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The Media: Nobody's Perfect.... But We All Wish We Were

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Why are we so hooked on our appearances? Does it relate to what we see and hear every day in the media? The media is very influential in the life of a modern person. That’s where we get entertainment, news, and facts, though not all the “facts” are always true. It impacts everything we do, and it is how we get most of our information, but how much of that information is positive? All the time, you can see images and standards for how a person looks and acts in the media. Turn on the television at any given time, and there is a good chance that in the first fifteen minutes, you will see an image of someone who is “perfect” or “good looking” or “cute”. What do “good looking” and “cute” mean?? How is someone “perfect”? Is it even a reasonable idea to try to relate to? Is it safe? The media gives an image of perfection, and they give the impression that everyone should be as good as that unrealistic “perfect” image, or they are bad or ugly or something is wrong with them.
One study shows that the media does in fact negatively impact the self-image of women and girls. The “ideally thin” models caused the most dissatisfaction. When a group of women were shown a selection of pictures of models, their satisfaction with their own weight significantly decreased when the model was thinner. Even viewing one image of a thin person affected the subjects’ view of self attractiveness. (Bergstrom, Neighbors and Malheim)
In the same study, they found that younger girls and women that view themselves as less attractive are more affected by magazines and television and images of the “ideal person”. My friends and I have definitely noticed this trend, even among ourselves. The more insecure one of us is about our appearance, the more we look at people in the media and models and compare ourselves unrealistically. (Bergstrom, Neighbors and Malheim)
In the words of my friend Sydney Diederich, “It affects how you dress, how you eat, how you do your hair…. In a lot of ways it affects you, and it’s not good.”
There are those who don’t think the media is that harmful. They say that it’s just entertainment and that it doesn’t really affect people. That may be true for some, but I can name quite a few people who think otherwise. Lots of people, my friends, family, and a lot of people from school, are constantly comparing themselves to other people, particularly celebrities. They think that if they can look like them, they can be successful like them.
Being surrounded by all that comparison is hard. Television shows especially influence teens/viewers. Shows like What Not to Wear and How Do I Look and other fashion shows and popular sitcoms compare people and their styles to the “norm” and criticize them when they don’t match the “good looking” category. They also idolize the “perfect” person. If they are “perfect”, they can do no wrong, and anyone who isn’t like that is bad. They are being forced into a little category, and that’s not letting people show their personality. Teens, the demographic most likely to watch these kinds of shows frequently are affected in particular.
My friend Anna Appeldoorn says, “On shows like that, either they make you want to be a model and have that as a job, or they make you think that you will never be as pretty as the girls on the show and it makes them feel bad about themselves.”
Cassidy Tanner, one of my other friends, also has very strong opinions when it comes to the media and self confidence. Her reply when I asked her about how she thinks the media affects self esteem and how it affects girls was “What girl hasn’t looked at a billboard and asked themselves, ‘Why can’t I look like that?’. It gives us this concept of ‘ideal beauty’, perfect, unattainable beauty. The other thing I think girls gain from the media is the idea of a perfect relationship. You know, the sweet TV and movie boys who would rather hold your hand and kiss you softly than get some, the kisses in the rain, no fights or anything. We all know that relationships aren’t actually like that, and it gives us overly high expectations that really, no boy can match.”
Cassidy is right. We do have expectations that are too high. There is something that keeps coming into my mind whenever I think about this. What happens when girls don’t have any self esteem? What if girls feel so bad about themselves that they don’t do what they dream of because they think they have no chance of succeeding? What does that do for society? What happens when teenage girls have that bad of a view of themselves? How will that affect the world as we know it? I know what would happen. We would see a halt in progress. No one would explore or try new things, because they would think that they couldn’t do it, because they weren’t good enough. Do you really want that?





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