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It's normal, right?

By , westlake, TX
You awake to a beautiful day, feeling very confident and happy with yourself. Like normal, you retrieve a magazine from the counter and plop down on the couch. The cover story on the People magazine you hold in your hands reads, “Best and Worst Bodies of 2010.” You skim the pages and analyze their definition of hot, average, and disgusting bodies. Suddenly overcome by feelings of doubt and insecurity, you head to your room to take a good look in the mirror. Your reflection seems to insist that you are overweight. For the next couple days, you are continually bombarded by lies about what’s beautiful. Before you know it, you have changed your eating habits to try and lose weight, and you are considering a cool tattoo or piercing to improve your image. One short week later, you have begun a dangerous spiral into the life of an anorexic.

In this generation, the media has influenced so many people in such a negative way. They have distorted the truth of beauty and replaced it with a myth. Because of pictures and demeaning articles, women, girls, men, and boys obsess over their outward appearances, leading to serious problems. The media promotes unhealthy ideas and practices, such as unrealistic goals of being thin, plastic surgery, tattoos, alcohol, and teen pregnancy, all of which apparently “boost” your body image. Studies show that the average American person sees about 3,ooo advertisements in various places every day. Therefore, teens and adults are reinforcing wrong ideas about normal body image just by paying attention to such marketing. According to the evidence, they have it ALL wrong.

Did you know up until 1839 no one could see what they looked like? There were no mirrors or pictures, so they had no problem accepting who they were. Today, people find it difficult to walk past a window without trying to view their reflections.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, five to ten million girls and one million boys suffer from eating disorders. Estimates, also say that approximately 15 percent of young girls in America develop abnormal attitudes and behaviors about food. In a very disturbing study of children 8-10, about 50 percent of the young girls stated that they were not satisfied with the size of their bodies; in girls ages 9-15, more than 50 percent said they exercised with the ultimate goal of weight loss, almost 50 percent said they reduced the amount of food they eat to lose weight, and nearly five percent said they use their parent’s dieting products in order to lose weight. Also, in America, people spend 109 million dollars on diet related products every day. Could these insecurities be developing because the media planted a ridiculous idea that they were abnormally heavy?

Not many people notice, but Hollywood is constantly sending out bad signals. For example, it is quite challenging to find a movie today that is free from the practices of drug and alcohol use, sexual references and/or scenes, profanity, or violence. Many people would say they remain unaffected by the content of movies, but the following study reveals fallacious thinking. The more you are exposed and subjected to immoral material like this, the more those ideas start to become realistic and normal. Most who view such content with frequency, begin to see these promoted behaviors as the norm. Something they previously thought of as wrong, they now participate in because it is normal to them.

The purchase or consumption of alcohol, for instance, is illegal for those under age 21, yet the average beginning age for those who consume alcohol in America today is sixteen. If teenagers were not assailed with scenes of alcohol abuse in their countless movies, would they be less enamored? Do constant news reports of popular celebrities abusing drugs and alcohol make it more appealing to young people? And what about the responsibility of friends – would it be easier for teenagers to abstain from alcohol if their closest friends refused to participate in dangerous and illegal practices? Studies show that thousands of teens have died due to alcohol related accidents and suicides. Could it have all started with the media’s actuations?
Hollywood also promotes teen pregnancy. The teenage pregnancy rate has reached a staggering one million. Researchers at the Rand Corporation found that teenagers subjected to the largest amount of sexual content on television are twice as likely to end up pregnant , than those who view healthier programming. Today, there are even shows that market teen pregnancy as “reality” television. Teens who view such programs may be entertained, but the greater danger is a failure to be convinced that pregnancy at a young age is both dangerous and difficult. Like much of what we see glamorized on television or in movies, the reality is quite different. Consider a show like “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” This series fails to elaborate on what happens before and after. It fails to truly illustrate the devastating effects on a young girl when she has to give up time with friends to care for a baby. It fails to express the loneliness and alienation a teen feels when she is no longer one of the crowd, but is instead, spending her time with a newborn. From television, teens can easily reach a conclusion that teen pregnancy is not so bad, when it is really one of the worst choices you could ever make. It has been reported that some teens get pregnant just be on MTV’s show, “16 and Pregnant.” So let me say it in another way, teens are making horrible decisions and sacrificing a huge portion of their life just to be recognized by the media.

Everyone on this earth is uniquely created and gifted. The media focuses so much on the outside appearance that they totally skip the fact that true beauty is defined by what is inside of you. One day, it all won’t matter how many boys you dated or how many pounds you lost. Everything will depend on what you believe internally, and not what you look like externally. Also, popularity is extremely overrated. Guess what guys? In 10 years, it really won’t matter if you were the coolest kid in school. Lastly, there was a soul mate that was designed just for you. Why would you bring baggage into this beautiful relationship simply because you had wanted to please the public?

We have been blessed with the freedom to make choices, and in this age of information, we are able to arm ourselves in order to make right ones. It’s up to you. Are you going to let the media form your opinions for you? Or are you going to accept who you were created to be? The choice is yours…





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Destinee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm
Really well-written, and I agree with you. :) Although I don't think that not having mirrors prevented them from being any less vain before 1839. X)
 
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