Reader Olivia has some very powerful and thought-provoking views on confidence, looks and media pressure… this post is a must-read for all of us.
From around the age of twelve, and sometimes even younger, girls are really vulnerable to the messages the media send out. From the second we wake up in the morning, we see images of thin, perfectly made-up girls on TV, in magazines, adverts and more. We have nobody to tell us to ignore these, to educate us on how airbrushed they are. In fact, strong role models like mothers, aunts and older cousins will talk about diets and 'bad' foods; people will comment on the way we look. These messages are drummed into us from such a young age that some girls cannot help but copy the behaviours, trying to meet these unattainable ideals. We are shown images of women with literally no flaws, edited and photoshopped beyond recognition, and then fed adverts for weight loss products and make-up to cover up our own 'flaws'.
This dependence on looks has been around for a very long time and will probably be extremely hard to break, but there are ways girls can be taught to love and value themselves, irrespective of appearance. There should be more assemblies and PSHE lessons on self-confidence, and not just at high school level… girls need to be taught all this from the very beginning. Girls shouldn't be drawn into playing with toys like Barbies at such a young age, because they imprint the message that we must strive for a look which is physically impossible to achieve. If Barbie was real, she would be unable to walk except on all fours; her legs simply couldn't carry her weight. Her neck would be twice as long as the average woman's and her waist would be thinner than her head, leaving only enough room for half a liver and a few inches of intestine. Girls need to see that these 'ideals' are really really not achievable and should not be aimed at in any way.
I also think girls should be complimented on other things apart from their appearance, for example, 'You are brave and strong'; 'you are intelligent and worthy'; 'you are kind and caring.' Girls should know they are worthy in themselves, and not just reflect the opinions of whichever gender they're attracted to. Many teenage girls want to 'look good for boys' and feel bad about themselves when not accepted by them, but this is so wrong. We need to love and accept ourselves, no matter what others may think. Some magazines call a size 12 'plus size', yet this is the size of an average woman; models of all sizes need to become commonplace. I have seen the effect the media can have; a twelve year old girl not able to leave her hospital bed and almost at the point of death because of anorexia. Something NEEDS to be done to change this before more young people suffer… and soon.
Pictures modelled by fab reader Alex; thank you for your help!
I totally agree with Olivia's words… I too have seen the damage the unrealistic expectations and media images can do. Do YOU feel pressured by magazines and TV to look a certain way? Does this ever make you feel insecure or unhappy? COMMENT BELOW to share your views...