Beauty, Body Image, and the Media

People nowadays tend to be overly-conscious about their appearance due to the increasing popularity of social media. Media always shows pictures of models and popular celebrities that look too good to be true. This leads women into thinking that how these models look is the ideal beauty standard that they need to follow. Beauty in general has no specific standard and varies across different places and eras (Frederick, Forbes, Gentle, Reynolds & Walters, 2015). However, media has caused these standards to become distorted in the eyes of others.

With media being able to connect people from all over the world, trends are quicker in reaching and influencing people. Media often instigates beauty ideals that can influence a person’s self-presentation and standards which translates to changing the way they look and how they present themselves to other people (Santarossa & Woodruff 2017).

For many women, beauty is often regarded as a symbol of popularity and status because many believe that beautiful people are the ones that are loved and accepted by all.

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Media supports these standards by showing only near-perfect models in their advertisement campaigns (Gordon, 2010). Without a doubt, when women see such advertisements, they will question their own beauty and end up thinking of ways to improve themselves (Britt, 2015). According to Mr. R. Dui (personal communication, March 30, 2019), these advertisements readily influence people to accept what is being perceived by society as a norm or standard. Though there is nothing wrong with wanting to look good, the beauty standards that media set are unreasonable and not everyone could achieve the ideal look.

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Women who were born in different places have different ethnicities, colors, and features which is why it is impossible for everyone to look the same. According to Mr. R. Balang (personal communication, March 30, 2019), beauty standards are standards that are not written but are embraced worldly by many people.

The problem with the constantly changing beauty standards of media is that people have to keep changing themselves in order to adhere to these standards. What may be attractive before may not be attractive now. In the past, people preferred plump and curvaceous bodies as their ideal standard which nowadays would have been considered fat. Another instance was during the 1920s in which the ideal body was a more flat-chested boyish appearance wherein during the 1950s the ideal body was that of Audrey Hepburn’s and Grace Kelly. All these recent changes in women’s desired body sizes have been explored drastically. A lot of studies and analyses have shown that women’s ideal body standards have become consistently much smaller over the years (Ogden, 2010).

The way people think today is that whatever they see online is right and normal and whatever else that is not seen on media is incorrect. This causes women to become more insecure and vulnerable to criticisms because of the build-up of uncertainty and negativity towards themselves. Aside from that, it also causes oppression which hinders them from enjoying themselves (Bastos & Pessoa, 2009). It is normal that everyone has a different view of what is beautiful to them and what is not. But the common problem is that people are never satisfied with the way they look and always compare themselves to other people. According to Oliver (2006) as stated in the article by (Bastos & Pessoa, 2009) labels become internalized by people who do not reach the standards and will lead them to think that something is wrong with them or that they must change something in order to reach a particular ideal.

The thing about media is that it has the power to change people’s minds and perceptions about themselves. In fact, according to Ms. A. Gopez (personal interview, March 30, 2019) whenever she is unsure of a certain product she usually bases her decision on the reviews of people online. This statement further shows that media is one-way beauty products are able to advertise and sell their products because it has the ability to sway people. Models used on online advertisements, magazines, and other media platforms are close to perfect without almost a single flaw spotted on them (Santarossa & Woodruff 2017). According to Ms. M. Ang (personal communication, April 1, 2019), she stated that whenever she saw pictures of models in advertisements, she felt envious towards them. As a result of this, women often make plans to buy certain cosmetic products or visit certain cosmetic clinics in order to enhance their look (Britt, 2015). This is exactly what media wants women to do by setting a high standard of beauty in order to make them feel like they are not enough which resorts to them buying cosmetics and seeking unnatural enhancements available.

According to a study conducted by Ma and Zexin (2016) showed that females are more susceptible to depression compared to males. This is because women are more affected by criticisms and care more about the way they look than men. It does not help that media supports these unattainable beauty standards which in turn, makes it harder for women to feel good about themselves (Gordon, 2000). Though social media is a convenient and useful tool in our generation, it is believed that the standards of beauty as set by media could lead to the criticism of others, discontentment in oneself, and physical and mental disorders.

Social media acts as a channel for criticism because it serves as a venue wherein people can voice out their thoughts and opinions (Britt, 2015). Nowadays, the use of social networking sites has globalized vastly. Among the different social media platforms, Facebook is the most widely used. Media in general has an effect wherein its users are interconnected to each other and give them a glimpse of other people’s personal lives. It also promotes faster interaction in which news and information can easily be passed on from various places to different people (Saluja & Karan, 2016). This, in turn, may enable different people to scrutinize or judge one’s posts. Although convenient, media’s features coupled with its standards of beauty may cause criticism among different peers because of how one does not fit into what is categorized as beautiful (Jan, Soomro, and Ahmad, 2017).

