Photo by Andi Rieger on Unsplash

Disclaimer: Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors carry significant health and medical risk.  If you struggle with disordered eating behaviors and/or think you may be developing an eating disorder, it is important to seek medical help and get a professional assessment. Please refer to the following resources for further information:

Mental Health First Aid Guidelines – Eating Disorders, 

I see billboards, television, magazines and different types of media showcasing images of beautiful models everywhere I go. People, especially our youth, don’t realize that these models are airbrushed and photoshopped. With the rise in popularity of social media, filters are a new trend, and now teens and young adults have a personal photoshop tool at the tip of their fingers. All these types of media, as well as the rise of photoshop, are causing our youth’s self-esteem to plummet, and distorting their ideas of beauty. 

This is my experience with the toxicity of beauty standards created by our media— though it is not uniquely mine. To quote the caption of an eye-opening video by Dove US

“By age 13, 80% of girls distort the way they look online… . Social media is a big part of young people’s lives — but retouching apps and the pressure to post the ‘perfect selfie’ are hurting their self-esteem and confidence.” -Dove US.

From an early age, girls are taught they will never be good enough; this is how it started with me. Ever since I was a child, I was insecure. As I grew older, my insecurity only increased. Comparing myself to my friends and the women in magazines only made my self-esteem worsen with time. When I hit the tender age of fourteen, I gained a lot of weight during the summer. That was the time I cut my eating and started exercising at my apartment complex’s gym. As time flew by, my weight started melting away.

Throughout high school, I was adamant about not gaining weight. During my freshman year, I developed two eating disorders simultaneously. My depression worsened and I became a shell of what I used to be, hitting my lowest weight of 103 pounds. Though it was no easy feat, I overcame my eating disorders and started eating more… but still, I struggled with my self-image. Despite gaining curves my senior year, I still wasn’t happy. Comparing myself to my peers and models didn’t help at all. I wanted to be beautiful like them; not like me.

Even through college, I didn’t think I was beautiful. Working out and attracting guys didn’t boost my self-esteem, and as an adult, I still struggle. I’m lucky to have a man in my life who loves me and thinks I’m beautiful, but it’s a battle to gain self-confidence. It’s not something any amount of external validation can give you. Rather, it needs to come from within. 

Unfortunately, the media certainly doesn’t help those of us on this journey, as they place an impossible standard on girls and women. As a result, people believe they’re not “attractive” when they don’t meet that standard. I fell into the media’s trap at a young age which led to the problems I developed. Women need to be portrayed as realistically and beautifully as they are in manner to promote self-love and acceptance. Everyone is beautiful just the way they are.