Image is huge in our society, with a constant bombardment of what you should look like from all sides in media and social media. Thankfully, as a society we are starting to become more aware of how the images we see everyday affect us and especially influence our younger generation.
Recent studies show that the impact of early exposure of sexuality to a girl’s development is indeed very harmful. A report by the American Psychological Association task force (APA, 2007), found that girls who are exposed to sexual messages from popular culture are more likely to have depression, low self esteem and to suffer from eating disorders. Unfortunately, we are only currently seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the devastating effects of over sexualizing our young girls, especially with the advent of social media.
Where I work I recently set up a Facebook account to attract young people into working in apprenticeships – the idea being that by using social media we would communicate with our chosen audience. So I started to make ‘friends’ with local young people to promote our advertising.
Within a few days our company had connected with hundreds of young people. As I clicked daily and added and accepted friends I started to notice a shocking trend in nearly all the photographs of young women; there were hundreds of photos of young girls being overly sexual, pouting and posing for shoots – not long ago you would have only seen this look in a dodgy magazine with a caption reading “call me”.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a woman showing her body and being naturally sexy and confident in herself and in her physique, but many of these photos did not show a natural confidence or a feeling of being comfortable; whilst I glanced over photos there was an all too similar feeling of desperation. As I scrolled through I felt sad to see a large majority of these beautiful young women looking lost and needy. I was quite taken back and I had to ask my self, is this the norm for our young women? And if so, what have we done to allow this to happen? How come these young women’s faces staring back at me in their low cut tops posing seductively, actually felt so sad and empty?
Is it because they are missing themselves?
Is it because they have sold out to a lie of what they should look like and how they should perform in order to fit in?
Not that long ago these teenage women were innocent, honest, fun loving girls – what we are now seeing is the consequences of our girls being constantly fed a lie. This lie has been hanging around for far too long, promoting a demoralizing way of thinking that has become the norm.
From a young age, girls in many different ways are taught that they are valued for what they look like rather than what they say and who they are as a person.
All of us make up society and we are all part of it, so what is going on for us to buy into this facade? Why is there a constant need to look better? And why in our history as women has this actually gotten worse with time, not better?
When will we take responsibility and change or will we see another generation drip-fed with the same deluded ideas?
The images we see every day are more hypersexual then ever. We are constantly being bombarded with images that say we are not enough, that we need to be more sexy, more beautiful; these unreal expectations once swallowed are totally exhausting so no wonder suicide rates and depression rates have escalated in young women. Are we not accountable for letting this happen?
What can we do? We can start with small steps like saying no to buying and reading damaging material. I myself noticed that I would feel yucky and low after reading the average woman’s magazine, where I would be left with the imposed message that said I was not good enough or as beautiful as them. Let’s not be under any illusion, most of this material promotes and encourages bitchiness, gossip, competition and comparison (these traits can sure make us ugly).
In the past when I have looked at such magazines and also many social media sites I have looked at my own body more harshly and more critically and I have noticed I am more likely to judge another = what an exhausting waste of energy!
The constant disempowering of us as women has implications far and wide. It is time to wake up and choose to see beyond physical looks and look at the deeper issues of lack of self worth and how this can be addressed. Ultimately when we deal with our own lack of self worth we are able to inspire others and show them that the current ways have not worked and will not work.
By far the most effective solution is to empower young girls to inspire them to believe in themselves. Once we deal with our own lack of self worth and start to live in a way that celebrates who we are as women we are able to inspire young people to also love and respect themselves.
True beauty is found in all women in all sizes, in all ages and in all physical attributes. Truly there is nothing more beautiful than a woman who is content with who she is and radiates this joy as a celebration for all to see.
