societal tool, constantly reinforces these expectations about ideal body sizes for both genders. Consequently, in recent years, there has been a marked increase in body dissatisfaction among women (Cash, Morrow, Hrabosky, & Perry, 2004).
How it works
With the rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, people are increasingly exposed to advertisements featuring models promoting various products. The primary focus is often on the model – what they are wearing, their hairstyle, their body type – leading viewers to engage in self-comparison. They question what they must do to emulate these models. This comparison trap is often spurred by advertisements promoting ideals of thinness, fitness, and physical beauty. When men and women pose for magazine shoots, their bodies are digitally manipulated to create an illusion of ideal physical traits, thus reinforcing societal beauty norms.
Other people believe that those are their real bodies, hair, face, shape, etc. They think it’s real, but it’s clearly photoshopped to look like something that other people want to see. People advertise their items with good-looking people. They know that people will ignore the advertisement if they don’t have someone to catch their attention. There are advertisements that include both men and women gripping an object and looking all “sexy,” when they are all just advertising a perfume. Women are mostly being sexualized due to the way they are supposed to look or act. Sexualization is linked to sexual objectification. They are often sexualized when they are wearing something that reveals skin. Often, they get catcalled, and some men or women comment with really disturbing things towards them. They can’t walk somewhere normally without somebody saying rude things to them.
This is something that has to stop. They can’t compare themselves to something that is modified to look like a specific thing, that women are supposed to look like. That’s one of the problems here in this world. These websites and apps provide an additional forum for self-comparison against a thin ideal. Teenagers need to realize that having that body image that everyone looks for isn’t really completely attainable. The photos we see in magazines and on websites aren’t real either. Many people don’t realize that those photos have gone through many touch-ups and have been edited so many times to make the models look perfect. Teenagers who work hard to attain society’s unattainable ideal image will just end up increasing their feelings of not fitting in. Women who view thin and sexualized selfies online can be negatively affected (Vendemia & DeAndrea, 2018).
Anorexia is another result of media influence on beauty standards. This is a result of trying to be thin and look perfect. However, not everyone develops anorexia just because of the media. Some may have it due to family problems, or problems in their everyday life, which can sometimes be caused by bullying and feeling uncomfortable in their own skin. Some people with anorexia have a distorted body image and an excessive, obsessive fear of obesity, even when they are extremely underweight. Mostly teenage girls have an eating disorder. After they see themselves losing weight, they start becoming more and more obsessed with what they eat. Some girls don’t even eat at all due to wanting to be skinny. They start getting used to not eating and they feel like it’s a part of them now. They convince themselves that having a strict diet and losing lots of weight is normal for them. People with anorexia are affected by society. They are affected by social media, commercials, parents, etc.
Boys and girls are influenced by society’s standards at a very young age, being instilled with the notion that they must be extremely thin and fit to progress in life. Exposure to media images of thin, beautiful women negatively affects the body image and mood states of young women (Yamamiya, Cash, Melnyk, & Posavac, 2005). Every time a young boy or girl walks into a store, they are surrounded by skinny or buff mannequins. Images of thin women and muscular men are displayed on the covers of fashion magazines. Countless teenage girls starve themselves, not consuming the necessary nutrients for a healthy life, all in pursuit of the “ideal” body type. Boys in middle and high schools regularly exercise with the aim of increasing their muscle mass. Television shows featuring thin or muscular actors perpetuate the impression that one must be thin or extremely fit to be successful and content.
Many actors we watch on television dedicate hours to exercise and don’t consume adequate nutrition to maintain their thin figures. Some resort to plastic surgery, liposuction, breast implants, and Brazilian butt lifts. Society is conditioning young people to believe that thinness is essential and necessary for acceptance. Television programming often promotes weight bias by stereotyping and ridiculing larger individuals. Teenagers spend a lot of time on popular apps and are under immense pressure to be thin and appear perfect. They are led to believe that thinness is a prerequisite for acceptance and belonging. In order to achieve this, they resort to excessive exercise, starvation, vomiting, and restricting their diets. Diet commercials continuously appear on television screens, in magazines, and on internet pop-up advertisements, proclaiming that weight loss equates to happiness.
While standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, they are bombarded by magazine covers advertising the latest diet trends. Every month, a new diet emerges, claiming to be the ultimate solution to all previous diets. Dieting has become an obsession in America, with millions of dollars spent each year in an attempt to fit societal beauty standards. The reason a new diet emerges each month is because the last one didn’t deliver. Many of the diets promoted online are also unhealthy, making people deprive their bodies of essential nutrients, potentially leading to health issues. However, the diet and fashion industries are not solely responsible for society’s obsession with thinness. In today’s society, many people have forgotten that inner character, not external appearance, is what truly matters. We need to aim for acceptance and love ourselves for who we are, not what we look like. If we learn to love and accept ourselves, we will also begin to love our bodies, irrespective of size.
Parents also need to teach their children the value of healthy eating, and not send the message that being thin is all-important. They must focus on learning to love and accept themselves. Seeing a lower number on a scale when they weigh themselves or fitting into a smaller shirt or pants size than what they actually wear, will not make them happy. Happiness can only come from within. Parents need to remind their children that people come in all shapes and sizes and teach them to accept everyone for who they are. Parents have to teach their children how to value themselves. It can seriously damage a teenager’s mental state if they believe they will always be flawed. They have to understand that everyone has their own flaws. However, parents can help children develop self-acceptance by teaching them to be proud of who they are. It is important for parents to understand that they do not cause eating disorders in their children and they cannot necessarily prevent them.
Society is making children believe that having a “perfect” body is the only way to succeed in life. People, television, social media, and those around them are influencing everyone’s mindset. The idea of perfection is being ingrained to feel hugely significant, but it’s only causing harm. We need to start accepting ourselves for our body shape, the way we think, and the way we communicate. Everyone is capable of loving themselves and accepting the way they were born. Everyone is perfect in their own unique way. Regardless of what flaws they have, what body shape they possess, or what culture they hail from, everyone is different. That’s what makes us special.
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