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 boasting 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 at their body and face until a part of you wonders why you can’t look like thatwhat 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 (it sounds bad but don’t lie, we all do it) 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 it gets ten times worse. They add a little extra: some exotic beach location and 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 and like they’re having the time of their life, especially in comparison to you, who may or may not be stuck in school.
Now, I know just understanding this isn’t going to make your insecurity any less of an issue, especially since our reaction to one of these posts is still going to be envious. So I could suggest “stop using social media!”, but honestly I don’t think that’s realistic.
Not only are many teens unwilling to stop, even if you can bring yourself to (major props to you) the idealization of the female body is everywhere, granted it’s the worst in social media, but still.
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 like and act like. Since then, it has taken off and expanded throughout advertising, television, movies and now social media. (Thanks AP Euro!)
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 find a guy and be well-liked rather than ridiculed. The sad reality is that this trend won’t disappear anytime soon. Like with influencers, portraying the main characters in the ideal way 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 have to sign non-disclosure agreements to maintain the facade which is probably why you’ve never heard of it). Take a second and be real with yourself; haven’t you ever wondered how a brave, athletic heroine like Katniss from Hunger Games can look so amazing even though there’s dirt smeared all over her?
This expectation is so deep rooted in our society that simply taking social media out of the picture isn’t going to change much. Because of the prevalence of idealized bodies within our pop culture, and the profits people make from idealizing themselves or others, the trend is here to stay. Unfortunately, while it benefits some, it harms millions of others.
It’s not so much as eliminating triggers for body negativity, but rather putting everything in perspective. You need to realize just how common it is to help shield yourself from it. Understand that what is portrayed in the media isn’t realistic, so you can’t compare yourself to it. This is how you can help yourself overcome your insecurities and just love your body for what it is—real and human.