To the girls I see on the social media sites I want to tell them that they are beautiful, that they are all unique, no matter what shape, size, weight or race. I want to tell them they are strong, amazing, divine, sexy and sassy just being them; that there is no need to be anyone other than who they truly are. As wise claimed beautiful women we can inspire our young and not sell our selves out to a marketed idea of what beauty is; in doing so we send a strong message out to our young generation that they are all uniquely beautiful and that we are all, young and old, so much more than someone’s marketed idea of what beauty is.
by STC, UK
American Psychological Association (APA) (2007), Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls
You may also like:
What is Being Truly Sexy by STC
Consuming Junk Media & Cleaning up My own Press by Adrienne Hutchins
Reclaiming my Self Worth by Danielle
697 thoughts on “The Effects of Image in Media – Not so Sexy for Young Women”
“…. there is nothing more beautiful than a woman who is content with who she is.” So true. Women of varying shapes and sizes, race and culture – it matters not – can be unique and beautiful, not because of what the outer shows, but the glow that emanates out from within when they feel all of who they truly are.
Flipping through women’s magazines these days is such an unreal experience. The models seem to be either airbrushed to a tee and full of false shine, or sad and hollow – both are just different sides of the same coin.
It is sad that today young women are selling themselves short and thus overplaying their natural sexiness and how they perceive beauty. The pictures they are sold of how to be are a lie. When people feel less than – in any capacity – they try to feel better by playing out an image of how they think they should be, rather than just being their natural selves, which is far more attractive.
Any time that we feel we have to change how we are to be accepted means that we have stepped away from our true selves and feel this disconnection and the emptiness that ensues only serves to fuel that need to try and fit a picture we have been fed.
When we love ourselves deeply and feel content with who we are we radiate a natural beauty out to the world. What can be more inspiring to other young girls? As an older woman who isn’t fighting her age, I know I look old to my grandchildren and their friends and to the schoolchildren I interact with every week, but trust I am aging gracefully ( and occasionally disgracefully! ) to show them that older women can still radiate out a natural femininity, beauty and even sexiness ….
That APA report was 2007, things have changed so much in 11 years with what our young are exposed to at earlier and earlier days. I have grave concerns to what this will do to the mental health of the next generation. That is why it is so important for women and men to be role models and live in a way that is inspiring.
Yes, the damage could be severe and long lasting. We don’t know yet but that is entirely possible.
Children don’t miss a thing. I have a daughter and every move I make she clocks. I can either inspire her by my movements to live in a way that is true for her or I can follow the trend and place everything on and around me. I am becoming more aware of the ginormous importance it is to live in a way that honours and respects myself as a woman, not in a selfish way but with an absolute love for everyone and everything equally so and the ripple effect of my livingness when I live aligned to my soul makes such an impact on those around me bringing about great change and love in the world.
Great blog Samantha and a much needed conversation starter on this topic. There are so many hidden messages everywhere in all forms of media today that leave their mark on our youth and are causing all sorts of social problems. We need to start putting ‘two and two together’ and start saying ‘no ‘ to what we know is not good for us all.
“All of us make up society and we are all part of it, so what is going on for us to buy into this facade? ” I sense the main reason is that we feel sort of comfortable with this way of ‘beauty’ as it does not ask us to love ourselves more, be responsible for how we feel and all that we do really. When women really start to love themselves the world is in for some change. Which is very needed.
I feel your deep love and care for the younger women.
This is the most beautiful thing we as older women can give to them by reflection of how we live loving and honoring ourselves.
‘I started to notice a shocking trend in nearly all the photographs of young women; there were hundreds of photos of young girls being overly sexual, pouting and posing for shoots – not long ago you would have only seen this look in a dodgy magazine with a caption reading “call me”.’ This really is a sad indictment of what we have allowed in society. For our girls to feel that their only worth is in the sexualisation of their bodies on an increasing scale means we have failed them hugely. We very much need to be addressing this.
I was just at Westfield in London and noticed maniquins that were dressed to look slutty – I couldn’t believe it a new low in retail.
The acceptance of what we see in the media in terms of representation of girls and women to then be confirmed in the way clothes are presented on the high street doesn’t leave girls much space to accept themselves as they are, does it? When we reinforce the message that girls are only as good as their bodies and how willing they are to give them away in every quarter we keep setting ourselves up for increasing societal breakdown.
That is a strong message Samantha, and very much needed. It made me realize the negative effect of our image based society has on women. It is not just images, society promotes images that are impossible to live up to and are false at the same time. The celebrities on tv, in magazine look like they have it made but, if you look deeply into their lives they live are far from consistent joyful lives. And those women should be the role models of women, and especially young women?
