The creation of negative body image is the largest coup of marketing history. The birth of marketing and advertising in the 1920s paved the way for suggestive and persuasive marketing. (1) Various firms and corporations latched on to this financially lucrative approach. Society’s perception of beauty, health, success, and status was hijacked. This robbery denied bodies of different shapes, sizes, and forms to be recognized for their individual beauty. Brands, companies, and businesses began to define the ideal body aesthetic. Thus giving birth to the negative body image that overpowers our society. And created a seductive appeal no one is immune to.
The Birth Of Negative Body Image
As marketing and advertising agencies progressed, they became smarter at analyzing consumer behavior. It became easy to pick at the target demographic’s pain points to increase sales, encourage repeat customers, and promote maximalism. These tactics served to increase their bottom line while decreasing the self-esteem of their consumers.
And while all industries use these tricks to gain sales. The fashion, health, and fitness industries are notorious for increasing negative body image. The leading fabrication they use is promoting the idea that you’ll become better when using their product. Health and fitness products focus on pushing the ideal physical aesthetic through restrictive dieting and extreme exercise.
Thus causing an increase in eating disorders and disordered eating tactics. What’s worse is these tactics are praised and hailed as healthy. Continual calorie restriction, the demonization of foods, and weight loss supplements paint a false perception of health and wellness.
On the other hand, the fashion industry isn’t any better. The continual focus on slender models contributes to the underlying narrative that thin is superior to the “average” body types. Countless magazines provide fitness and diet tips on how to get abs like your favorite celebrity.
Women and men are constantly persuaded to become something other than themself. Consequently, this overt message causes so many to develop a negative body image. It also pushes them into the cycle of feeling as though it’s necessary to strive for this acceptable and worthy body.
Negative Body Image In The Age Of Social Media
There was a time when magazines, commercials, and entertainment influenced body image. And, while still relevant today, a new victor is crowned. Social media leads the pack when it comes to negative body image. Upon its creation, it was meant to connect friends and families.
However, it quickly turned into a comparison trap in which users compared their bodies to their friends and others in their peer group. As celebrities flooded the social media world their perfect bodies poured into social feeds. This influx made the comparison trap even worse. In addition to feeling pressured by one’s peer group, there was also a compulsion to meet Hollywood’s body standards. The act of contrasting one’s “average” body to a “perfect” body in a photo can definitely increase negative body image.
Mindlessly scrolling through social media makes it easy to forget all the work that happens on the other end of that photo The perfect posing, lighting, makeup, photoshop, and Facetune. It’s impossible to recognize this when starting at a photo for 30-60 seconds. One can easily forget that social media is a highlight reel that focuses on the good while filtering out the bad.
Consequently, this creates a false illusion of perfection. Stretch marks disappear, cellulite invisible, hips become fuller, breasts enlarged. The glorification of gorgeous, curvaceous yet slender bodies with perfect skin and hair. Remove the imperfections cultivate the lie. And when photoshop and face tune just won’t suffice, plastic surgery becomes the solution. To permanently alter and perfect one’s body.
None of Us Are Immune
And truthfully, none of us are immune. Oh, we’d like to think that we are. But we aren’t. You’re not immune, and I’m not immune. In the back of your closet, there’s a waist trainer. There’s a bottle of diet pills shoved in the back of your medicine cabinet. A pair of jeans that are two sizes too small that you’re holding onto because one day you’ll wear them again.
We’ve all picked apart our bodies and tried to become something other than who we are. It’s so easy to confuse the truth with a lie in our society. A society that has canceled the real with the artificial. And in doing so has forgotten what real bodies even look like. All of our perceptions have become a little fuzzy.
Yet, here’s the thing it doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t have to accept the facade and try to pursue something that was never real in the first place. We don’t have to assimilate to fit the mold that brands and corporations sell as truth. Instead, we can choose to accept the bodies we see in the mirror. Stop clutching to diets that promise a better body and instead focus on well-balanced health. Let go of the jeans that don’t fit and buy ones that make you feel good. Avoid commenting on others’ bodies when they gain or lose weight. Not freak out over cellulite and stretch marks but see them as a mark of resiliency.
We can start questioning the lie. Rebelling against the impossible beauty standards forced upon us. And instead of choosing to live in the illusion and embrace the lie. We can abolish the facade and find freedom in the truth. I believe in the end, real bodies and real people win.