The Flaw in Streamlining a “Perfect Body”
Let’s think back to yesterday. It’s 11pm and you’re lying in bed doing a quick scroll through Instagram. You’re catching up on friends’ posts, laughing at some memes and Tiktoks, and of course keeping up with your favorite influencers. A bikini picture pops into your feed flaunting a flat, toned stomach and an hourglass figure and then a selfie, boasting clear, pimple-less skin. You feel a bit of envy.
Without realizing it, people idealize and put these influencers on a pedestal. This is especially easy to do since you don’t know these people personally, but only based on appearance: marveling their body and face until a part of you wonders what if you looked like that?
But here’s the thing, those pictures aren’t real. Roll your eyes all you want, but think about it. Even at the most basic level, we always say “Smile!” when taking a picture to exhibit our happiness that may or may not be present. We suck in and don’t breathe for each picture to make ourselves look thinner. While our pictures are not terribly inaccurate, they’re not the best portrayal of a real person. Now, if you think about your favorite influencer, they take it even further: add some exotic beach location and sprinkle in a little Facetune to whip up a close-to-perfect product. These influencers rely on people just like you and I to admire their face, body, and their background because that’s how they make money. The more perfect the photo, the greater the revenue. So of course influencers look perfect. Of course they like they’re having the time of their life.
Now, I know just understanding this isn’t going to necessarily change how you feel, especially since our natural reaction to one of these posts is still going to be envy. I could suggest “stop using social media!”, but realistically, that’s probably not going to happen.
Not only are many teens unwilling to stop, if you can major props to you, but the idealization of the female body is everywhere, not only in social media.
It can be traced all the way back into the 1920’s as the idea of a “modern woman” first emerged in advertising, launching idealized versions of what a woman should look and act like. Since then, it has taken off and expanded throughout advertising, television, movies, and now social media.
Even in movies and tv shows, the main characters and love interests always seem to have the perfect body while characters who are overweight are portrayed as clumsy comic relief. This can serve to build a mentality of what girls such as ourselves should look like in order to be worthy of love and avoid being ridiculed. The sad reality is that this trend won’t disappear anytime soon. Like with influencers, portraying the main characters as conventionally attractive makes people more willing to watch, generating more revenue for producers. Additionally, people often forget how much effort is put into making actors and actresses look their best: special lighting, specific angles and editing/beauty work (that’s right Facetune but for videos; actors and actresses typically sign non-disclosure agreements about it). Think about it: don’t you ever wonder how a brave, athletic heroine like Katniss from Hunger Games can look so amazing even with dirt and blood smeared all over her?
This expectation of what we should look like is so deep-rooted in our society that simply taking social media out of the picture won’t change much. Because of the prevalence of idealized bodies within our pop culture and the profits to be made from it, the trend is here to stay. Unfortunately, while some prosper financially, many others may suffer mentally.
It’s not so much as eliminating triggers for body negativity, but rather putting everything in perspective. Understand that what is portrayed in the media isn’t realistic, so you can’t compare yourself to it. Never be afraid to talk to your loved ones if you need it and love your body for what it is—real and human.