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The Ugly in Us - Body Image Dissatisfaction in Modern Society

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Six pack. Thigh gap. Small waist. Muscular. Have you ever looked in the mirror and wished that you could fit one of those descriptions? Body image is something that is seen as incredibly important to focus on for just about anybody, if not everybody who graces the earth. Including myself. When I look in the mirror I don’t particularly like what I see; my body isn’t as the magazines tell me it should be, I don’t have long hair or a slender frame. Instead I see myself on the larger side of the scale, have gross greasy hair and get chafe between my thighs when I walk. Would I change my appearance if given the chance? Probably, yes. But can I? No, this is the body I’m stuck with.

People of all ages, genders, and races throughout the world share the like-minded thought that they do not find themselves attractive. 89% of women are unhappy with their bodies, as discovered by the Dove global study. Society has raised us to believe that we are far from perfection and will never be able to gain the unobtainable body that we all desire. This desirable body is often near-impossible to achieve without going to extreme lengths to change our appearances, from cosmetic surgeries to extensive dieting and starvation. Body image dissatisfaction is more prevalent in today’s society, and this is just the way that things are shaped.

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But why is this the way things are shaped, and how have we let it get to this point?

Celebrity influence

Celebrities, influencers, and social media are only the beginning of where having a negative self-body image comes into our minds. For the majority of today’s society, almost everybody has a social media account of some degree; Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. While they are available to share parts of your life with your friends and follow things you have an interest in, the biggest use is for watching over celebrities and influencers who lead a life of supposed perfection that the other 99% of the world could only ever dream of.

With their millions of followers, any image they put online immediately becomes envied – regardless of how truthful it may actually be. Celebrities such as the Kardashian family are constantly in our faces. If it’s not in a magazine, it’s on the TV. If it’s not on the TV it’s on our phone screens. There’s never a break from seeing their unnatural bodies that have become distorted by camera angles and Photoshop to appear as the natural body we all wish we had. They promote unhealthy alternatives for us ‘normal people’ to shape ourselves as they are, even though those alternatives almost never work.

We live in the mindset that because these people are so well liked and appreciated, that maybe if we look the same as they do, that perhaps we will be liked too. The media uses this to their advantage by flaunting their ‘perfections’, and rubbing it in our faces. Look at the next magazine cover you see. What do you see? Doctored images of well-loved celebrities. Muscular, skinny, big-breasted – most certainly not what the normal people of the world look like. But, I can guarantee you that it has piqued your interest and you want to see more. Simply because they’re a celebrity, and they influence the way you see life. They influence the way that you see yourself.

They only show their best angles, where the light hits their skin in a way to avoid gaining 10 pounds through simple positioning. By avoiding or removing imperfections it creates the false illusion of a body without the parts that make us real. The pouch on our stomach to protect our organs, the larger thighs to promote muscular endurance, or the skin pores of our faces which enable the hair on our face to grow. They might be natural parts of our bodies, but celebrities alter the realism from their images to distort our own sense of reality. If a celebrity doesn’t live with something that they determine is unattractive, then humankind as a whole is able to believe that in order to be accepted, they need to have similar physical aspects to those who are praised for their features.

“Social media is training us to compare our lives, instead of appreciating everything we are. No wonder why everyone is always depressed.’’ – Bill Murray

Take Kim Kardashian for example. Both men and women of many ethnicities have an overwhelming appreciation for her. She’s won the world over by flaunting her body – even the physically unattractive parts – and made the world see her as a goddess. Large breasts, a stick-thin waist, an excessively rounded rear, and curves that raise her sex appeal. Women want to be her, and men want to be with her. It’s only understandable that seeing her figure in the media would issue us with the idea that having a body such as that would gain the status that we all desire. With 113.1 million followers on Instagram alone, Kim is able to influence 113.1 million different people with the idea that her body is perfection, and a guaranteed invitation to living a life of satisfaction and happiness. And we all lap it up, because if Kim can do it, so can we.

Perception from others

We all want to be something different, something more than we already are. We live in a fake world filled with fake idealities in which we believe we need to meet. Celebrities are only part of the equation as we all subconsciously know that we can’t achieve their direct looks without the aid of plastic surgeries and personal trainers, so instead we suffice with impressing those around us. Outside of the internet’s deceiving looks, people in our daily lives also have a large influence on how we perceive ourselves day in and day out. Our parents, friends, our school peers, coworkers, normal, everyday people who still have an impact on how we see ourselves in the mirror.

Every morning we wake up and get ourselves ready for the day ahead. It usually consists of several minutes deciding what to wear, how to do our hair, applying makeup, and overall making ourselves presentable. Presentable not to ourselves, but to those around us. With the approval of others, we believe that our day will go a lot more smoothly, and we won’t be troubled in our lives. The feeling of being accepted by the people around us in our real lives is more important to us than simply being who we are, and being accepted on that basis. We calculate our self-worth on how people think of ourselves. If they think negatively, so do we. If they think positively, then so do we. But how often are we ever told that somebody likes the way that we look?

Human nature leaves us searching for a meaning to our lives. It’s our natural instinct to search for a way to make us stand out in a crowd because there are so many others gracing the earth that we equate to nothing in the grand scheme. There’s always somebody out there who means more than we do, and people love them for it too. So, maybe if we can achieve the same status by looking the same way, we will be loved just as much. The overwhelming desire to attain the unattainable features is what keeps us going, thriving for the change that will enlighten our lives just that little bit more.