On the other hand, while social media is useful, convenient, and a platform for people to express themselves, it can also cause issues to one’s self-esteem. The thing about social media is that it makes the personal profiles of users into a channel wherein people can view, scrutinize, and judge. Putting one’s photo out in the public can become a way for people to criticize and leave negative remarks which leads to a decrease in the person’s self-esteem. These negative feedbacks and criticisms are shown to have a very strong effect on the confidence of a person (Jan, Soomro, & Ahmad, 2017). While negative feedbacks can lower self-esteem, positive feedback is said to increase self-esteem to a very high degree. Thus, one could not avoid being criticized if they do not fit into a certain category due to the high beauty standards that the media set. (Saluja & Karan, 2016).

Due to many technological advancements, social media has become a part of people’s daily lives. People have grown accustomed to it that they feel like something is missing if they do not have their phones with them because they cannot check their feeds (Santarossa & Woodruff, 2017). Many people in the present time have become active in different media platforms. Even in businesses and various establishments, people have been creating an online presence for themselves since they know that practically everyone uses social media (Britt, 2015). However, people also need to monitor their posts because whatever is out there suddenly becomes everyone’s business. As an effect of social media, many young people have grown to become overly critical of themselves if they do not look a certain way. Since social media dictates is the norm, people find ways to reach that certain standard to be regarded by society as beautiful and gain certain benefits (Saluja & Karan, 2016).

Social media could also lead to the discontentment of oneself because of how it portrays beauty in an unattainable manner. According to Britt (2015), what people see online will consciously lead them into thinking about their own bodies and attractiveness. Being exposed to media makes one become dissatisfied with themselves and cause them to constantly think of ways on how they can improve their looks. This is because of the amount of influence that media exudes and how fast it reaches its users (Santarossa & Woodruff, 2017).

Over the decade, body dissatisfaction and unhealthy behaviors have started to increase drastically due to media (Gotlib & Hammen, 1995). People were also starting to want to change their appearances to look like famous celebrities and models that they see on online advertisements. There was also the commotion about body shape and the trend of using cosmetic products which are said to improve one’s looks. In addition, media has also been promoting cosmetic clinics that offer different unnatural procedures on the face and body which are said to make one’s face more attractive (Frederick, Forbes, Gentle, Reynolds & Walters, 2015). These trends have caused many women to become self-conscious and not go out of the house without putting on their makeup because they feel unattractive. In addition, they are also scared of what other people might say about them. Media’s standards of beauty have gone to the point where some people were bullied and made fun of for not looking good enough (Bastos & Pessoa, 2009). As a result of this, many people resort to cosmetic clinics and are willing to shell out a large amount of money to eradicate their flaws and look their best. All the focus on attractiveness and body shapes were causing people to become exhausted and distracted from other important matters in their lives (Gordon, 2000).

Physical and mental disorders are one of the most common disorders associated with women. This is mainly due to the fact that women are obsessed with changing their looks in order to mimic the flawless girls they see in online advertisements. Some become desperate in improving themselves physically that eventually results to also stressing themselves mentally due to their inability to reach their physical goals. A number of people even resort to extreme dieting methods to lose fat, while some simply vomit whatever they ate in order to not gain weight as stated by (Gotlib & Hammen, 1995) and (Gordon, 2010). These methods can be dangerous because they may lead to Anorexia. This disorder causes the constant want to become thinner than they already are. People who have this, fear that succumbing to hunger will eventually lead to weight gain which will affect their overall appearance (Gordon, 2010). There were instances before wherein a person who has this disorder is already underweight, yet they still see themselves as obese which results to them continuing to use dangerous methods in hopes to reduce fat and their overall weight (Ogden, 2010). While there is nothing wrong with wanting to look attractive, such extreme dieting methods can lead to many health problems and in the worst case, death. If an individual decides to suddenly decrease their food intake, it has a corresponding reduction on the amount of energy being absorbed by the body. In addition, (Friedman, 1998) also stated that people who were on a diet usually showed signs of irritability, distress, and emotional instability.

