Mirror, Mirror: How Will I Feel Today?
Tauri Hall, 2003
Fashion magazines seduce us with pictures of the “perfect body”. “Before” and “After” diet pictures speak not only to the weight loss, but strongly imply an incredible lifestyle improvement. Muscle & Fitness magazines, hair-replacement, hair-removal, tanning salons, body building products, weight loss strategies, plastic surgery, moisturizing products to stay looking young – all sell self-confidence along with their products. We are bombarded with messages that we need to “look good to feel good”.
Society’s preoccupation with physical appearance has set us up for failure. Men and women, boys and girls, desperately try to attain the unattainable. Where are the advertisements that promote self-acceptance? Eighty percent of American women have dieted by age eighteen. Eleven percent of high school seniors have an eating disorder. The number of individuals seeking plastic surgery has risen in the last ten years. Steroid use among males has drastically increased; as well, up to one-third of all plastic surgery candidates are men (compared to six percent ten years ago).
Beauty messages not only encourage us to focus on our appearance, they also teach us to evaluate others based on what they look like. They send messages that if we aren’t measuring up to what society deems we should look like then we will be judged by others. Motivated by fear of rejection, failure and despair many people become desperate to look thinner, prettier, younger, stronger. The fashion industry makes billions of dollars by hooking us into believing we must buy their products and in return have a very happy, successful and rewarding life.
o Assess Your Media Diet: Pay attention to appearance messages you become exposed to through television, movies, video games, magazines, advertisement billboards and even other people. Assess how these messages make you feel. Are you becoming self-critical about the way you look after seeing a beautiful woman on a billboard? Do you feel depressed looking at your face in the mirror after reading a fashion magazine? Do you feel your confidence slipping away as you watch a movie cast with gorgeous actors and actresses? If so, I encourage you to decrease your media exposure and increase your self-awareness. Focus less on what you look like and more on what you are feeling inside.
o Put Your Appearance Into Perspective: The fashion and entertainment industry makes money by convincing you that you are not enough. Step back and objectively observe societal beauty messages without becoming controlled by them. Educate yourself and become more of aware prejudices such as lookism, and ageism. Only focus on factors which you have direct control and which will add value to you life. Become a critical consumer and refuse to buy your self-esteem. You already own it; all you need to do is nurture it through self-love and acceptance.
o Explore Your Appearance Choices: Challenge your responses to beauty messages. Experiment with clothing styles, take less time to get ready for a night out. Don’t wear make-up for a day. Make choices based on how you feel, rather than how you believe you will be perceived by others.
o Evaluate Your Environment: When we endorse society’s beauty ideals we tend to welcome the company of others who do the same. We find familiarity in being around people who share our beliefs. This may result in a never-ending cycle of desperately trying to attain what society deems ideal, only to be reminded of how we are not measuring up. Get out of the comparison trap and instead seek out people that are self-accepting and evaluate others based on their character rather than the way they look.
o Knowledge is power: Be aware that beauty messages are not realistic, nor are they physically or emotionally healthy. Your happiness is not rooted in what you look like. Happiness is a balance between mind, body and soul. Nourish your mind with self-acceptance. Exercise your body for physical fitness and feed it to keep it healthy. Love yourself first and recognize your inner beauty. This is what brings genuine happiness.
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