Written by Aeryn McMurtry
It is a fact of human nature that a person’s physical appearance is the first thing that other people notice about them. People are prone to making judgements about other people based upon both their evolutionary fight or flight response and common social and societal preconceptions. In most cases, this phenomena is focused outward towards other people, but occasionally, it turns around and creates problems within a person’s own mind. Internalizing issues with your body is an understated aspect of body positivity. Most of the talk is about media and outward social stigmas, which completely glosses over deeper mental problems.
Generally, people know that what they are seeing in magazines and television about “perfect bodies” or “being the best you” is all digitally enhanced pictures of people who are already the standard. But knowing that at face value is different than absorbing it,which is where most people with body positivity issues fall short.
For the most part, the advertisements are targeted towards women. TV commercials boast about the newest Jenny Craig-type meal plan or show off only perfectly sculpted and airbrushed models wearing the latest fashions. Women are encouraged to lose “unsightly” parts of their bodies like fat, wrinkles, cellulite, and stretch marks. Instagram is filled with influencers who advertise Flat Tummy Tea and Teami, quick-fix methods to lose weight and get a flatter tummy. Women are told they always need to be smaller and smoother, getting rid of all of the ‘“imperfections” on the body, most of which are naturally occurring and unsolvable, like cellulite.
There has not been enough conversation about the kind of advertisement targeted at men, and that needs to change. While women are supposed to become smaller, men are supposed to get as big as possible.
Attitudes focused towards men are usually subtler, though not all the time. Commercials selling workout gear almost exclusively feature men with hyper-defined abdominal muscles and arms that look like they came out of an anatomy textbook. Muscle Milk protein products use the social media hashtag, #StrongFeelsGood to sell their powders and shakes to men.
The world of professional sports is also consumed with the biggest, fittest men. Athletes are often considered to be the peak of physicality, and they set an almost unattainable body type for the average working men. And even the athletes know that they can’t maintain their set standards. Just think about how every year there is an Olympic Games, there is some sort of scandal regarding steroids or doping.
The bottom line is that putting too much stock in the media and targeted advertising is unhealthy and only benefits corporations, not people. But it doesn’t feel that way, and that is the destructive part. Mental health is complex, but the one basic truth is that being constantly exposed to negativity causes you to be negative. Focusing on the campaigns that are size and race inclusive, as few and far between as they be, is the better way to go. Remember, above everything else, that there is nothing wrong with being human.