Body Image and Media


With the easy accessibility to the abundance of marketing and media, especially social media, people today are constantly subjected to “ideal body types” and their influence on what people deem is cultural normalcy. For youths, more so than others, who are already being challenged with a plethora of issues in the attempt to understand this world and their place in it, they are now in a struggle to fit the stereotype of “ideal”.

The mediatization of body idealization exemplifies the prevalent social stereotypes that reinforce beliefs on which people can catalog themselves and their bodies as desirable or not.

These are already reasons enough to be concerned about the negative impacts being generated by this phenomenon. However, what is even more alarming is how deeply rooted the issue is: the belief that social success is not directly contributing to the body image a person has. Television, magazines, advertisements, comics & cartoons, and most importantly the internet is constantly trying to highlight ideal characters – creating an image unattainable in reality for the general public. 

The media constantly pushes people, especially the youth, into a feeling of inadequacy and insecurity in terms of their body image and offers “remedies” to close the gap through products. The idea is capitalistic to the core – leveraging fear of social failure on people to keep them hooked on their “ideal” portrayal of men and women. For an individual’s mental health, this is possibly the worst combination, as it exploits the very human feelings of desirability and self-esteem and creates lasting issues. 

Body Image is personal and individual

Body image is defined as the image formed of our body in the mind, that is, the way our body appears to us. This description does not focus only on neurological criteria. Personal body image for someone may be negative or positive. People have a positive body image when they have a properly unified body scheme and thus will be comfortable and content with their appearance.

On the contrary, negativity in body image occurs when the person does not feel satisfied with his or her physique. Several scholars and authors recognize that body image is composed of at least two factors: a discerning one that refers to the judgment of one’s appearance, and an attitudinal one that incorporates feelings and attitudes toward the own body.

The most vulnerable population to fall into corporal overdetermination as a result of a somatic culture are the young people/adolescents. The changes in physical and psychological factors that occur in adolescents subject them to constant pressure, both from the media and marketing, as well as their surroundings. Self-image formation is a dynamic process, in which alteration of one factor can change the others. As people continue to grow with passing time, this image may change towards greater acceptance or, on the contrary, to partial or complete rejection. 

What factors define Body Image and what bad does it do?

Factors estimating one’s body image can be categorized into three parts: social, interpersonal, and individual. The social factor is shaped mainly by the media, as these have a leading role in continuously imposing and depicting an aesthetic ideal, through the use of characters and models that meet the expectations of the certain canon of physical beauty. The disparity between putting the value on the body and physical attractiveness influences low self-esteem and thus a negative self-image.

Media offers body images that encourage behaviors that can trigger eating disorders or somatic distortions in vulnerable populations as desired and idealized body styles go hand in hand with advertising and fashion. There are various studies such as Mukai, Kambara, and Sasaki (1998) that signify how the media images may be particularly crucial in the production of changes in the way we perceive and evaluate the body as well as psychological issues resulting from these influences.

It is assumed from these studies that the heightened usage of models portrays the peak of the female beauty ideal. The increased importance of these idealized images pressures viewers to warp their self-concept of attractiveness giving rise to negative self-comparisons. The interpersonal level reflects sensitivity to the praise or criticism of others on the body; as it greatly affects body image. All Social Media Platforms measure, to some extent, an individual’s level of popularity with their online community.

It could be through tweets, likes, comments, or shares, social media can either boost self-esteem or diminish it. Sociocultural ideas presented in these online platforms, however, are influential only if they are internalized. The embracing of sociocultural ideals of attractiveness is mostly due to the media’s ability to escalate idealized body standards.

Influence of Media on Body Image

Therefore, we can conclude that increased media consumption could lead towards increased internalization At the individual level, self-esteem is the core; this assessment made of one’s physical attractiveness is influenced by the interactions that are maintained with others. The standard of self-esteem will also be dependent on the degree of unhappiness with the body itself. The idealized beauty portrayal in the media negatively affects a person’s self-perception and self-esteem.

reflection of body

This prompted body pathology has led people to see themselves as unattractive and in ways, lacking, which has been the root of poor self-esteem. As a result, this has encouraged people to take part in unhealthy behaviors to diminish the disparity between themselves and the unrealistic images. To fix these issues, people need to be aware that the images represented in the media are not to be taken as a realistic model as they have been altered to appear as they do in the final product.

The “beauty myth” is an ideal beauty that conveys a crucial imitation that spreads mostly in the media. The media not only seeks to highlight images that suggest what is beautiful but also strongly influence shaping the references of how an individual should look. These concocted cultural expectations have led to the deeply rooted illusion that it is possible to look like fabricated people shown in advertisements. 

Moving forward

Consequently, many people today seem dissatisfied with their physical appearance and the beauty industry knows how to take advantage of these insecurities. Regardless of the wide range of products or procedures people acquire or endure they are still unable to remove the difference between the beauty depicted in the media and their beauty. This heading discrepancy is caused by the fact that beauty illustrated in the media is unattainable as it is not real.

The consequences of these on people’s physical and mental health can be dire, from negative self-evaluation, feelings of inadequacy, body dissatisfaction to depression, anxiety, and destructive addictive behaviors. These issues are all because of a hope that is simply not true, as we imperatively need to do our part of debunking these ideas and replacing them in our society with messages of acceptance and self-love.

Written By:

Pradatta Thakuri



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