What role does media images of beauty play in individual’s perception of their own bodies?
Do the media bear a responsibility when it comes to making people feel good or bad about themselves?
Why or why not?
Body Perception: The Myth Behind the Media
It’s a sad world indeed when people can no longer view themselves as beautiful, pretty, or even acceptable because they can’t measure up to the physical standards of movie stars or super models or winners in beauty pageants. It’s very rare to see someone in the media who is glorified for who he/she is and not what he/she looks like. Men must meet the standard for being very muscular, trim, and tattooed, whereas women must meet the standard for weighing very little, being extremely thin, busty, and preferably tall. I don’t fit that mold. I’m not excessively thin, tall, or voluptuous. I don’t wear extremely tight clothing, wear a lot of make-up, live in stilettos, or look like a super model. I’m an average girl with lots of aspirations and dreams. My body does NOT define me.
Instead of researching this topic on the internet, I’d like to share my autobiography that answers this question according to my own experience. About three years ago, I began my battle with anorexia nervosa. I succumbed to all the pressures that had been placed upon me from the media, from the internet, from the literature, from society, and even from my friends/family. Therefore, I began my journey by cutting down on calories and replacing sweets with fruit. No cake; no cookies; no candy… just fruit. I began cutting out almost all meat. Fat was an absolute NO NO! Carrots, apples, and celery sticks became a staple. Even though I “thought” I was being healthy, my mentality became obsessively focused on losing weight and getting thin. Soon, I began an exercise regimen, but it also became a snare to me, as I would not go to bed without completing a 30-60 minute home workout, including 90 sit-ups, so many push-ups, crunches, and toning exercises. It was so difficult to keep up with, but I had an iron will and a central focus: GET THIN! Depression soon overpowered me, and I stopped enjoying mealtime with my family. It was a battle every single night. “Eating” was a struggle. I always felt guilty. I always felt like a failure. I felt like no one understood me and no one cared. The opposite was true, I just didn’t see it. Before a year had gone by, I was down to 106 lbs. I had lost anywhere from 20-30 lbs. I’m 5’6 ½ “, so I looked like I was sick all of the time. In reality, I felt sick. I felt exhausted. I felt as if my energy had been zapped from me, no matter how much sleep I got. Pretty soon, my close friends and family became worried about me and constantly tried to convince me “just eat”. I couldn’t betray myself like that. However, before long, my mom started working with me through a very strenuous and emotionally exhaustive process of counseling session, weekly weigh-ins, and the establishment of a weekly eating plan to help me. After 2 ½ years of agony, I finally surrendered myself to a healthy, happier lifestyle. The guilt vanished. The pain lessened dramatically. I FELT again. It was a grueling journey, but through the power of faith and the support of my amazing family, I pulled through. It’s not worth the suffering and torture to be thin. The media has been lying to us about the need to be thin and skinny. It has proposed the false concept that being skinny is the only means to beauty. I’m a living, breathing testimony here to tell you that THAT’S NOT TRUE. Beauty comes from within. Weight and body shape do NOT define a person. A person’s inner self is the only means to attaining TRUE BEAUTY.
By: Phylicia Schelling