As we all know, the media has a niggling propensity to use poor consumer self-esteem to sell products. Whether it’s shiny hair, long eyelashes, “The London Look” or even love…there’s always something we can’t have without spending a little cash. These companies effectively capitalise on our inadequacy and insecurity.
The reality is, however, that the women photographed for these advertisements often have help from tools way more powerful than any mascara wand or spritz of perfume. In France, by law, any photoshopped images used in magazines must be clearly labelled as such. In the UK, however, the “Powers That Be” don’t think it’s necessary for us to know about the post-production that goes into producing these images. We are left with unlabelled and unnaturally perfect ad campaigns in which the models featured bear little resemblance to their true selves, let alone your average Jane.
How does this affect mental health?
There is increasing evidence that young people as young as five make judgements based on weight and already have the desire to be thinner. Low self-concept in young people with higher weights is also evident as early as five years old. What’s more, girls as young as nine tend to create blonde, white and thin avatars when engaging in online virtual reality games, irrespective of their actual appearance. The best way, it seems, to stave off harmful body image concerns is to promote body positivity earlier in childhood.
So…do we burn the Barbies, throw out the TV and shred all our magazines????!!!!
Fortunately, we don’t need to take such drastic measures. Research has shown that we can foster better self-concepts in young people simply by reading them body positive books such as Shapesville by Andy Mills and Becky Osborn. Intervention programs targeting media internalisation and healthy eating habits in children have also had some great results. As parents, it’s important to be proactive in boosting your child’s self-esteem, as misconceptions about the self can be learned from family members.
Health is about biology, beauty is an ideology and it is imperative that we teach our youngsters to distinguish between the two.