I see a lot of young girls and women using an app that takes a picture with flowers in their hair and ‘enhances’ their eyes. I tried this and it unsettled me, it was glossed over and fake. Recently I watched the Girl 2 Woman festival 2018 livestream and feature video. Girls and women with real flowers in their hair and many with no makeup but those eyes! WOW! Absolutely stunning with no filters needed, just shining as they were naturally.
We may not be able to control the images our eyes receive, but we can certainly be aware of the effect that they have on us and use this awareness to deepen a quality of stillness in ourselves that will hold us steady through the bombardment. That is, through detached observation and being deeply in tune with ourselves and all others, we develop a way to be in the world where we do not have to take on everything that is fired at us, but rather discern whether what we see and feel is of truth or not. To observe life in this way is the key to not absorbing it.
“That is, through detached observation and being deeply in tune with ourselves and all others, we develop a way to be in the world where we do not have to take on everything that is fired at us, but rather discern whether what we see and feel is of truth or not” I agree Liane and this way of being acts like a bullet proof vest, that’s not to say that we harden, we don’t but the bullets simply ricochet off.
This is what has become normal, we need to bring a deeper understanding of what is going on as a society that this is now our current trend or way of interacting with one another. It is clear that something here is not working as we have the highest rates of anxiety, depression, self harm and other mental health issues than ever before. While many would say we are more liberated, we have to consider whether this is true.
” Recent studies show that the impact of early exposure of sexuality to a girl’s development is indeed very harmful. A report by the American Psychological Association task force (APA, 2007), found that girls who are exposed to sexual messages from popular culture are more likely to have depression, low self esteem and to suffer from eating disorders. ”
This makes sense, for if a girl gets the message ” that all the world wants from me is sex ” like whats the point :, that for sure would make a person feel sad.
‘Truly there is nothing more beautiful than a woman who is content with who she is and radiates this joy as a celebration for all to see.’ Absolutely and these role models are needed now more than ever with the proliferation of social media and its often damaging impact.
It’s curious that we focus on young women being affected when we are all affecteded by the sexualisation of the media, we all suffer the ill effects.
If all the people who work for the air-brushed magazines do not feature on the glossy pages they are putting their own jealousy and comparisons into print.
The biggest gift we can give the young women is to live ourselves with appriciation and confirmation about ourselves. The level we do that is what they see and feel space for to live themselves.
How beautiful Sylvia – this is the key, start with appreciating self so that it inspires another to do likewise.
Lets be honest there is vital, beautiful, joyful sexy and then there is down right sordid, salacious, degrading sexy, we need to discuss these concepts with children and young people, they have both around them from a young age in media and music etc…honouring who we are and being safe in life, is very much benefited through being understanding of this difference.
There is so much tied up in the topic of body issues, sexualisation of the media, women’s rights and suppression etc etc – I am seeing more and more that almost in reaction to the past suppression of women and the abuse of her body either through physical and sexual abuse, or though making it out to be unclean, dirty and less than a man, women are now going in the opposite direction in an attempt to ‘claim back’ their bodies. We are seeing more sexualisation and exposure of women’s bodies, motivated by women feeling that this is their way of reclaiming – and in some cases this may be true, but in most what I get a sense of is that rather than being cadged and supressed by men, in our own attempts to break free of this we have simply walked into another jail of our own making and we are the only jailers.
It is very obvious to anyone willing to look that the influence of the media and social media is a toxic one and one that we need to take seriously for the ill mental health it brings about.
But we also need to be honest and admit the fact that we’re the ones asking for it. We are the ones who are continually dropping our standards to lower and lower levels, we are the ones who are choosing more and more extreme behaviours, we are the ones taking life to more and more grotesque misrepresentations of itself. In short we need to take responsibility for what we see because we are the ones who have created it.
“As wise claimed beautiful women we can inspire our young and not sell our selves out to a marketed idea of what beauty is” This to me is the only way to stop this ill behaviour that has spread itself in society through the seed of lack of self worth that is everywhere in the media and in our societies for us to buy into.
