By Justine Yeykal and Shay Reynolds
There is a huge difference between what is considered beautiful and what is actually healthy. The struggle that teens go through with body image has drastic effects and it’s not just physical: it’s psychological, and can lead to numerous mental illnesses, eating disorders, and low self-esteem. The low self-esteem and other harmful results of a twisted view of one’s body image are not only corrosive for the person who has these beliefs but for others as well.
Meghan Farhat, a junior at Bozeman High School, has experienced this “second-hand” pain of seeing others struggle, saying that, “it hurts you because as a friend you care about your friends and you want to help them as much as you can, but if they don’t believe you, it hurts. They’re hurting themselves. You want to help them, but they won’t let you.”
While the dictionary might give definite explanations of the words “beautiful” and “healthy”; these standards and societal definitions have changed drastically and had the most influence over people’s views on body images for centuries. What society presents us with is not the way we are supposed to look in order to maintain physical health; yet in a 2012 survey, 52 percent of teens felt that the media pressures them to change their body image and 56 percent feel that the media’s advertisements are the main cause of low self-esteem.
There are many psychological reasons why teens have this constant fear of not looking like everyone else, or not looking like the supermodel that the media presents as the definition of “beauty.”
Alison Cole, a counselor at Cole Counseling, says “there is a big psychological component that has to do with why it is hard to get through to teens when they’re having trouble with body image.”
Cole also attributed some of the cause of negative body image to home life, and how what adults say to young people about their bodies can affect their developing viewpoints of themselves very early on.
As humans we have multiple beliefs about ourselves that just aren’t true. We call ourselves fat, too skinny, not pretty or attractive at all and simply not good enough. This is what triggers the psychological point-of-view in our brains that leads us to either starving ourselves or considering plastic surgery to look different.
Farhat says that what she hears through the halls of BHS about student self-esteem, is generally “low and judgmental, a lot of people talk poorly about their image and I don’t really hear people talking good about themselves.”
Reed Hueter, another junior at Bozeman High School, agrees that some people put themselves down and that it is not always just girls but adds that “I feel like I’ve never really met a female without [self-esteem issues].”
According to a 2012 survey done by Stage of Life, an organization that’s goal is to capture high school and college viewpoints, 31 percent of teens have at least one body part they would like to have surgery on. Other statistics on dieting, starvation, and weight have shown that 65 percent of students are afraid of gaining weight, 44 percent of teens skip meals as a tactic to lose/control weight, and 31 percent had been on a diet a month prior to the survey.
There is no doubt that the media’s influence on the images presented of body image is not going to cease, though; it would seem these statistics will sustain and possibly even rise in their percentages. But viewers can also only be affected if they allow themselves to be susceptible to the Photoshop and editing tricks of modern media.
Regardless, you have one body, and it’s yours; you can either choose to be the media’s definition of beauty, or you can choose to be healthy and make your own definition of beauty.