BEAUTY AND BODY IMAGE

“To me, beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin. It’s about knowing and accepting who you are.” -Ellen Degeneres

All over social media and all over society as a whole we hear people being referred to as being either beautiful or ugly, or skinny or fat, or any other comparison where there is a very good connotation to one-half and a very bad connotation to the other. At first, this wasn’t a big issue, but over time as people evolved and technology and information became more and more available, there was more exposure to these predetermined standards set upon the human body. And once something is put in your face enough times, you start to believe it whether you want to or not. As a result, many people nowadays are having self-esteem and self-confidence issues primarily stemming from these predetermined interpretations of beauty. After recently watching and reading a lot about beauty and body image, I felt compelled to write about it, and share my thoughts on the topic.

If you aren’t entirely sure what I’m talking about, what I mean is the unrealistic standards set by celebrities/models, their publishing companies and unhealthy treatment of their bodies, which then in turn “inspires” men and women to act the same way even if it means being unhealthy to their own bodies. This is where it starts. Celebrities like Kylie Jenner become famous for their bodies, and for being pinpoints of beauty. Therefore, when young girls are constantly exposed to pictures and articles about her showing how famous and beautiful she is, these girls feel pressured to look like her if they want to be considered “beautiful” to themselves and others. What these young girls do not know is that while she may look similar to how she looks in the pictures, she has gone through so much makeup and styling along with hours of photo editing to make herself look just like what they are striving to look like naturally.

This isn’t just a girl thing either, even though statistics show it is certainly more common for girls to gain eating disorders and other mental disorders over trying to make themselves beautiful, men experience this too. It may not seem as obvious, but when you think about it, it really is quite plain. Men are judged on their body type as well, but in a different way than us. They are judged on their muscles, and if they have a six pack or nice biceps. It’s just something society has become accustomed to doing, along with judging men based on their height. Many girls want a guy that is taller than them because it makes the guy seem more strong and manly. Well what about the guys who aren’t naturally tall? Why is it okay to standardize how beautiful, or in this case handsome someone is based on how tall they are and not by their other qualities?

Of course this isn’t just something that has to do with the Kardashian Family, but with most celebrities in general. Most celebrities or even just famous people on the internet wear tons of makeup and do their hair/get it done before taking pictures. Along with that, many professional photos are photoshopped so that the people look skinnier with exaggerated curves. Many people compare their natural state or broken out skin, frizzy hair, and body weight to these picturesque images and begin to feel ugly or less beautiful than these people, when in reality we just haven’t been put through as much as them to look like that. Therefore, if people continue to compare themselves to people like that and in that state, they will always feel like they are ugly.

Once a person starts to feel like they are ugly, it can escalate quickly to feelings of worthlessness and overall low self-esteem. I’ve never experienced serious feelings of these things, but I know people who have and it sounds like Hell. It sounds like an unbelievable pit of self-loathing and panic and distress that I can’t even begin to imagine. What’s even more is that feelings of worthlessness aren’t just feelings. They seep out of you into your everyday life, affecting your life. If you think you are worthless, you will start to stop standing up for yourself and just believing what bad things people say about you. On the flip side, you will also start to deny the good things people say about you. Easily, from exposure to so many standards you can begin to think you are less than the other people just like you in this world, and the fact that media can do that is terrifying.

Thankfully, as much as a problem this has been in this generation, there has also been a lot of improvement as well. Many celebrities such as Zendaya, have been taking action against unrealistic standards of beauty. Zendaya in particular took it upon herself to release unedited pictures of her from a recent photo shoot because the edited ones were far too unrealistic for her liking and she didn’t want her fans looking up to that fake version of her. Similarly, there are plenty of celebrities that are fighting the publishers to ensure that their real body is the body that their followers are seeing. Secondly, many companies are creating advertisements that doesn’t only feature stick-skinny models, but also plus-size models and everyday people with everyday body weight. One example is Dove, Dove started their “Dove Campaign For Real Beauty” about ten years ago and it has been pivotal. The videos launched through this campaign became viral quickly exposing the world to things they knew about but had chosen not to believe. The purpose was to educate young girls and women alike that it wasn’t their makeup or hairstyles that made them beautiful, it was themselves. It was a refreshing point of view to see then and it continues to be a basis for many companies and their marketing now. It shows that while some media can promote unhealthy and downright impossible beauty standards, other sources can preach positive messages about body image and loving yourself. Having a positive body image means knowing what your body looks like and being proud of it.

Of course problems with beauty standards aren’t new and problems with worrying about the way we look isn’t solely based off of what we see on TV and online. I’m not saying that this is a brand new issue only our generation is facing, but it sure is becoming a bigger and bigger problem as we become exposed to more via social media and other types of mass communication. So the more we put it out there, hopefully the more we will be able to change our ways. Write about it, post about it, make videos about it. Just show what you know and make it known that we want a change. We want to make sure our models and celebrities are healthy while being fit so that our girls can look up to that and make themselves healthy too. We want to make sure the people we are looking up to are leading us in the right direction. And even though it may seem like not a big deal now, over time it will become more apparent that the repetition of these standards being put in our faces will begin to brainwash us whether we want to believe it or not, so we might as well stop it now and spread the positive body image.

Below I’m linking some of the sources that I’ve come across recently that inspired this post as well as sources that I got some of my information from, so if you are interested keep reading and watching!

Zendaya’s Instagram post: https://instagram.com/p/9FV2sdJmOk/?taken-by=zendaya

Dove Campaign For Real Beauty videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/doveunitedstates/playlists?shelf_id=8&view=50&sort=dd

Dove Campaign For Real Beauty 10th anniversary article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/21/dove-real-beauty-campaign-turns-10_n_4575940.html

Body photoshop before and after: https://youtu.be/17j5QzF3kqE

Teen health and the media: https://depts.washington.edu/thmedia/view.cgi?section=bodyimage&page=fastfacts

Just remember, you only have one body. Be kind to it.

-Lily

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