Should you buy media’s perception of ideal beauty?

It is not a secret that the standards of beauty nowadays are rather strict and demanding. Appearances that match the existing ideal beauty remain one of the crucial characteristics of a modern individual. What is an ideal beauty? Tall and thin models and actresses are taking the lead roles in the big TV screen in ABC’s popular shows like “Pretty Little Liars”, “Switched at Birth”, “Quantico” and “Once Upon a Time”. The protagonists in all four shows are thin and beautiful. Almost all jewelries, perfumes and beauty products use thin models to advertise their products. Therefore, media is using appearance as one of the ways to sell their products. However, they are also selling the idea that people have to be the thin to be pretty. As people are buying media’s perception of ideal beauty, they are modifying their body because of body dissatisfaction.

Exposure to thin models in media results in body-image disturbance, according to the study of Minnesota State University. The study was conducted to investigate media’s impact in body-image disturbance. It was replicated and hypothesized based on previous findings of past studies. Half of 181 undergraduate students who volunteered for this study were shown advertisements of clothing, perfume and accessories with thin models. The other half were shown advertisement without the thin models. The two groups were then asked to answer questions about their self-worth, body image disturbance and self-esteem. The results showed a correlation between the negative feelings about weight and the exposure of thin models. People with who were exposed to thin models showed relatively lower ratings of body image dissatisfaction compared to people who were not exposed. But, in both groups, people with higher body mass or BMI showed low ratings of self-importance or self-worthiness than people with less body mass. People who weight more than average are sensitive of their weight regardless of the exposure. The study noted that the variables were not exposed  long enough to cause a huge effect on people’s body image. Therefore, constant exposure to thin models and actresses in the media has a chance of causing more sensitivity that lead to even lower self-esteem. In another study from the University of Management and Technology in Lahore, Pakistan showed similar results. Because of similarities between studies from two sides of the world, it becomes obvious that media’s perception of ideal beauty is not limited to the United States rather, it is something that is universal.

Teens who are buying media’s perception of ideal beauty are viewing themselves negatively. During their teenage years, adolescents are in the most formative stages of their brain, and are very impressionable. The Dove Self-Esteem Fund revealed that 71% of girls with low self-esteem feel that their appearance doesn’t measure up; including “not feeling pretty enough, thin enough, stylish enough or trendy enough,” compared to the images they are exposed to in popular media. According to The National Association for Anorexia and Associated Disorders (ANAD), 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape, 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner and 81% of 10 year-old girls are afraid of being fat. The cosmetic surgery industry in the United States is booming, with profits expected to reach $17.5 billion by 2015. The increase of plastic surgery is especially seen among teenagers. According to American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) statistics, about 224,000 cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed on people of the ages 13 to 19 in 2010. Things that they are exposed to can easily change their perception of how they should act or look. Media plays a large role in their lives and it is one of the most powerful daily influences. When they see attractive people in the media, they question their own beauty and chose cosmetic procedures as a way to gain the features they lack.

Media plays even a bigger role in people with the serious psychological disorder called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). The major symptom is being severely unsatisfied with one’s appearance, body parts, or body as a whole, according to the National Center of Biotechnology Information website. They create a delusional image where they see themselves as extremely “ugly”. The delusional images are relatively difficult to control in individuals with BDD. Dependent on symptom severity, individuals may spend between 2-8 hours a day focusing on or attempting to modify their appearance, notes the website. Moreover, individuals with BDD take extreme levels and frequencies of mirror gazing, picture taking, grooming, make-up application, hairstyle changes, clothing changes, exercising, dieting, and grasping of the body. Although a direct cause of BDD has yet to be found, It is believed to develop through continuous exposure to “beautiful” people, typically through main stream media (television, internet, magazines) as adolescents. For those individuals, watching people in the media who are portrayed as the ideal beauties increases their internal pressure and self-doubt about their body image. Thus, they are left with no choice to modify their appearance to look as beautiful as the people in the media.

Media has the choice of using nature or plus size models and actresses to sell their products. Everyone wears jewelries and perfume so, why should only the thin models have the right to advertise them? Sellers can use nature as a source to advertise products if they are against using plus size models. They can use actresses of different sizes in TV because in the end it is the story that’s attracting people to watch their movies. They can create more shows like CBS’s “Mike and Molly” and ABC’s “Huge” or make more Movies like “Hairspray” (2007) or “Spy” (2015). These four TV shows and movies were successful with very high viewer ratings. Therefore, plus size actresses aren’t causing any damage to the industry. Nevertheless, media continues to use thin actresses and models to sell their products which, has a negative impact on how people of view their body image. People who believe in the media are modifying themselves to be as beautiful as the people they see. Some people are simply relying on make-up, dieting and plastic surgery to change adjust their appearance. Others are developing the psychological disorder, body dysmorphic disorder because they cannot take their minds of how they look.  Individuals with BDD are constantly trying their best to look as beautiful as the people they have been seeing in the media as adolescents. So, in reality media’s portrayal of ideal beauty is causing more harm than good. No one should buy the idea that what you see in media is not how you should be. Do not buy what media sells about people’s ideal beauty because in the end it is you who will be affected, not the media!












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