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From the day we are born to the day that we start recognizing the things and world around us, our perceptions of ourselves and others change and evolve. It is in human nature to judge the surroundings in which we reside in. More often than not, we start to form a general idea of what perfect looks like, what average looks like, and what mediocre looks like in society. This all stems from the appearances and facades that are put out by various industries, media, and the society. In a time where social media has a tremendous influence on humans, unfortunately, many people make predictions based on what is perfect and what is not. However, the associations we make based on the things we see can vary and then sets an incomplete image. This results in an unsatisfactory understanding of what to be and what not to be. This unsatisfactory understanding and dilemma immensely shakes our self-esteem. The way we perceive our bodies and the self-esteem associated with it is caused by how social media conveys a message to individuals on body ideals, health and stereotypes.
There have been an increasingly amount of debates whether social media has a negative understanding of what an ideal body should look like for a male or a female. In our western society, images of unattainable body figures have dominated and haunted many individuals. Social media often displays a false reality in magazines, movies, television and social media sites. The images that are displayed and idolized are often of tall, thin and fair women without imperfections. Men are portrayed to be muscular, handsome and quite tall with without imperfections as well.
From a very young age, children are also forced into believing that what the media portrays is perfect. For instance, I as a toddler received many dolls and believed that they were perfect, and as I got older, I would too in some unspecified time in the future appear as if that. Similar to “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I was easily vulnerable and convinced that I could not personally identify myself with what I was used to seeing in media and the impressions made by the toys or the stories I have read in books. Not only were images bothersome and biased, but it was also problematic for my self-esteem. It convinced me that who and what I am was not appealing or worthy enough in society for not looking perfect. The things we see and whether we look as close to the models is an indication of how successful we are in pleasing the greater population of individuals who live their lives on social media. It is no surprise that many people go through extensive procedures such as lip fillers, lifts and even plastic surgery to achieve the status of being appealing in society. This clearly indicates how something like looking good the way society and media portrays it can be manipulative and impacting a greater part of one’s self esteem.
Furthermore, social media has become a massive target for people’s health. One of the ideal traits of a man or a woman in the media consists of having little to no obvious body fat. The thinner or muscular and toned the body, then it is more likely associated with someone who has a very active and healthy lifestyle as compared to someone who has a significant amount of body fat. In that instance, that person is more likely to be associated with someone who is lazy and makes a significant amount of unhealthy lifestyle choices. I believe to have a body type of someone who is thick in appearance, containing a lot of body fat. I am often treated less kindly and looked down upon as compared to a friend who is a lot taller and thinner with little to no body fat. At the gym, I am more often times than not advised or directed to start adding cardio or weight training more often to lose the excess fat on my body. I am automatically considered to be someone who binge eats or lacks interest in caring for my health. As the media continues to portray these fictitious attributes on models through heavily photoshopping, many people subject to constantly monitoring and assessing their body despite knowing an ideal body portrayed by media is unattainable. Regardless, many individuals fall into the trap of trying to attain a well enough figure accepted by society. This typically results in dissatisfaction of oneself. Unfortunately, this brings upon a very conscious effort to try and change the naturally given physical appearance in any way possible to attain the unattainable.
One study has found that when men and women read fitness magazines, they tend to become more dissatisfied with their bodies. The media does not intend for people to exercise and weight train in order to become healthier, rather, it is advertised to become physically appealing. Often, the idolized images result in people going to intensive diet practices and facing eating disorders that all negatively impact health. In addition, the stereotypical characters shown in the media have a lasting impression on many individuals, many of whom are young children and teenagers. For example, at a younger age characters in movies and tv shows are portrayed to be strong and heroic. However, in the teen years, characters begin to incorporate relationships and sex which portray women as being submissive and weak whereas the men are portrayed to be dominant and strong.
Growing up I always believed that women will always be overruled by their emotions and will remain to be weak regardless of how much they have been through. My assumption was heavily based on tv shows that idolized women as damsels in distress. Many princess Disney movies portray this message and because of this blurred lens, the initial perception of my body and my thoughts were greatly influenced. Whether it was from learning in movies that girls had to walk a certain way to girls had to dress and behave as innocent as can be. Whereas for men, many of these stereotypes encouraged them to think highly of themselves and portray a front that only men are capable of. For many audiences that are greatly influenced by what the media has to offer, these stereotypes and characterizations of certain individuals can lead to very inaccurate assumptions of what being an ideal person is like. This often leads to harmful conclusions based on false information.
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