Self Image And Its Pressures

We live in a world, where we call ourselves ‘Modern’. Along with being modern, comes the price we pay for it. Despite of being aware of the fact that ’beauty is skin deep’ we all thrive on it. The world we live in is now shallow, where most of the judgments are made simply on the basis of exteriors. And so, how you look, how good your skin is, how much you weight and other such superficial criteria have become vital.

Not helping the cause or in fact even adding to the troubles are the marketing and advertising industries. Here the image of the ‘girl next door’ is becoming thinner and closer to unreal. And the image they have created of ‘local boys’ who have nothing less than ripped muscles with perfect bulk at the right places.

Actors and actresses create impossible to get kind of perfect bodies, where the effects of photography and camera angles may play a vital role.

However, all of this inevitably puts tremendous pressure of the local population. Of the local population, the ones who are most affected by these new trends are often young teenagers.

The youth tend to idolize this impression of ‘perfect bodies’ which are practically impossible to achieve. The marketing companies often tend to associate small body frames and better looks to popularity and fame. Giving the youth an impression that you need to fit into a certain body image to be successful, popular or wealthy in life. Meaning, thin young girls or well built young boys are the only people who can achieve their goals and everyone else has to strive to get there.

This impression though highly erroneous is taken at face value by the young boys and girls. So they begin to believe that if you wish to be popular among the opposite sex, the only way is to look like a film star or a fashion model. And they get an impression that anything lesser than that is not acceptable.

What are the effects of these pressures on the youth?

Falling prey to false portrayals, the youth slowly and steadily develop what is called as a ‘negative body image’. Simply, put a teenage begins to believe that she is not pretty enough; she isn’t thin enough to be accepted socially. A young boy might become self-conscious of their body frame and feel embarrassed that they do not possess the bulky muscles and perfect body.

It does not take long for ‘negative body image’ to become a deep-rooted problem. And with increasing pressures, the youth damage their self-esteem. Studies have proven that almost 40% of the teenagers suffer from low self-esteem, thinking they are not good enough to be socially accepted.

When female self-esteem is damaged, she may go to any extent to make herself feel better or feel more socially acceptable.

The youth associate ‘negative body image with low self-esteem, which invariably makes them feel not good enough to be loved, or not good enough to have a social standing. This, in turn, results in a self-defeating belief.

What steps do young people take to deal with the pressure?

The youth succumb to the increasing social pressure of maintaining a certain ‘body image’. It is being noted that young boys will girls resort to extreme means to try and achieve their image goals.

  • To feel better about themselves and boost their self-esteem, young girls often in their early teens are going on extreme diets. This could have hazardous effects on them since it is their age to accumulate as many vital nutrients as possible for healthy growth and development.

Instead of eating healthy, the girls skip meals and miss out on getting the right nutrition required for their growth.

Studies show that about 50% of young girls attempt to lose weight, as early as in their early high school days.

Developing eating disorders like anorexia is a potential threat in such situations.

  • Girls practically stop eating normal food and opt only for options that say, “low fat”, “fat-free”, or “zero cholesterol”. Not realizing that all of this could be marketing strategy where beauty can be sold, and people will buy anything that promises them a boost of self-esteem.
  • Maximum young girls begin to feel so self-conscious that they often contemplate not getting out of their house or attending school on days when they are not looking good enough or when a new pimple sprouts up.
  • When girls believe they are not good enough to be socially accepted and when ‘negative body image’ reaches a critical point, girls resort to other means which may be equally damaging. Girls then indulge in negative activities to feel good about themselves or for a boost in self-esteem. To boost their morale girls often then indulge in bullying, body shaming others, smoking, drinking and indulging in activities which might appear ‘cool’ in public eyes.
  • Another step girls take to improve their self-esteem is to indulge in activities that end up making them feel worse about themselves, adding to their existing troubles.

While there is tremendous pressure on the girls to achieve certain body shape, body weight and achieve a certain image, the boys are also not far behind.

Keeping advertising and marketing images, the boys are under pressure to have a certain kind of body shape. They are expected to have ripped bulky muscles and looks that could compete with a fashion model.

  • It is noted that not just the females but the boys also fall prey to marketing strategies. Most of them will buy any product that gives them a promise of looking good.
  • Most of the boys in middle school and high school are known to be working out and doing strenuous exercises to achieve muscle mass and add to their looks.
  • A good proportion of boys in a desperate attempt to gain muscle mass resort to consuming protein supplements.
  • Without much knowledge about the pros and cons, on face value as many young boys are known to have tried their hand with steroids as well.

Young boys are impressionable and will take anything at face value. On seeing dramatic results steroids can bring about, without any adult consultation often start consuming steroids. This obviously helps them achieve their temporary goal of getting their ‘dream body’. But it is often not long before the short term and long term ill-effects of steroid consumption begin to take a toll.

Conclusion:

There is little one can do about the latest trends in the marketing and advertising world. But as parents, near and dear ones, and teachers of young adults, it is responsible to create an awareness about such misconceptions.

If a youth is known to be adapting to extreme means, interventions and counseling are known to have helped the cause greatly.