The Definition of Beauty as Dictated by the Media

unrealistic retouchingMost individuals realize by now that the majority of advertisements have some form of alteration causing them to look further and further from reality. Whether they are photoshopped to have a skinny waistline or airbrushed to give the appearance of perfect skin, these photographs are causing young individuals to aspire to the physically impossible.

Research done in the UK has found that more and more individuals have become consumed with the ideal of being as perfect as many of these models, and it is causing them to develop serious problems with their body image. And, as many know the UK is not the only nation to be feeling such pressure to be perfect. More individuals are seeking the aid of cosmetic surgeons, using steroids or diet pills, and even developing eating disorders.

A specific study has found that a third of females would actually forgo an entire year of their life to have their ideal shape or body weight. Another found that a fourth of individuals are actually depressed about their physical condition. Survey results in a recent study also explained that the hardest part of being a female was the societal pressure to look good.

Scientific evidence tells us that this negative body image is driven by the increased exposure to these perfect images. It is the inundation of these altered images that have shifted the vision of perfection throughout the globe.

Because extreme alterations can be intentionally misleading, the perception of what is beautiful has been greatly shifted. Take for instance the Christy Turlington and Julia Roberts Lancome advertisements for foundation makeup that were pulled by the Advertising Standards Authority for being too misleading. These women are beautiful without makeup on, so there was no need to manipulate their photos so drastically. Lancome, owned by L’Oreal, could not market their product as such because they could not guarantee this same flawless outcome.

While the majority of individuals know that images used in advertisements are altered and enhanced, it is still a disappointment. The pressure to look perfect is still there.

When these advertisements were banned, it sent a message throughout the industry that their practices needed to be rethought. Not only did they need to demonstrate more honesty, but they need to be more transparent, which can help to ease some of the public’s need for perfection.

Even though increased transparency and honesty in advertising is important, it is also important to help our culture shift from its basis on appearances. This is the only way to help give the youth of today positive examples of beauty, improve their self-esteem and give them the body confidence they need. Perhaps this can be done through confidence training in grade school or with explanations of how media functions to market products for our young children.

While there are many who would claim that this issue is miniscule in the bigger picture, ignoring it will only further cause this health problem to build. We need to all take steps now to help the future generation grow up in a culture that promotes self-confidence and not false ideals.

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