How the Media Affects the Self Esteem and Body Image of Young Girls

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How the Media Affects the Self Esteem and Body Image of Young Girls
Growing up, almost everyone deals with the process of losing that horrible baby fat, blaming their mom because of all the Twinkies and Ding Dongs she bought. Some though, are lucky enough to get out of that stage and lose weight, learning what calories are. They noticed though that once they lose weight, they want to be skinnier; like a model. They lose sight of the healthy reasons for their weight loss evolving it into reasons portrayed by the media of the self-image. Though people can’t always see that watching all the skinny models and girls in Hollywood seeming so “perfect” affect their persona of themselves, it does. The media puts such an intense pressure on young girls today to look like the “ideal” image. The medias harmful affect on the self body image and self esteem of young girls has brought about some of these three damaging effects: eating disorders, mental depression, and physical depression.
Calories. A word most typical young girls fear. The media is always soliciting a new form of a pill or company to jump on board with to lose weight; showing gorgeous, tan, cardboard abs, perfect figured girls next to the ad. Seeing this gorgeous girl no doubt would motivate anyone to want to workout to look like that. Many girls though have been choosing the easy way out to losing weight, feeling the need to starve themselves and thus developing an eating disorder. “Women may directly model unhealthy eating habits presented in the media, such as fasting or purging, because the media-portrayed thin ideal body type is related to eating pathology”(Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw & Stein, 1994). In the article An Intervention for the Negative Influence of Media on Body Esteem by Haas, et al., they mentioned a study done by Fister and Smith (2004) on the effect of media images to women and its relationship to eating disorders and subsequent thinness. “Fister and Smith found that the association between initial risk for disordered eating and subsequent thinness expectancy endorsement was much smaller in an average-size model image-viewing group than in a controled or thin model image-viewing group.” This showed that girls who were exposed to thin model images were more affected than those exposed to the average size of women.
During an interview held with an up in coming model named {Britney} Kelleher, she discusses her problems with the fight to becoming overcome by an eating disorder. “ Of course. It [media] makes you think you’re not good enough. Like if you don’t starve yourself, you are never going to fit in; be able to be a model. You’re not the ideal size or look.” She also mentioned her prior struggles from losing 30 pounds and now still feeling too big even though she is stick thin. So, at what point will any of us feel like we reach the medias “expectations”? In Allie Kovar’s article, Effects of the Media on Body Image, she mentions that “the national eating disorder Association (2006) reports that in the past 70 years national rates of incidences of all eating disorders have dramatically increased across the board . . . Bulimia in women between the ages of 10 to 39 has more than tripled.” (Kovar, 1). This information being found six years ago leaves to wonder how much worse it has gotten between then to now; 2012. Though we are unable to stop the effects of media images on this growing epidemic of eating disorders, we must train our minds to not be affected by such “unrealistic body shapes” (Kovar, 2).
Another feature that follows along with the medias effect on young girls is mental depression. In Self- Enhancing Effects of Exposure to Thin-Body Images by Joshi et al., it mentions, “exposing young women to images of thin, attractive models increases body dissatisfaction and other negative feelings” (Heinberg & Thompson, 1995). Continuously being exposed to these images brought about many negative connotations in the self-image of women. The same model in which I mentioned earlier talked about how the medias images of the “ideal” body personally affected her and how it made her succumb to depression. “Practically all the time, I’ll get really down on myself for looking the way I do, some days it’s worse than others. I get really depressed about it. Thinking, I’m so tall, why be fat too? That would make me a thousand times bigger . . . Models CAN’T be fat.” The effects of the media on this young 18 year old girl has made her feel unconfident because she doesn’t feel she measures up to the medias standards. Yet “the average women does not look like the images depicted in magazines”(Joshi et. al, 334) shown by the media, so why do they constantly feel pressure to look like that? Research has shown that mental depression begins at a young age, kids learning by what they have seen in the media as “ideal,” following them into their teenage and even adult years. “If children grow up seeing thin women in advertisements, on television, and in film they accept this as reality and try to imitate their appearance and their actions”(Nature vs. Nurture, Shea, 1). When they find this appearance to be impossible they get down on themselves and begin to feel inadequate, just as the model Britney felt. For many girls depressed from the exposure to the ultra thin air brushed pictures need to be “informed of the measures that are taken to alter many images in advertisements in order to clarify that humans do not naturally look like those illustrations”, therefore they shouldn’t compare their bodies with these photo-shopped illusions of perfection (An Intervention for the Negative Influence of Media on Body Esteem, Haas et. al, 3).
Physical depression. A side affect; weight gain. An imperfection that no woman is immune to. What though is the cause of weight gain in a world infatuated with being skinny? In a world where Americans are bigger than ever, society still illuminates svelte, athletic images. Many manufactures and retailers are hesitant to embrace the reality of today’s women’s body, plus size, (Silverman, 2) for the media still fights for “idealness.” “The ideal female has become thinner while the average American woman has become heavier…”(Domil, 2). Size matters! Many women blame the media as a cause to their weight gain. Blaming the pressures put on them to look good causes depression because they never feel good enough so as the term is said, “they eat their feelings.” Curious to whether or not the media played an aspect in weight gain, model Britney shared her beliefs in causes for being overweight. “People are just fat because they are lazy. They blame the media and although for some it could be the media, I feel it has nothing to do with advertisements. They’re just lazy and like food.” {Britney} disagrees that the media can have such an affect on people but is food really just the outer excuse hiding something deeper?
Those who have broken free from the medias chains just in time to control its endangering affects are no doubt glad. No matter where we are or what we do in life, media is going to be there right by our side. The media is only going to get worse and put more pressure on the self body image of how it should “ideally” look. There will always be the damaging affects of eating disorders, mental depression, and physical depression but its up to us to whether or not we are going to let it shape us. Next time we begin to feel like we are not good enough, we need to remember that everyone feels the same way we do at one point in life; we are not alone. The twigs we see on TV are unrealistic and unhealthy America; we ourselves are the true ideal of the human body.

Works Cited
Domil, Tiffanie. "The Influence of the Media Images Upon Body System." The Influence of the Media images Upon Body System. Mukul Bhalla, 19 May 2003. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.

Haas, Cheryl J.; Pawlow, Laura A.; Pettibone, Jon; Segrist, Dan J. “An Intervention for the Negative Influence of Media on Body System.” College Student Journal. Jun 2012, Vol. 46, Issue 2 P.405-418. 14p.

Kovar, Allie. "Health Psychology Home Page." Effects of Media on Body Image. David Schlundt PhD., 30 Apr. 2009. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.

Shea, Sara. "Nature vs. Nurture: The Media's Effect on Body Image." The River Reporter. N.p., 8 May 2009. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.

Silverman, Dick. "WWD." WWD. N.p., 21 Jan. 2009. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.

Kelleher, Britney. Telephone interview. 22 Aug. 2012.


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