You know it’s the start of school when it’s time to get new books, new classes, new teachers, and new anxious feelings. Whether someone is starting middle school, high school, or college, it seems that everyone knows what I’m talking about: the issue of body image.
I remember when I was in 7th grade I used to stand in front of the mirror examining every inch of myself. My arms were a little bigger than my other friends’, my face a little longer than it “should be”, one of my eyes were bigger than the other, I’d have to put more make-up on to cover that mess on my face…I continued to examine myself in the mirror. I thought to myself, “So much is wrong with me! No wonder he doesn’t like me!” I felt like I had to prove myself. I had to impress everyone and show them that I belonged with the in-crowd and that they should like me. I didn’t like standing out or causing too much unnecessary attention, yet I wanted people to know I existed—and being considered “pretty” or “attractive” were definite goals for me. I wanted people to like me. I often thought that I wasn’t “good” enough because guys didn’t openly come up to me and tell me how “hot” or “pretty” I was, like they did to those other 7th grade girls.
This is the problem too many girls have today. With magazines, television, and movie stars telling us what “beauty” and “attractive” are, there is a warped sense of reality. Magazines are filled with pages and pages of advice on how to apply make-up to “impress certain kinds of guy,” how our hair should be, what we should wear for different occasions, and how tall or thin we should be. The media basically dictates who we should be.
Consequently, younger and younger girls are covering their little faces with pounds of make-up, looking more like drag queens than adolescent girls. Girls who are 12 years old should not look like they are turning 23. Even as little girls, we are spoon-fed information about how we should act and what we should “look like.” For example, Barbie is popular, but sometimes sports revealing clothing and is disproportional. However, according to a study done by both Yale and Duke University, if Barbie were a real-life woman, she would be 7 feet, 2 inches tall. Her measurements would have a bust of 39, a waist of 23, and her hips would be 33. With influences like this, girls are affected at a very early age. In 2003, Teen magazine reported that 50 to 70 percent of normal-weight girls believed they are overweight and overall research indicates that 90% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance in some way. Because of the media and society, girls often think and feel that the more attractive and appealing they look, the more they will be liked.
Even though many of these body image issues always seem to center around girls, guys aren’t exempt from these pressures either! They too struggle with unattainable images, one example being the disproportional G.I. Joe doll. It has been said that males link their level of attractiveness with how much muscle definition they have and what their body shape is. Guys are often the target for the latest muscle shaping and gym ads, and similarly to girls are the audiences for different hair products, facial creams, and fragrance ads to seem “more appealing”.
To many people, “beautiful” is often associated with the way a person looks on the outside. To me this is not all of the definition of “beautiful.” Every person in the world is “beautiful” in his or her own way. It may be the way they carry themselves, the way they approach a certain aspect of their life, the way they write a story…there are many different ways to be beautiful. Every person is different and there are no two people who are alike, even if they are twins. Too many people try to change their appearances because the media and society advocate for a certain body type or a certain “look.” Kurt Cobain once said, “I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I’m not” and I completely agree with him. Every person is different and this is a good thing. They shouldn’t conform to what the media, society, and especially what others think they should be like. Every person should have confidence no matter what. Unfortunately many peoples’ opinion really matter—even little comments, such as jokingly calling a someone “fat,” “stupid,” or “dumb” can really have an effect, much deeper than an unsuspecting person may ever know. It’s important for everyone to realize how beautiful and strong they are; it just requires finding it within themselves. One thing is clear: they are not going to find inner strength by comparing themselves to the unrealistic, plastic-laden, touched-up, fake people they see on TV and in magazines. The only way people will realize their true beauty is to look in the mirror and see the beautiful face that stares back at them–because they are beautiful.
Alexis Myers is a Featured Blogger for Mobilize.org’s The Millennial Report. Myers is a rising sophomore at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. and is originally from Phoenix Ariz. She is an advocate against violence towards women and loves to do community service and feels that it should be a part of everyone’s life.
Megan Emme is the New Media Coordinator at Mobilize.org and runs their blogging program, The Millennial Report. Megan is a Junior at San Francisco State University and also works as the SF Regional Coordinator for the Revolution Hunger Campaign. She hopes to pursue a career empowering young people to advocate for themselves as well as make a difference in their communities.