Barbie was normal when I was a young girl, dressing her up, brushing her hair and trying to find matching shoes before the dog ate them. Marsha (Brady Bunch) had the long blonde hair that she brushed a hundred times before bed. Twiggy was the thin model with no breasts, which I could relate to as I was called bean pole, but Farrah and Cheryl Tiegs were on the walls of most boys. This was normal in a way that it surrounded my youth and gave me a comparison. I did not think of self-esteem and was not aware of how I really felt about myself until my twenties. I came to the realization that I had developed a need to be told or have confirmation on how ‘good’ I looked. A compliment junkie, searching for some shred of assurance that I too processed acceptable beauty and was not below average. Of course even average was diluted in my mind. This annoying impetuous longing for praise on my looks became even worse with more media exposure of women’s focused beauty.
The media in forms of internet, magazines, TV and even billboards supported images of thin beautiful women that looked nothing like me. These women are used to getting attention and the ads get attention to sell many products and mostly to women. The many commercials’ and ads that depict scantily dressed models with air brushed skin focus on women and the need to ‘keep up with Jones’. “Look what this product can do for you”. Exactly where do we turn but inward for some direction when your confidence is low, the first instinct is buy and try any product to help you look and feel better.
The covers of women’s magazines are baring women, very fit women and the headline tags the know-how to make yourself over, so you too can look that way.
Finding that I could not look this way turned me into a lazy person. Lazy in a way that ‘why bother’ was a dominant phrase and one I could use to ‘beat’ myself with. It became a weapon to lower self-esteem, allowing me the excuse to give up in the process. This can lead to unhealthy eating and a sedentary lifestyle. It may even reflect on the wardrobe and track pants might be the proof of this.
Frustrated with what became the norm, I can understand how many women will fall into eating disorders and distorted body images. With more prevalent and drowning coverage of remarkable beauty that not all women can achieve without a make-up and effects team on hand, women and young girls have more to face with self-image issues.
Are there more unhealthy body images than there were before and is the media the source of it?
We know that sexy sells and we could blame the opposite sex for the tribulation of it. It is possible that we would be pointing the finger in the wrong direction just so we have the excuse not to admit that we are someone who has been absorbed by falsehoods and naive expectations.
Guilt from feeling the effects also wave havoc on self-image. No one wants to be considered vane or conceded; how important looks are, something many women are very good at hiding. A woman’s desire to achieve beauty and self-confidence has become clouded in many directions and from many resources. We may experience different life experiences but one common domination is that the media reaches us all. How we perceive it may be different but once again it is starting to prove apparent we are not much different in how we receive and use the information from the media, especially in how it makes us feel.
Instead of the typical reference to diet, comes the ‘yo-yo’ self-confidence, a good hair day can lift me up and a bad hair day can through me for a loop. I have often wondered why this drastic change in how I feel about myself manifested so securely in my life. I have thrown anger towards the media and played the blame game. Do I honestly want to look like those women that depict beauty in our social surround? Can it be that I do not know of any other type of beauty and have unjustly judged myself with this benchmark set?
Women have always had the stigma of mood swings and stereotypical profiles that we live with. “Is it your time of month or something?” The truth is, I would analyze to figure out if that was the reason first. When I had two beautiful daughters, I struggled with how to protect them from self-esteem issues. It is something you do not want them to deal with. How do you overdo it or discuss how the media is ‘just pretend’ without coming off a bitter old lady?
Realizing how distorted my own body image is, I am able to set aside my doubts and take it easy on me.
The odd thing about this whole business is that I am not overweight, a bit out of shape but I have sex appeal. I am also old enough to know it is all in my head. It can take over without you ever realizing why you feel the way you do. A sort of brainwashing per se, we get so busy and then realize it is time to take care of ourselves and right at the door offering us the help to start our caring process is many unrealistic images of beauty.
Is there a way to reverse the effects of years of exposure to media illusions? What is the proper portrayal of women? Do we keep it so diverse that we may not notice size, age and color? Can it all be undone and how so?
In all fairness it could be said that, I let myself wallow in the unrealistic visions that surrounded me, and have not done the maintenance to my self confidence that was so needed; but I honestly had no clue.