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In today’s world, women strive to achieve perfection. When in reality, perfection can’t be achieved. Therefore, you will find them struggling with their own body image and feel embarrassed of themselves. The struggle is caused by society’s abnormally high expectations of women. The sociological imagination is a way to picture society outside of its own box. It allows a person to understand how society works and how individual lives are affected by it. It is important to personal and public issues in the sense that the two relate to each other and can always draw back to a sociological conclusion. For instance, the issue of a women struggling with her own body image may be a personal issue, but it is also a public issue since it has become an ongoing issue for women as a group. For example, magazines portray photo-shopped women that have achieved the perfect look. Those kinds of images cause women to obsess over the size their bodies and how to they can make themselves look perfect. The sociological imagination allows us to understand how women have come to feel so negatively about their bodies.
Throughout my life time, I remember seeing plenty of magazines with pictures of models I saw as completely flawless. I was told when I was younger that I was a pretty girl and that I had the potential to grow up to be like one of those flawless women because I was skinny and tall and had striking facial features. Women like my grandmother and my mother played a major role in convincing me I was made to be a model, dressing me up in nice clothes and taking me to get my picture made. Naturally, when I hit puberty, problems occurred. Like every other teenage, I would get acne. The worst part of it was how often it was pointed out to me that I had acne and how I needed to get rid of it. Since acne isn’t the easiest to get rid of, it ended up in me learning how to use makeup to hide it. I was also shown tricks by my mother and by other girls my age how to “enhance my appearance” using makeup such as eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick. Not long after that, I was told I wear too much makeup, and it became a balancing act of how to make myself look pretty but not too much “like a hooker.” Another aspect of my appearance that got pointed out was my body shape. I would get a lot of comments by my peers on how I was too skinny. It was told I needed to have curves to be attractive. It suddenly became a big deal to me whether my breasts were considered large or not. The world of push-up bras and tight-fitting clothing quickly became something I was familiar with. Again, after I began to worry about the shape of my body, I was told to “dress modestly” and “don’t dress like a hooker, no boy will find that attractive” while at the same time hearing “guys like girls that have hot bodies.” Finally, I decided if I couldn’t fake my bra size, I would have to gain weight. I gained ten pounds after eating as much as I could on a daily basis. Again, I would hear “wow, you use to be so skinny!” as if I were suddenly overweight, and I was told what I was doing was considered binge eating. I’ve struggled profusely with my body image throughout my life and found that it was always my number one concern. It seemed like I could please no one and that there was no where I could meet in the middle between all of these comments. It was a very depressing time for me, especially at such a young age. Being concerned about my appearance was something that had been ongoing for me since the age of nine. It’s still something I struggle with to this day, but not as much anymore since I’ve come to accept that perfection isn’t something that exists in this world.
Many women experience issues with their body image. It seems as if it is almost a part of our genetic makeup to dislike what we look like, when in reality it is a part of a larger social issue that has to do with the expectations of women. The International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health states that “in our society, adolescents take into high account aesthetic appearance, as it is considered a very important advantage to establish social relationships, and aim to have a good body image, obtained by correcting possible defects” (“Dental Aesthetics Perception. . .”). This takes in to account that appearance is an important part of succeeding in society, whether it be a romantic relationship or a professional relationship, since society tends to gravitate towards attractiveness. The awareness of your appearance is so prominent in young women because “adolescents are highly concerned about their body image, which plays an important role in both their psychological and social regulation” (“Dental Aesthetics Perception. . .”). Considering that I started to be concerned with what everyone thought of my physical appearance at such a young age, I believe that adolescence is where this issue sparks in most women. This is how low self-esteem starts early and becomes a reoccurring problem for women throughout their life. Low self-esteem can be what sparks potential eating disorders, which is associated with the fight for perfection.
Since media has been such a big part of the everyday lives of many citizens across the globe, its components have a major effect on how society functions. The people we see advertised are what we feel we are expected to be. Considering that social media has become increasingly popular in the last few years, it is the most recent and most effective role in the struggles with body image. “Research Directions in Social Media and Body Image” states that “individuals with low self-esteem and those who strive for perfection may be especially influenced by media images of a thin ideal” (Andsager 408). This is very profound in women because it has been found that “women use Facebook and Instagram at slightly but statistically significantly higher rates than men” (408). Considering that young girls spend a lot of their free time on social media, they are frequently exposed to the images that promote how they body should look. However, social media isn’t the only form of media that promotes this. Magazines, music videos, and television shows play a very large role in showing women how they are supposed to look. Although, every form of media is different, “exposure to different types of body images correlate with different types of body dissatisfaction . . . [it was] hypothesized that societal pressure to have the perfect body and using media as a source of information would mediate the relation between media exposure” (Pritchard, Cramblitt 210, 216). Each form of media exposes a person to a different type of body image. Such as, magazines expose women to overly doctored pictures that are highly unrealistic. Magazines have been said to have body images that are completely impossible to achieve unless you have a rare body type. While music videos tend to contain overly sexualized women, whose curves are typically emphasized. Television shows tend to go one way or the other. In today’s world, we are constantly exposed to media, therefore it has the biggest effect on how we live our lives. Through every body image that is displayed, women find a new figure to model themselves after, and it becomes a struggle to become everything the media expects women to be. The social norm has become that women can never be or have too much of one characteristic, they have to meet a balance that is almost impossible to create. Therefore, women’s lives become a balancing act.
The sociological imagination shows us how many women today began to feel so negatively about their body image. It shows us how negative body image amongst women isn’t just a personal conflict, but a public issue. It also shows us that this issue was created from society’s expectations and that those expectations came from media platforms that women are exposed to everyday. It helps us to better understand where to understand and fix the problems of negative body image, low self-esteem issues, and eating disorders. By going through and coming to understand where the problem sparks, I can mentor myself in to steering away from the thought process of low self-esteem, as well as other women around me.
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