How many mornings have you woken up, looked in the mirror and wanted to crawl back under the covers? Beyond the messed-up hair and tired eyes, the reasons we feel like this extends much deeper: Society has become so obsessed with perfection that anything less than what we see on the covers of magazines fails to satisfy us when we look in the mirror.
Over-edited images are not by any means new concepts to our society. Whether they erase a few wrinkles on a famous actress’s face or virtually reduce a model’s dress size, the presence of false-reality creating images has taken over the field of advertising and media. But in March of 2014, advertisers took airbrushing way too far when images from a Target campaign surfaced showing models with unnatural indentations carved into their bodies due to obvious airbrushing errors. The images went viral.
It really can’t come as a surprise that photos of seemingly perfect individuals shoved in our faces every time we turn on the TV or purchase a magazine have taken a huge toll on self-esteem levels. Adolescents, particularly females, have consistently displayed lower levels of self esteem and higher levels of eating disorders in relation to the increasingly publicized image of perfection as the goal for the female appearance. In fact, 17 percent of females ages 8-12 in a study report that they have used unnatural measures – pills, laxatives and even self-induced vomiting – to lose weight.
Eight-year-olds don’t even feel satisfied with themselves anymore.
In a world that likes to claim that gender equality is real and happening, we really need to start protecting our young girls from dangerously unrealistic pressures put upon them. The mindset it creates is not conducive to girls believing in their ability to become leaders or doctors or anything else they may want.
Adolescents already face so many pressures coming at them from nearly every angle: Increasing difficulty of schoolwork, fighting between friends and tense relationships with their parents. Why, as a society, do we find it appropriate to add to these pressures by convincing these young people that they do not look good enough without makeup, or with their hair in a ponytail, or with a little meat on their bones? As vulnerable as they are, we still publish drastically altered photos of the icons they look up to and the brands they adore.
What’s worse, advertisers know that audiences feel vulnerable when they see unrealistic portrayals of society’s expectations of them. Companies use this knowledge to their advantage: They consistently hire models that are much too thin and use airbrushing and editing techniques to make the models appear flawless to persuade audiences that they need to change their own appearance to match the models. Once they convince audiences of this, they attain high levels of profit because the audiences associate the images of perfection with whatever product the advertisement is for.
As a college student, the days of acne-filled mornings and poorly placed bobby pins are not too distant in my memory. It hurts to think of all the young people going through those same trials, but with even more pressure from targeted media, campaigns are telling them that they are not good enough. Instead of unnaturally editing photos of celebrities and models to fit the image of perfection, maybe we should alter what we believe, as a society, to be perfect by being exactly who we are as individuals.