We also now have the added issue of photo shopping, everyone is at it and we are really unlikely to see a ‘real’ photo in any magazine shot. What does this say about us as a human species that we have lie and pretend about what is really there?
One of the greatest inspirations for me as a woman is seeing other women who are really full within themselves and this then inspires me to reconsider how I am with myself.
Inspiring words Samantha, thank you. This really highlights the fact that we are fashioned right from the start to look outside of us for a beauty that is only found within. Perhaps if we took more stock of the way women are portrayed and were aware of the subtle but not so subtle affect these images have not only on our young but on us all, then we would not have such prolific rates of misogyny, femicide and denigration towards women as we do in the world today.
I’ve stopped reading and buying magazines and watching TV, and I’ve felt the shift in that. Advertising is a very effective way of getting women to compare, and I was certainly once all consumed by this. It goes to show that by making little changes can really help how we see and value ourselves as women.
It is really appalling what we have allowed to surround as and then deem as normal. The more we are willing to see the less we will accept it.
I wonder if the images for women are getting more extreme? It seems normal for even young women who are in the public eye to have plastic surgery giving some of them a look that I can’t see being naturally possible.
Amazing article exposing a deeply poisonous epidemic that has permeated society to it’s core perpetuating an never ending drive for external beauty the lack of self worth in women world wide… burying further the truth of the innate beauty that lies within. People complain about the behaviours of our youth today yet feed into the very energy that creates the issues they suffer from by not speaking up against the sexualisation, false images that abound, and the promotion of qualities that indeed make us ugly. This is a social issue and a responsibility we can’t just hand to somebody else.
Yes the media certainly is in a state in our society today. It’s all about cut and paste journalism, not true stories about people, but who and how many likes can we get on facebook. This is so incredibly damaging to young women, their self worth and self esteem.
I can only feel how far away we are from ourselves when we pose and dress in ways that are overtly forced and unnatural. This ‘look’ is void of the natural sexiness we have when connected to our bodies and the sacredness that resides within.
Image is the first thing that gets attacked very often. Being in the control of image is a very cruel business. If we have a need to keep up with any picture of what is being beautiful, successful, sexy etc. we are already at a loss–as anything outside of what we have made our pictures to be, would be viewed as judgement. How could we as humanity not be a loss when judgement becomes our norm? Judgement brings in separation and we are no longer living our essence that which is Love. Conflict and disharmony begins within ourselves because of that and is reflected in everything outside of us. So how could we withstand the pressure of image? The most supportive way I have found is to live my life without pictures but simply and purely from the freedom of what is felt in the heart, and to behold myself steadily during this process. Reacting towards any reaction from the outside makes me lose my steadiness and tempts me to fall back into judgement. So the best deal is to remain loving and accepting of ourselves, as the love felt within will be sustaining the joy and steadiness no matter what is reflected back, with the awareness that what is reflected back is also an reality self-created and to be responsible for.
“To the girls I see on the social media sites I want to tell them that they are beautiful, that they are all unique, no matter what shape, size, weight or race.” I so agree, I too see so many unpleasant images on social media and wonder where are we going as a society where over sexualisation of girls and young women is occurring at an alarming rate. There is a personal responsibility that each of us needs to take in that, but bringing support and love also.
Wow this is a very needed blog Samantha, one that does really drive home the responsibility we have as women to . . . ” . . deal with our own lack of self worth and start to live in a way that celebrates who we are as women” . . . as it is only then that . . . “we are able to inspire young people to also love and respect themselves.” Well said.
This is what stood out for me in this great article too Kathleen, the responsibility I have to deal with my own lack of self worth, and live the joy of celebrating me. Living this way will reflect and inspire women of all ages to seek their own love and self worth.
What you’ve described Samantha is the cycle of supply and demand we have trapped ourselves in for products such as low self esteem, anxiety, self abuse and body hatred. It isn’t just a ‘media issue’, because as you’ve shared women and young women are BUYING into these things, so in order to address the media etc. we need to first look at our own lives and address why we aren’t appreciating ourselves as the gorgeous women we are.