However, in real life there are no filters or angles that we can show ourselves off in – people see us for who we really are, and how we actually look. We can’t hide behind a camera positioned to flaunt our best angles, and we can’t photoshop out any blemishes. That becomes an issue when we walk past somebody in the street because they see us in our natural appearance rather than done up to be somebody else. Any insecurities that could previously be covered up are now out in the open, and open to be targeted and critiqued.

We are taught to look at other people and point out their flaws. We are never taught to see somebody as perfect for the way that the look, nor to appreciate them for simply being who they are. As a result, it’s pretty easy to walk past somebody in the street and think thoughts like ‘Oh, she doesn’t have the body for those clothes’, or ‘he doesn’t need that donut’. Never do we think ‘they are perfect just the way that they are’. Because of this, not only do we judge others, but others judge us for exactly the same reasons.

It’s impossible to strive for the perfect body that won’t be judged or critiqued. There is always something about us that somebody else will have to comment on regardless if it is wanted or not. This creates a negative mindset, and from here we are instructed to change ourselves because the people around us don’t agree with how we present our bodies day in and day out. The negative thoughts that we think and negative thoughts that other people think, many people will share those thoughts too. Often, they will also share their thoughts out loud.

The clothes we wear, the way we style our hair – it’s all being criticized. If the actual people in our lives have something to say about our bodies, we will immediately believe the negativity in their words. Because, unlike social media, these people actually can tell us about the flaws of our bodies and inform us that we don’t look good and need to change something about us. That creates more of an impression that we are ugly, fat, and unwelcome in society because these real-life people see our real-life bodies, and are able to give their personal analysis of us.

Self-image

But above all, we are our biggest critics. We don’t realize that people don’t see ourselves the way that we do, we don’t realize that people actually do love us for who we are and not how we look. It’s a built-up mindset that people acquire as they live their lives, and each passing day cements it further into our minds that we aren’t perfect, but we can be. When we look in the mirror we see immediately see something wrong that needs to be fixed or changed, each and every time. The squint in our eyes, the tuck of skin beside our armpits, the scar on our skin that proves we’ve lived our lives.

What we fail to realize, is that once one imperfection is somewhat fixed, there is another imperfection that is found that will need to be improved. After the flat stomach has been acquired, then the fat thighs become the next issue to fix. After the fat thighs, the grandma arms need to be dealt to. One thing after another, there’s never really any way to completely feel happy with your own appearance. Everyone else’s negativity influences us to the point where we rule out the positivity in our lives.

Humankind also fails to realize that nobody has an overruling input on our lives, and more importantly, our bodies. In the back of our minds everybody has the thoughts that they won’t ever equate to anything and that everybody sees them as a failure. I do, you do, your friends do, and so do theirs. Something that we aren’t able to comprehend is that we assess ourselves more than anybody else ever has, and ever will, and that the way we determine ourselves to fail are the ways that other people may seem as natural and just who you are.

The overall expectation that we seem to place on ourselves for perfection is in simple words, crazy. Feeling the need to be flawless is crazy. Looking at old photos compared to new ones and finding something wrong in each is crazy. We just need to realize that there is nothing wrong with either photos, and any flaws are good things because they make a person an individual. Being an individual is a good thing because it makes us unique, and even more special and appreciated for who we are. We shouldn’t measure our happiness based on the amount of body fat we have, and we shouldn’t measure our self-worth based on our appearance. It’s who we are.

It’s easy to look in the mirror and see something you don’t like or appreciate, but it’s a lot harder to look in the same mirror and pick out something that you do like about yourself. Everyone does it, whether subconsciously or on purpose – it’s just what has become a normal thing for people to do. Even if nobody else notices anything wrong with our appearance, we’ll pick it out and point it out for validation that it isn’t an issue. Just because we can’t accept it, it immediately grows into an ever bigger problem which eventually will outweigh the pros and join the growing list of cons.

Conclusion

As people we need to realize that yes, we are worth something, and also have the right to love ourselves. On top of that, we also need to realize that we’re the only ones who can help ourselves. Our biggest problem is that we look for self-acceptance in others, and measure our value and worth dependent on what others are willing to give us. Should it be family, friends, loved ones, or even a stranger on the street. The most important thing people should do is take the initiative to step back and question them self, to realize that no, our worth in the world is not based on another person’s validation, but based on our own acceptance of who we are and the incredible person who’s standing there criticizing their own self-worth. If somebody tells us that we’re flawed, we believe it, and if somebody tells us we look good, we believe it. So why can’t we believe it when we tell ourselves that we look good?

It takes each and every person an incredibly long time to realize and discover that we are more than just our bodies and how we present ourselves. Instead of being physically appealing, we need to realize that our values, actions, words and interactions are the foundation of what makes us who we really are. Not the clothes we wear, not how much we weigh, or our overall appearance. It’s disappointing to know that it takes so long to realize the potential we have as people, and not just a body for impressing others. As a society, we need to learn to find that life-changing light-bulb moment where we realize that all we need to do is accept ourselves and everything that comes with us. Then, and only then will we be able to accept people for who they are, and now how they appear. What’s on the outside doesn’t matter in the long run – it’s what is on the inside that really counts.

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