How would you define beauty if you’d never watched a movie or television show, got on the internet, read a magazine or saw a billboard?
In a survey of girls 9 and 10 years old, 40% have tried to lose weight, according to an ongoing study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
By the time a girl is in 2nd or 3rd grade 4 out of 10 have already dieted. #BeginRage
Thankfully, I made it to 6th grade before I started hating the way I looked. As an active kid I was always thin. Then puberty struck, hormones went haywire, and I put on about 20 pounds between 5th and 6th grade. This was the beginning of my gain/lose weight evolution.
I remember Dad teasing me about my hips. I remember my face breaking out so bad I’d cry and beg my Mom not to make me go to school. I remember boys teasing me saying I had ‘dog hair’ because I hadn’t quite figured out how to tame my frizzy, wavy locks.
In 5th grade I was happy and confident because I had self-esteem that was not contingent on my outward appearance. I was fiercely competitive and often dominated field day events. I was smart, and prided myself on finishing my homework before class even got out so I could go ask the teacher if there was anything I could help them with in the classroom. I don’t recall ever thinking about how I looked. The only memory I do have is when my Mom finally caved and bought me some Levi’s shorts that all the cool kids wore.
In a few short months all that changed and I entered middle school feeling like a foreigner in my own body. Puberty is traumatic. This experience was made 100x worse as I started reading fashion magazines, wearing make-up, and obsessing over keeping up with the ‘cool kids’ fashions. From that point on to my early 20’s I learned that no matter how athletic I was, or how smart I was, what really mattered was what size I wore and how pretty I could make myself look.
Last week I had the chance to watch two incredible documentaries that touch on the impact the media has on female’s body image, self-esteem, and overall mental health. Miss Representation is available to watch instantly on Netflix, or for $1.99 on Youtube. If you are a woman you should watch this. If you have a daughter you should make her watch this. If you are a man you should watch this. Get the drift?
America the Beautiful is a few years older, and not quite as ‘flashy’ as Miss Representation, but I enjoyed it because it was produced by a man. It was interesting to see his take on how the media attacks women. This film is also available to view instantly on Netflix.
A few years ago I decided to get rid of cable and I quit reading most magazines. Maybe I’m hyper aware of the effect they have on me, but I could tell that they were having a negative impact on my psyche. I don’t care how much I workout or how hard I work I’ll never be thin enough or rich enough to live up to those standards. Nor do I want to be. After I watched these documentaries I had a few tweets scheduled to go up and the first one was ’10 ways to make your weight loss resolutions stick.’ I deleted it as soon as I saw it had posted. It just seemed so silly after everything I had learned that day. Clearly I’m a health nut, I love to workout 5-6 times a week, and I still count calories to make sure I’m eating an appropriate amount. However, I don’t want it to seem as though I do this all for vain reasons. Of course I want to look ‘good’ (whatever that means), but I also want to be healthy, and happy (exercise is my anti-anxiety medication.)
Companies will continue to use unrealistic ideals of physical appearance to sell their products, and consumers will continue to fall for their empty promises.
When will we take responsibility for how we spend our money and decide that enough is enough?
Have you ever felt bad about your appearance after seeing something in TV or a magazine?
What do you think the first step to stop this cycle is?