As a society, we tend to isolate what the young are doing as if what they are doing and what they are going through have nothing to do with us, what we are doing, how we live and what are we going through. Yet, what if they are not totally unrelated? What if we could help them by changing how we move in life and relate to self and to each other?
I wonder if every year the image of women (and men) gets a little more extreme, with the pendulum swinging further and further out and I wonder where it goes and what the backlash will look like.
I probably sound like an old fuddy-duddy but I find it genuinely shocking what especially young girls are expected to be and do – it is not so much what they are doing – that is their choice to a degree but the enormous expectations and how unpleasant those expectations are.
It is a harsh environment to grow up in and the visual status and social creditability of social media is gaining more and more momentum. Being judged and rated on looks in moments on the internet is crazy and trying to measure to photo shopped images of what a woman or man looks like is very dangerous. Living life for what others think in fabricated lies and situations, is hollow and not sustainable for true self esteem and quality of life.
I was speaking to a GP a few weeks ago about what young people are coming to see her for, and she said that what stands out loud and clear as being the number 1 issue for youth at the minute is low self esteem, and the media/Internet has a lot to do with this.
What a inspired article! I use to buy the occasional fashion mag or trash mag if I was flying on a plane or had a free moment, which was rare but I realised a while ago that it is not an industry I want to support. I want us to turn the tide and give our daughters and the next generation of young women that come through the chance to know a different way, a different world of women that allow themselves to age naturally. A woman that has a forehead she can move and express from. Lips that smile and are not blown up like a balloon. Mums that don’t put themselves down and magazines on their coffee table like womaninlivingness! This is not a pipe dream, I know this can be a reality.
It is very clear that our image driven culture is hugely failing and harming the young girls and women in our society. As you have shared Samantha the statistics of suicide, over sexualisation, self harm, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse is still on the rise. The lack of connection these girls are experiencing to who they are within, to their gorgeousness, to their inner-power, incites the need for guidance from the world outside of them through the images that they are constantly met with, as they have no other reflection. Now more than ever before our reflections of what it means to live as a true woman are needed, to show that the image of a real woman is one who lives in connection to her essence with where sexiness, beauty, wisdom and power naturally emanates through just by simply being yourself.
We are indeed not just said, but force fed it seems, images and pictures of how we should be. It is essential, as Universal Medicine continually presents, that we simply start to know ourselves and from this connection develops a wisdom that enables us to let go of the things that have been told to us and start to know ourselves for who we truly are
Image has become everything in society today. It has become what you look like rather than who you truly are that is important. The media are 100% behind this shallowness, that encourages comparison and jealousy- two deadly evil emotions. Many women buy into this, not realizing it is all a set-up to make them feel less and thus reducing their power and amazingness.
It is quite a clever set-up to feed women (and men) a multitude of images and ideals about how they should and shouldn’t look so that humanity becomes so totally lost in the outer driven ideal of ‘beauty’ and completely at the whim of such manipulation they can no longer see nor access the true beauty of who we each are deep within. And while the medium of social media is new, the bombardment of images is an age-old trick on behalf of the ‘shadows’ in order to obscure the exquisite loveliness of our inner light that helps us to arise out of such illusion. This light can never be extinguished, but it can be buried beneath a lesser way to be. It is up to each of us to reconnect with this inner light/love and begin to express from the inside out so we are no longer victim to all that is fed to us from the outside in.
Coming back to this blog today and have really appreciated the value of what you say since the last time I read it. It inspired me to ensure that my conversations named this fake sense of beauty and sexiness we are sold as a marketing ploy so we, once again, have a choice to subscribe to it or not.
A woman deeply connected to her divinity and universality is sexy. The sexiness portrayed in the media comes no where near sharing the true power of women.
As we get more connected we are more exposed to what is in our society and forceful, persuasive memes (consciousnesses or ideas) get far wider circulation and affect as at younger and younger ages. I wonder just how much long term harm this creates
Great call to work on our own self worth images to be the reflection that we would like to see in society and never has this been more needed than now with the pressure of social media on everyone but particularly young women and the sexualised but empty images that they are bombarded with.