By Juliana Brittis
The media’s portrayal of women & beauty has been a huge part of my life in two very personal ways. I have struggled with my body image since I was in 7th grade. The intensity of this problem has wavered since its start, but it is still present in my everyday life. Growing up, I would cover the walls of my bedroom with ads and spreads from fashion magazines. I used these images as “inspiration,” as I attempted to mold and manipulate my own body in accordance with these perfect girls. The simple act of surrounding myself with these photos created an inner sickness that would stay with me into adulthood.
My personal infatuation with body image contributed to becoming a media studies teacher. Throughout college and grad school, I used media theories on body image to better understand my own obsession and to learn how to help others who might feel the same way.
I am a media studies teacher at an all-girls school. Issues regarding self-esteem and beauty standards are part of our classroom dialogue almost everyday. As an educator and role model to my girls, I am passionate about empowering them in every way—especially when it comes to challenging the media’s portrayal of women. This passion comes from the fact that even at 26 years old, I still feel bombarded by images of “perfection” and consumed with the pressure to be skinny.
Insecurity can creep up on you unexpectedly and before you know it, you can become consumed with negative thoughts and ideas about yourself. The worst part about these “insecure days,” is how they can totally paralyze your day and make it difficult to go about your normal routine. For me, this also brings about the desire to hide from the world and be lazy around my house. I have found that the best way to deal with this is to get up and move. I motivate myself knowing that if I go to a workout class, I’ll be surrounded by positive energy and people cheering me on. Even though it can be hard to get myself there, it’s always worth it and guaranteed to erase any feelings of insecurity.
As girls and women learning to thrive and survive in this image-saturated world, we have a huge responsibility to support one another in every way possible. Believe it or not, many people are unaware of the fact that the pictures in ads and magazines are photo-shopped beyond recognition. These images create a false standard of beauty that is totally unachievable. The truth behind these images must be spread to others so this crazy idea of perfection can be eliminated. Challenge the images you see everyday. Challenge yourself when you start to question your own beauty and self-worth. Challenge the fashion and magazine industry—tell them you want to see real girls without the airbrushing. Speaking out is easier than you think; The Brave Girl’s Alliance–” a group dedicated to the empowerment of girls—has created a “Heroes Pledge for Advertising” that you can sign, which asks the fashion industry to stop producing photoshopped ads.
True beauty cannot be found in a magazine or in the Victoria Secret catalogue. True beauty is messy, natural, and unique. Create your own idea of beauty, knowing that when we are true to ourselves, we are the most beautiful we can be.