Perfection Pressure

Pressure a Millennial Feels From the Media

When I was younger, I used to feel powerless and like I had to attempt conform to the media’s confusing body image standards, whatever that means. I felt like I had to follow along with the crowd and wear certain brands or a push up bra or certain types of makeup. In middle school, I counted down the days until I could have braces so I could have picture perfect teeth like in magazines and on TV. When my skin would break out I would beg my mom to let me stay home from school so I wouldn’t have to face the other girls with flawless skin. Over time, I started to care less about these unimportant things because I saw that I was the only one who cared about how my hair or skin looked.

I remember seeing a situation like this in middle school almost 8 years ago. The first time I had ever been exposed to what an eating disorder was, it was with Demi Lovato. I didn’t understand what she was going through or how she was feeling, so I read many interviews of her. I read that someone told her “wow, I could never be that strong to starve myself like you”. She was so insulted because she said that having an eating disorder doesn’t make you ‘strong’.  

More recently because of social media, Sarah Hyland has struck my interest in body image. She stars in Modern Family and I have been watching her on TV for years. In the most recent photos that she has been posting on social media, she has been visibly skinnier. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it, it’s her body, usually I focus more on captions and what’s going on in pictures. Other people didn’t agree. People were posting nasty comments on her pictures saying she had eating disorders, was endorsing eating disorders to her followers, and other horrible things. They were even posting these horrible comments on one of her anti-bullying posts.

Using social media, Sarah confronted the issue on Instagram. She told her fans that she has actually been suffering from health issues that has caused her to drop a lot of weight. In 2012 she had a kidney transplant. She is trying her best to be healthy and promote health to young women—which she is doing a great job of. The fact that it was assumed that she suffered from an eating disorder because she lost weight really saddens me.

In Tracee’s book The Girl Revolution Manifesto, an interesting point was made that I had thought about, but never put together. “Girls tend to envy other girls who have the self-control and discipline to starve themselves to death because they fit the beauty ideal of magazine models.” I relate to this. People always say things like “oh I wish I could skip a meal.” or “I wish I could eat small portions like that!” As a result, I feel as if eating disorders are being more normalized and people are being praised for hurting.

I can’t imagine how Sarah feels in the spotlight having these horrific rumors made up about her. I feel bad enough if there is a rumor spread about me among my group of friends.

Seeing Sarah stand up for herself is something that I know will inspire other girls. It is so important to be confident in yourself and not let society tell you that you are not good enough or that there is something that you need to fix. Honestly I felt inspired by it. I have watched famous women stand by as nasty rumors are spread of them, usually addressing them fuels the fire. I have always found that frustrating because I hate liars and the fact that people can make money from tearing others down. Seeing Sarah confront this issue and shut it off, is something that I would like to see more of in the future. I don’t want to see the media win and our women lose.

From the media, we are getting mixed messages on ‘how we are supposed to look.” We are told we need to be skinny, but not too skinny. We are told we need to look natural, while wearing as much makeup on our faces as possible. These mixed messages are causing young people to change themselves to fit these distorted standards. People are ‘fat shamed’ as well as ‘skinny shamed.’ There is no right or wrong way to look. That is something that can be harder for someone to understand when they are young and trying to fit in.

I am learning to accept myself. And be happy in my own skin and with what I am making of myself.

Now that I have seen how twisted the media is, it is so much easier for me to look at the TV and say “they only look like that because of makeup” or “anyone could look like that if they had that much free time as well as a personal trainer.”

I would like to see young girls not feeling like they have to wear make up so early. Or have to wear revealing clothes so early. Or buy push up bras so early. I would like to see more confidence and less confidence taken away from these young women. I believe that this stems from the media and what we see in magazines every day. Teaching young women how to ignore or see past these unrealistic standards could really help make a difference.

What do you think about how the media is affecting our women? Have you had any experiences with eating disorders? Have you seen any improvement throughout the years? Do you think that there is anything that we can do as individuals to support each other? Do you think we could have a downfall again? What are your thoughts?

Image of Sarah Hyland via her Instagram page.

Image of Demi Lovato from Seventeen Magazine, posted on her Instagram page.

Guest Contributor: Karlee Suhanyi, follow me on Instagram.