In today’s society, there are millions of images of what beauty is supposed to look like. Billboards and advertisements tell us how we should dress, what is in style and in trend; how ‘perfect’ people look. Body image has become one of today’s hot topics of discussion. Whether your are beautiful or “ugly”, thin or fat, in style or not, tall or short, athletic or not can deﬁne a young person’s earlier years positively or negatively. In modern day society, the representations of how beautiful people are supposed to look, ﬂawless and thin, have people growing up and believing that this unattainable image is the only image of beauty. Many people today have issues with body image and how they look. Media has had such a huge impact on body image and the way we see our bodies in our culture that it is changing the generations by inﬂuencing eating disorders, self-harm and even cosmetic surgery at a young age.
In today’s culture, one of the most important things is body image and how we appear to other people and to ourselves. This is portrayed in many forms of the media such as magazine pictures, television advertisements and shows, music videos, billboards, the internet and the inﬂuence of models and actresses. Although the media affects both men and women in various ways, I will be showing how it affects the behaviors, perspectives, and attitudes of women. The media portrays a beautiful woman as someone who is thin, ﬂawless and has the ‘perfect’ body. Many photographs that are taken by models are often altered in Photoshop to remove any ﬂaws that are shown in the photo and perfect the image so that the picture can be broadcasted to the world. Many models and actresses often get surgery on anything that doesn’t seem perfect on their bodies and have unhealthy eating habits which can cause many health issues in order to have the perfect body.
Studies have shown that the media has many different negative impacts on women and girls in our generation which creates a lot of issues mentally and physically. Females of all ages, but many young women are dissatisﬁed with their bodies because they cannot attain the unrealistic goal of having the ‘perfect’ body. Our generation tends to strive to have that ﬂawless body which is portrayed in the media which has led to many people having depression, bad eating habits and eating disorders, and other health issues. In modern society. there is a direct connection between the media and the development of destructive body images. “The National Eating Disorder Association (2006) reports that in the past 70 years national rates of incidences of all eating disorders have dramatically increased across the board. From 1988 to 1993 the number of incidences of bulimia in women between the ages of 10 and 39 has more than tripled.
The cause of these staggering statistics has yet to be determined, but research has shown that body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem put women at high risk for developing eating disorders.” Many women suffer from different disorders especially eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. These disorders develop in women and girls because of their disapproval of how their body doesn’t look the same as the ‘perfect’ body image. It often presents itself in women who are dissatisﬁed with their body and who feel they can never look like the ‘ideal’ body size. Although no certain cause of anorexia or bulimia has been determined, researchers believe the destructive cycle begins with the pressure to be thin and ﬂawless. Women experience this pressure in our society from the media. The environment where we live plays an important role when we are developing our body image.
Daily experiences and people around us will affect the way we develop our self-esteem. Currently, the “standards” of female bodies have devalued women’s’ conﬁdence in themselves, since the search for the ideal image has become a central aspect in the lives of many of us, a situation that can trigger a feeling of personal failure and above all, a signiﬁcant loss of self-esteem. Women’s magazines are full of articles urging that if they can just lose those last ﬁfteen pounds, they will have it all. ”While societal standards of body shape have become much thinner. This discrepancy has made it increasingly difﬁcult for most women to achieve the current sociocultural “ideal.” Such a standard of perfection is unrealistic and even dangerous. Many of the models shown on television, advertisements, and in other forms of popular media are approximately 20% below ideal body weight, thus meeting the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa.”
In certain cases, some women are desperate to change their appearance to look like the “perfect” image of beauty that they are willing to pay and have surgery to perfect their own bodies. This is an extreme but not an unusual behavior of many people who are able to afford it. Many celebrities and people who have high expectations in the world feel the pressure to look as perfect as possible at all times because they always have cameras on them and the world is watching their every move. These celebrities set the trends of how we should look and dress in our day and age. They help create that perfect image of what our body should look like as well. There are not too many overweight, average-looking movie or pop stars who are successful in their respective industries. Accomplishing the perfect- look is basically impossible because no person is naturally born with a perfect body.
It keeps women discontented with their bodies and always looking for ways to get to change and perfect their bodies which cannot be done. Good body image is extremely important in order to have mental and physical happiness. Body image is inﬂuenced by mood, self-esteem, previous experiences, cultural background, previous relationships and the interactions with our family and friends. The image we have about ourselves is sometimes based on opinions received from other people’s idea on what we should look like. The body image and self-esteem perceptions are related because a speciﬁc individual who has a healthy image about herself is also likely to have high self-esteem. Basically, body image is shaped by the message we receive from others, the assumptions of what we should look like is based on how we see each other.
