The Media and Body Image
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One’s body is what makes us who we are. Every single person is unique due to an individual physical trait. Even though everyone has an opinion about what his or her perfect body would be, changing one’s personal features would take away from individuality. I personally would never have plastic surgery because when I look at myself, I do not see a tall, skinny young man with a funny looking nose and big “bug” eyes, rather I see a beautifully sculpted masterpiece that God has made just for me. I take pride in the fact that there is no one else on this earth exactly like me. Not just my inner beauty, but my outer beauty makes me different from everyone else. Life would be so boring if everyone looked exactly the same. I personally could not be more content and happy with my body image.
What’s body image? Body image is how people picture themselves and how they think other people picture them. It is basically how you feel about your body, and it includes your perception, imagination, emotions, and physical sensations. Mass media has been able to shape popular culture and often influence public opinion. However, when abused, the power of media can harm the general population. Images portrayed by the media tend to make people strive to be someone else’s idea of perfect while subconsciously ignoring their own goals. Stereotypes formed by the media that include thin, tanned women, and wealthy, muscular men have led to a decline in self-acceptance. The majority of media today often present the perfect body to the public, hoping that consumers will strive to achieve fitness using a certain product or idea. While this form of advertising may somewhat increase a product’s market share, many people suffer from inner conflicts as a result of failure to achieve the body of a top athlete or fashion model. As a result of these body images projected by the media, men and women have encountered physical problems, including bulimia, anorexia, employment of harmful dietary plans, low self-esteem, and depression. Unless reality is discerned from what is presented in certain media, some people will continue to suffer. Consumers could find the truth more easily if media offered products advertised by everyday people without the entire extra glamour. In addition to this, if the public could view adverts only as something to get one’s attention and not a portrayal of how one should look, there would be fewer problems. Until either is accomplished, the negative effects will be felt by the vulnerable, and companies will continue to make their money.
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Consumers which are given a false impression about a product through various forms of media are the ones who suffer most from our society’s portrayal of the perfect body. After being influenced by a television commercial or a magazine pictorial, certain people in this world will purchase an item hoping that the same success shown in the media will be achieved by them as well. The truth of the matter is that this hardly ever happens. Every day, people who feel unattractive wear sensual cologne, and those who are not athletic wear Carl Lewis track shoes; mentally, some may feel an improvement but in reality nothing has changed. Realization of this fact leads to the demise of many individuals’ self – pride. The severity of both the mental and physical damage done to the person depends on the case. Some may resort to extreme diets, more unnecessary spending, or a decline in social activity. After being rejected at a local bar despite the bath he took in Polo Sport, Jerry might finally understand that his appearance or personality is the problem, not his cologne.
The mental effects of the mass media’s portrayal of the perfect body can cause people to resort to unhealthy methods of losing weight to attain that athletic look that so many desire. For instance, men and women who think they are overweight do not eat, for the simple fact that “they want to lose weight” which can result to eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. Bulimia is a food disorder caused by mental insecurities and doctors recommend that people who suffer bulimia should see a psychiatrist, and the symptoms include compulsive exercise, taking laxatives, and throwing up, which can cause one’s body to become short on electrolytes. Anorexia is a similar condition in which one loses exorbitant amounts of weight often by eating very little and vomiting a small amount of food that is actually consumed. Also men who think they are not muscular take harmful substances such as steroids to build up their muscles, a dangerous act that might endanger their health. In the past, both men and women (predominately men) who were slightly overweight used a fat burning drug known as Redux. It was designed for obese individuals, but the off-label use of such drugs became rampant due to advertising techniques by the manufacturers. Many people, including doctors, who were slightly overweight used the drug and have experienced pulmonary hypertension, valvular heart disease, and neurotoxicity. Other drugs, such as steroids, have been widely proven to cause brain cancer, stunted growth, and shrinkage of the testes .Many student-athletes use these performance enhancers in an attempt to become as muscular as the men often portrayed by media. This problem is also present in female teenagers as well. To some girls, steroid use is comparable to diet pills and laxatives. The abuse of these drugs is partly a result of inaccurate advertising as well as the young person’s desire to look and perform as well as the superstars shown in various forms of media.
The influence the media has on teenagers (especially girls) is becoming greater and more dangerous every day. Advertisements and the media set out with only one intention: to make a profit. However, along the way they are altering the reality of body image and leading girls to believe beauty is only skin deep. Flip through the channels on your television and you will find gorgeous skinny star icons that make healthy young girls feel like they need to be prettier in order to be noticed. The media affects a girl’s mind in such a negative manner that it often causes these girls to look at themselves in dissatisfaction and disgust. When girls see the models in a Victoria’s Secret commercial they think only one thing: “Why can’t I look like that?” After they examine the models, they then compare their bodies to that of the models they see on television; if the girl’s ribs do not show or her legs are not as long as the models, she may ultimately begin to think she is unattractive. When girls think this about themselves, their self-esteem is lowered and their confidence is lost. Self-esteem is the opinion and value you have for yourself. Low self-esteem is often caused by the lack of positive body image, which almost every girl in America can relate to. It has been reported that at age thirteen, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” This grows to be 78% by the time girls reach seventeen. Having a low self-esteem may seem like an insignificant effect to some; however, it leads to much more serious problems that can even result in dire consequences. According to I Am Beautiful, a program created to help girls with low self-esteem issues to build their confidence, “girls with low self-esteem are more likely to suffer from depression, consider or attempt suicide, or be more willing to engage in unhealthy sexual activity.” Although it is not impossible to restore one’s self esteem, it is difficult and may require professional attention such as a therapist for the individuals to accept themselves for who they are.
In conclusion, body image is not to be taken lightly. People should make up their minds that they will not be negatively influenced by the media. In doing this, the public can view the media for what it truly is, a means of conveying information or providing entertainment. Good common sense should tell a woman that the overly attractive person in an advertisement is a model and should be admired for her beauty; all women are not required to look like a model to be attractive. The process of differentiating fact from fiction in adverts cannot be described on paper. It can only happen in the mind of the individuals. It is true that some messages are sent subliminally, but if consumers would appreciate advertisement for what it actually is, much of these ordeals could be avoided.