- October 10th, 2010
Women’s health and self-image as well as the effect of media on my age group has always interested and affected me. There are people who say that the media cannot and does not affect a person’s life choices and we do things by our own will. In contrast, there is the side which says media has a strong affect on everyone and there is a certain amount of brainwashing taking place with every T.V. drama we watch. I subscribe to the compromise between the two ideas. To me, every person makes their own decisions, however the media has a large influence over those choices.
Since the beginning of middle school and on, I have been a constant witness and victim of media’s influences. Focusing on myself, I have always noticed the differences between myself and other girls. I am a Latina girl, which comes with curves and a dark complexion…much unlike most of the girls in any place I’ve ever been (excluding California), who were tall, with boyish hips and light or fair skin tones and hair. Even on television, the girls were all thin and definitely not as curvy as I. Seeing this more and more I began to think I was abnormal, and overweight. During middle school, I was average weight and average height, but I didn’t’ see average. I compared myself to the girls I went to class with, and made it my goal to be just like tem. I tried everything, and went from healthy dieting to extreme in very little time.
My mother has been dieting since before I can remember, so it was easy for me to join her an start. I did as my mother did. We worked out together and ate the same things. And when she changed her diet, so did I. WE TRIED EVERYTHING. You name the diet and I can almost always say, “yep, done it!”. For me, not matter the diet, I was not seeing any physical change. My mom told me to be patient and I was…for a while. After waiting and weighing and waiting some more, I decided to change it up and take into my own (incapable) hands. I put myself on a crash diet. Starving for days, then eating a ton, then starving again. I even went so far as trying to purge…But that, was not for me. I increased my exercising routine, and ate less. This, I discovered, worked. I lost weight quickly and steadily. Every pair of my pants were loose and my shirts were a little baggy in the chest area. This was my success and reward. Remember, this was middle school, about seventh grade. My parents were busy, but sooner than later, my mom noticed the changes in my attitude first, (I became more irritable), then my drastic weight loss which I was the start of all the questions about my eating habits, and my answers made them worry. To follow up on my answers they started at my reasoning for such an extreme method. I was embarrassed to tell hem my reasons, even when they were, to me, perfectly understandable. I explained how I’d observed that girls at school and on the television were not a s curvy, and how were all lighter complexioned. My parents, mainly my mom told me how it was joust my body type and how all my differences set me apart and made me beautiful. But I was an insecure preteen girl, and being different was NOT good. I wanted to be ‘normal’.
My parents made me promise to eat, and they put up meal plans to make sure I did. I made the promise and broke it, usually giving my food away at school or just throwing it out. However, I couldn’t avoid dinner or weekend meals. My eating was sporadic at best but it was a huge change from eating almost nothing to eating almost two to three meals a day. My weight loss slowed and eventually, I started gaining weight again. My mother noticed, but didn’t seem to mind it. I was starting to look healthy again to other people by my self-image was twisting farther and farther down the drain. I saw fat. That’s all.
As I transitioned into high school , I naturally slimmed down slightly. I grew into my curves and I was actually a healthy looking girl. My eating habits were improved but poor. I had developed a fear of eating in front of people and always claimed that I wasn’t hungry or that I had just ate. My mom an did I frequent discussions about the media. We believe that it is changing the expectations of girls, making us think we need to be a size00 and a DD cup size. I was angry. Yet, I continued letting the media influence me. I still eat the bare minimum, and lie when I’m asked if I want anything to eat.
Over the years, my mind and my body have changed. I’m still curvy; I stand at five feet tall, and have dark eyes that people constantly say are black. I’m still terribly self conscious. But I always receive compliments on how beautiful people think I am, and how great my personality is. I hear all of it, I enjoy it, sometimes believe it…then I see how beautiful I think other girls are at school and on television. That’s where my progress would end. Recently, I’ve accepted my looks and my body for what they are: different. I am beautiful in my own ways. I know this and I’ve grown into some kind of understanding and knowledge of this where I don’t need validation from others to see it. This is the understanding that all women and girls need.
It is important for young girls to reach this point early because as they grow, their understanding will help them to develop confidence and positive self-image, similar to my own. Also, as these young girls grow into young women, then gain families, they may pass these lessons onto their own daughters who will, mo doubt struggle, but sooner accept the fact that they are beautiful. No matter what.
p.s. this is a multi-genre piece for my senior project which is a study on the affect media has on young women's self esteem and image.