A study that surveyed nearly 600 Muslim women in Britain asked whether or not they wore the religious head scarf called the hijab all the time, sometimes, or never and then asked them questions on how they felt about their bodies. The study found that there was a small difference between the two groups but across the board, on average, the group that wore the hijab some of the time or most of the time, had a better body image and better self-esteem. The women were more satisﬁed with their weight, they didn’t strive to be thin, and they weren’t as inﬂuenced by media. They appreciated what their bodies could do for them. “The take- home message, I think, is maybe that individuals who challenge society‘s norms of beauty seem to have better body images,” Swami tells NPR. ”The hijab allows you to do that in a certain way [in Britain]. Feminism does the same thing.”
Religion can have a positive effect on body image. For example, in the Bible, it says that people were created in the image of God. It also states that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. Knowing that a person is made in the image of God by God gives value to that life and to that body by that individual. That person also receives value from the rest of the congregation or church who believe in the same principles. A woman knowing she is made by the Creator of the Universe, could put more value in them self than someone who doesn’t share that same belief. “Women with eating disorders had lower self-esteem and higher levels of symptoms of depression. But for all women, more frequent religious attendance and a strong prayer life were signiﬁcant predictors of lower rates of depression.
Those who considered religion important in their lives and prayed regularly also had higher levels of self-esteem.” The Catholic Church is also trying to battle the relentless influence of the media on its more vulnerable membership. With the introduction of cell phones with cameras and children having access to millions of digital photos and the internet, the vulnerable have become even more vulnerable to low self-esteem and poor body image. This generation of teenagers, especially girls, are obsessed with taking pictures of themselves known as “selﬁes” which has become a deﬁnition of who they are. They better dare not look bad in a selﬁe or any picture of themselves that is put up on social media, so they are constantly ﬁxing their hair, doing their makeup, wearing fashionable clothes in order to look perfect for the world to see them.
The selﬁe or any picture of a teenager leads them to the pursuit of perfection of their body so they can meet the social standard of having a perfect body and look beautiful. In response to this message to pursue the perfection of beauty, the Catholic Church is countering with the approach that humans are created in the image of God, imago Dei. A person’s value is not based in their beauty but in the eye of their Creator. Mercy Academy, an all-girls catholic school in Louisville, Kentucky created a campaign at the school called “You Are Not a Princess” ““Our message was that we teach our girls to look beyond themselves to share with others the love, spirit, kindness, and grace of God. We want them to be leaders who stand up for those who do not have a voice in this world. We want them to be strong in their faith and love for God,” says Elstone.
The campaign garnered national recognition. “We found that our message was one that young women needed to hear, and more importantly, wanted to hear,” Elstone says. “They are not the traditional princesses who are helpless, dependent on their beauty and bodies, and waiting for princes to save them. Young girls need to be the authors of their own stories. “ In conclusion, the media’s depiction of women describes a standard of beauty that is unrealistic and unachievable for most people, especially women and young girls, who live in our society today. Models and celebrities that are shown in all forms of popular media are usually underweight but are broadcasted to the world as a healthy active ﬁgure, which sends a powerful message that people must sacriﬁce their health to be considered attractive to keep up with our societal standard of perfection and beauty.
The media has led to the destruction and breakdown of self conﬁdence among women and teenagers because it has distorted and manipulated society’s View of beauty by what it has portrayed to us as viewers. The media is presenting images and descriptions of unhealthy women which in turn, is delivering the wrong message to the vulnerable viewers who desperately want to achieve the “perfect” body and look. Although there is so much negativity of body image through the media, religion has proven that it has a positive effect on body image because most people who believe in a religion are taught to not be conceited and self-absorbed but to love each other and respect their bodies because they are made with a purpose.
They are taught that their Creator made them exactly the way they were supposed to be and that He doesn’t make mistakes. Religious people are taught to believe in something greater than themselves so they do not put as much emphasis on ”self” as non-religious people. A religious person believes they were created in the image of God, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them.” Knowing that a person is created in the image of God, usually gives them reverence and a respect for their body. They know they were created for a purpose by Him and that they don’t need to conform to the standards of today’s society’s unrealistic standard of beauty and perfection. A religious person has a sense they don’t need to compare themselves to today’s media because they already have the highest approval of their Creator.