Beauty: The Digitally Altered Ideal

War has been declared and the outcome does not appear to be a healthier self-esteem. In the quest for perfection our society is experiencing the erosion of positive self-image. Bombarded daily by the altered reality of beauty, women are finding themselves reaching for unattainable goals set by airbrushed and digitally enhanced photographic images of the ideal.

How is a woman to obtain the level of physical beauty portrayed when often the subject photographed isn't even capable of managing to look like herself? No longer is it simply the airbrushing of occasional skin eruptions, corrective lighting, or smoothing-out of uneven skin tone. Necks are being lengthened, eyes enlarged, breasts lifted, waistlines whittled, calves and thighs thinned, curves enhanced, wrinkles removed, pounds erased ... the list goes on and on. Has this practice of digitally altering a woman's appearance had an affect on our society? Has it influenced how others perceive us? Has it affected how we perceive ourselves? I can tell you my opinion based on what I have witnessed and experienced and the answer is yes. A loud, resounding yes.

Mother to a teenage daughter, I have found myself privy to teen conversations that are often frightening. Young girls are very concerned about their appearance, their bodies, and their weight. There seems to be a constant berating of self going on. I'm so fat! I hate my thighs. I wish I was as skinny as so and so. I wish I could look like her (pointing to a picture in a magazine). Unaware, the images they compare themselves to, the images they are gaging their own bodies by, are often not honest representations of reality.

The age range of those affected by eating disorders are widening in both directions; children as young as kindergarten to the elderly, with those concerned about their weight or considering themselves fat, growing in numbers. The definition of self-worth seems to be defined by physical beauty and extreme thinness these days instead of the inherent value every one of us possesses, bestowed upon us the moment of our creation. Self-esteem has taken a beating. We need to shift the current focus so that our daughters (our youth) learn to value themselves, appreciate themselves, and celebrate their uniqueness. We need to make a stand for not only them but for ourselves, as well. We need to make it clear to all concerned that though we may not be the waif thin, perfect bodied visions that have been spoon fed to society as examples of the norm, we are worthy.

We, just as we are ... with our so called imperfections, our individual features, and our varying body sizes ... are interesting, strong, unique, important, and beautiful women.

We are extraordinary. And, extraordinarily, we are the norm.

Related posts :
Building Self-Esteem
Self-Worth: The Unconditional Love of Self

See sidebar:
Tools for tests on Self-Esteem and Body Image.
Resources for hotlines, websites, and organizations

Picture: Girl at the mirror by Norman Rockwell


Arielle said...

>>Mother to a teenage daughter, I have found myself privy to teen conversations that are often frightening. Young girls are very concerned about their appearance, their bodies, and their weight. There seems to be a constant berating of self going on.<<

Oh yes. I think this started several years ago and continues on a rapid and horrid basis.

I remember when I was a little girl (not a teen) around 1990-92 about age 6 or 7, I was at a friend's house for her birthday party and she had a swimming pool. There were about 7 other girls there. We had a WHO IS THE SKINNIEST contest...held on the deck of her pool...and as girls were eliminated from fattest to thinnest they had to jump in the pool. And we were LITTLE. I'll never forget this memory.

It scares me.

I'm turning 24 in a few months and I hope to have a child of my own one day (hopefully) soon...and I hope I can show her the beauties of life...the TRUE beauties. And let her know she's everything wonderful and nothing inadequate.

I'm sure you are an excellent mother. :)

MrsMenopausal said...

Arielle, I don't remember seeing myself as thin or fat when I was a child until it was pointed out to me by an adult in my life that I needed to diet. I was just slightly overweight. I don't recall how old I was but I was young and I never again experienced that unconditional acceptance of myself.

As time has gone by and I've lived through some things that have had a strong impact on what I view as important I've learned to accept myself more. I still struggle (sometimes more so than others) with my body image but I've come to realize that it's just a piece of who I am instead of the biggest part of the equation.

Thank you for the compliment on my parenting. I'd love for it to be so but the reality of it is I'm a good mother who has made her fair share of mistakes (with more to come, I'm sure). I strive to do what is right and I wrap it all up in tons of love but I fall woefully shy of excellence. Just ask any of my children. ;)

You will have a head start on all this. You have so much understanding on the issues of EDs, self-esteem, and body image. It will serve you well when you guide your children with your experience.

Thanks so much for commenting. I always appreciate it.