Media often uses skinny models with skeletal-like bodies in their advertisements which unconsciously influences women into thinking that one’s body should have little to no fat in order to achieve the ideal shape (Dutchen, 2010). Although too much fat is harmful, some of it is still needed for a person’s body to store energy and insulate the body (Gordon, 2010). Most of the time, fat is usually associated with obesity which is why women want to get rid of it in order to achieve a slim and toned body. The media’s portrayal of obesity is often shown in a negative manner wherein obese people are often the ones being humiliated and made fun of due to their thickness. This can also be seen in movies that show obese characters are often the ones who are bullied. In addition, most viewers often dislike characters who are hefty because they are unappealing to look at compared to other beautiful actresses on television. Another physical disorder caused by the media’s unattainable beauty standards is muscular dystrophy. This disorder is the result of too much exercise which causes the weakening and loss of muscle mass (Muscle Dystrophy, 2018). One way women stress their bodies out is by exercising too much or by limiting their food intake to reach a certain body weight to reach a certain body shape shown in media. The problem with too much exercise is that it can make the body more prone to physical disorders and if not treated properly, could be life-threatening (Bastos & Pessoa, 2019).

Aside from physical disorders, the media’s standards of beauty may also cause mental disorders in women. According to Ma (2016), mental illnesses are common across the world, and the majority of this is in third world countries. These are due to many factors that affect a person’s mental health and a big part of it comes from media itself. While it is true that media provides society with a lot of benefits, but if not used properly could be detrimental to its users. Media can cause people to developmental disorders such as depression and anxiety. This is because people can freely voice out their opinions online whether this may be good or bad. People’s words have the ability to easily lower other people’s self-esteem and cause them to become stressed which in turn may cause depression and anxiety. Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety change a person’s behavioral and thinking patterns. Sometimes media causes a person to constantly overthink and worry about their appearances which in turn, causes the development of anxiety (Rashid, 2018). According to Felman (n.d.), a person may develop anxiety by regular disproportionate levels of distress, worry or fear from something that may trigger it. Similar to depression, anxiety can also be caused by environmental factors. Furthermore, stress also plays a huge role in anxiety due to the hormonal imbalance in the body. These hormonal changes are a result of the buildup of spiteful comments by other people on social media which can easily turn a confident person into someone who is mentally ill and doubtful of himself.

Aside from anxiety, social media may also cause depression. According to Rashid (2018), media can harm the mental health of teenagers especially those who trade their sleep for a few more hours of scrolling through their feeds because their bodies become tired and lack rest which makes them more prone to developing depression. Depression usually occurs when a person develops a hormone imbalance in their body, specifically in the area where hormones are created which is called the Hippocampus (Harvard health publishing, n.d.). Furthermore, according to Strauman, Costanzo, & Garber (2011), seeing as how women are more vulnerable to the criticisms of others and are more conscious about their appearance, the media often uses this to their advantage. One way is by showing women that using cosmetic products can make them look more attractive compared to those who do not use them. Once they start using these products and do not see the results that they expect, women become stressed, and more often than not, they become depressed with themselves.

Based on the data collected as well as the answers of the study’s interviewees, it is proven that the beauty standards that social media set could indeed lead to harmful effects such as the criticism of others, discontentment in oneself, and physical and mental disorders. Most of the interviewees agreed with this, and most studies showed proof that these harmful effects are indeed encountered by the majority of women around the world. The main problem in social media’s beauty standards is the fact that each place has its own standard of beauty. Each country is composed of people with different ethnicities, colors, and opinions. Social media instigated a single beauty standard and deemed those who were not able to adhere to those standards as unattractive. Media caused people to follow these standards which resulted to many negative effects that led women to search for extreme methods and unnatural procedures to improve themselves. Women became vainer and spent more time obsessing over how they look instead of focusing on what is truly important in life. They deprive themselves on the things that could truly and genuinely make them happy such as their family. If women learn to love themselves and those around them, they would not be dissatisfied with themselves. If they learn to accept that there is no such thing as a perfect face and body then they would not succumb to mental disorders that are caused by criticisms of other people who want to bring them down. Women should instead empower each other by spreading awareness that beauty is not all about having a beautiful face and body, but rather having a beautiful heart and mind to share with those around them. A beautiful woman is a person who embraces her flaws and is happy with the way she is. People should free themselves from such narrow mindsets on beauty and should not allow media to dictate how they should look. Everyone should learn that true beauty lies within and that every person has their own unique beauty.

The researchers suggest that more research should be done in order to learn more about the harmful effects that are brought about by the media’s standards of beauty. Future researchers may also tackle and look more into other negative effects of media aside from discontentment of oneself, criticisms of others, and physical and mental disorders. In addition, social media’s constantly changing beauty standards may be further analyzed to produce a more informative, updated, and accurate paper for the readers.

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Beauty, Body Image, and the Media. (2020, Sep 12). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/beauty-body-image-and-the-media-essay

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