Distorted Body Image: Media Influence on Self-Esteem in Young Women

Distorted Body Image

Distorted Body Image

“I need to lose 3 pounds.”  Just three?  Does that 3 extra pounds really tilt the scales? I mean…really?

“You look skinny to me, girl!”  I hear this a lot, and yet I still look in the mirror and see a fatty.

Then again, I did have a Zumba instructor assume that I was pregnant.  I’ll admit, I look pregnant in some outfits.  But I’m sorry that I’m not a perfect stick after having kids like you.  I’m built differently, and working out isn’t my job.

I have some belly fat that I need to work on, admittedly.  Well, I have some belly fat that I want to work on because I’m vain and I want flat abs like all the celebrities I’ve seen on TV and magazines.  I need to lose belly fat because Dr. Oz says it’s dangerous for my health, and that should be my focus.  But instead, my focus is usually one of vanity and appearances, because I’m not beautiful enough to have my photo all over a magazine cover…and even if I was, they would still photoshop me.

Why wouldn’t they Photoshop me. I’ve Photoshopped myself!  Yes, seriously! I have!  Why? Those pesky little imperfection – a little pimple, a cold sore on my lip, dark circles under my eyes…  My natural face just isn’t good enough.

Media Influence on Body Image

Where Does a Distorted Body Image Come From?

I’m not one to blame the media for putting ideas in our heads…usually.  I don’t blame violence in the movies for school shootings; I blame unchecked mental illness and parents, teachers, and counselors who didn’t see the signs.  But when I see Madonna airbrushed to look 20 years younger and hear people talk about how she “doesn’t even look like she’s in her 50s!”, it makes me sick.  People actually believe that Madonna really looks like she does on TV and in magazines.

Well, she doesn’t really look like that.

photoshopped celebrities madonna

Madonna - Before & After Photoshop

Are celebrities getting Photoshopped just to make us feel bad about ourselves?

I don’t believe that celebrities get Photoshopped or allow themselves to be because they want to look better than “normal” people or desire to make us feel badly about ourselves.

The truth is, I think they have poor body images and don’t want the rest of us to see what they really look like because they are also ashamed of their small amount of belly fat, thick thighs, cellulite, wrinkles, freckles, age spots, and skin problems.

photoshopped celebrities britney spears

Britney Spears - Before & After - Honestly, she looks beautiful in the left photograph, and I don't know why they needed to mess with the picture! Oh, and those don't look like bruises to me...they look like leg freckles. I have freckles all over my body, and I love them!

Being in the spotlight, they are also judged.  They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

If they are Photoshopped, the media goes into a frenzy: “How can they do that? Don’t they know they are hurting teen girls’ self-esteem?!”

If they are photographed for a tabloid, the cover reads: “Angelina Jolie pregnant again already?” with a photo of her with a tiny little belly lump that can be attributed to her last pregnancy or the breakfast she JUST ate before being photographed without permission!

Celebrities are just as prone to feeling the pains of criticism as the rest of us are. For them, though, it’s on a larger scale – the whole world is watching them and waiting for them to be imperfect.

Media Influence on Body Image: Don’t let a celebrity’s low self-esteem and fear of ridicule fuel your own distorted body image

The point isn’t that these celebrities are horrible people and should just look how they really look in magazines instead of being airbrushed within an inch of their lives.  Although it would be a lovely utopia if everyone was just happy with what they had naturally, it’s a pipe dream. Heck, I wear make-up frequently because I can’t stand walking out of the door with red spots on my face and blue circles under my eyes.

The point is to be more realistic about what’s real and what’s not…what’s attainable and what isn’t.  It’s okay to wear make-up to cover up those pesky little blemishes to help ourselves feel better about ourselves when we walk out the door.  It’s okay to wear fake nails and color our hair to look the way we want to look, and it’s perfectly good to eat healthier and exercise more in order to look slimmer and trimmer.

What isn’t okay is letting the Photoshoppers make you believe that there is anything real or attainable about this:

Ann Taylor Photoshopped Model

Photoshopped Image of an Ann Taylor Model - No one is that friggin skinny! She looks like Barbie. That's impossible unless you have ribs removed. Get real!

Who benefits from your distorted body image?

It’s not the celebrity who is benefited by your poor self-esteem when you look at a beauty magazine or images of celebs and models who are airbrushed and Photoshopped until they aren’t real people anymore.

It’s the magazines and their dieting articles.

It’s the fad dieting gurus and exercise programs that run you hundreds of dollars and several hours per day.

Photoshopped Celebrities Faith Hill

Faith Hill - Before and After

The real Faith Hill is gorgeous!  But the airbrushed, Photoshopped Faith Hill sells magazines touting “Skinny Pills: Yes They Work!” and “Look & Feel Your HOTTEST!” articles.

And if that isn’t enough to make you annoyed…

Elle Magazine - Big Beautiful Black

Elle Magazine - "She's Big & Beautiful...but a little too black..."

So even when they decide to show a beautiful big woman on the cover, they’ll still find something they need to change about her.  When it happens to be that she is just a little too black, well, people tend to get offended and a little pissed off.


Celebrities are Real People Too

People, especially young people, tend to exalt celebrities higher than they should.  While it’s always wonderful to admire achievements and want to emulate a celebrity’s drive to succeed, we all have to remember that being famous doesn’t make you perfect…not even on the outside.

Celebrities are just like the rest of us – imperfect, aging, and scared to death.  They just have to do it all in front of the entire world while the rest of us get to have our little melt-downs and bad hair days restricted to our homes or local shopping mall.  How lucky we are!

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