I’ll level with ya: I’m not sure that true media immunity is possible. Not for those of us who watch movies and television, use the Internet, and read magazines or even just view their covers. And that can feel frustrating since the messages we receive from mass media about beauty, bodies, and value are oppressive and upsetting: It’s hard to cultivate self-love in the face of relentless images of women who don’t look a thing like you, information about how to hide your “flaws,” and unending pressure to lose weight and tone up. Progress has been made on a few fronts, but many media outlets still dump this stuff on us daily. And since we can’t get away from it, I think it’s wise to create a plan of reaction and to cultivate as much immunity as possible. Until we can recast the messages, we must be aware of how we receive them.
So here are a few tricks I use to keep those media messages from dragging me down. Perhaps a few will work for you, too.
Yes, it has been Photoshopped: Every photograph in every magazine, catalog, or other printed medium has, indeed, been Photoshopped. You can bet on it. From the red carpet shot of Heidi Klum to the impossibly close photo of the matte foundation model’s t-zone. Never, ever look at a printed photo and think,”If only I could get my hair/skin/undereyes/hips/breasts to look that good.” You can’t. Even the woman you’re looking at can’t. It’s not humanly possible. Frustrating … but also a bit freeing.
No mass-marketed periodical can tell you anything about your health: You are a unique individual and you are a human being. That means your health is an INCREDIBLY complex concept. Periodicals will hurl statistics at you, make mind-blowing generalizations, and do just about everything they can to convince you that their articles and recommendations are scientifically sound. They’re not. They’re just not! No exercise regimen shown in a mag is going to be perfect for you, no diet plan described on TV is going to do the trick for you, no product is going to change your body shape. If you want to undertake changes that will impact your body and health, contact professionals in your area who can meet with you in person and discuss your specific history. And don’t let anyone who hasn’t met you and spoken with you at great length deem you unhealthy.
Famous people have live-in tailors: Once again, I must point you to this post which reveals that the rich and famous have everything tailored. Including basic tees. Those people you’re looking at in those glossy photos? They have had everything they’re wearing custom made for their proportions. Why do they look so amazing in things that look weird on you? Because they have skilled tailors and gobs of cash.
Inspiration is everywhere: It really is! And despite all of the rather ominous-sounding stuff in this post, images and ideas from mass media CAN be incredibly inspiring. If you choose to explore traditional media but worry how it will affect your self image, do your best to keep yourself in mind as you consume. Think, “What of this applies to me, my body, and my life?” If the clothes won’t fit or are too expensive, mind the proportions, materials, and color combos. If a workout idea appeals, consult a trainer or gym employee before attempting it on your own. If a spread showing a celebrity home makes you feel ashamed of your own, jot down a few DIY projects that might help you emulate what you’re seeing and loving. The media has all sorts of views about what you should be, but you get to decide what you want to be.
Again, the true goal is to crack open the beauty myth and let some real diversity in. These are simply workarounds that can soften the blows that magazines, catalogs, TV, movies, and videos can inflict on our collective body image. Alternately, you can try a media fast, or choose to support only outlets that align with your own views on how women should be represented and portrayed. Both fantastic ways to send messages to the industry and ensure that you’re surrounded by positive messages. But since mainstream media infiltrate much of Western culture no matter how we attempt to avoid them, cultivating some psychological and emotional immunity can be beneficial.
Image via weheartit.