By Nupur Kudapkar and Rina Weaver
I shower twice a day, shave my legs, arms, stomach, and moisturize. I wash my hair, shampoo it twice then condition it, after I pat it down with a t-shirt (never a towel) and put oil in it and straighten out the frizz. I wash my face twice a day, slathering expensive toners and serums on my skin, I put on a face mask a few times a week after I scratch the acne off, leaving my skin bloody but smooth all so my face and body look presentable and not hideous. Every morning, I try to make my eyeliner match and my outfit look cohesive. I run more and I eat less, my mother comments saying that I have lost a lot of weight and why I don’t eat as often and I tell her I’m not hungry; when in reality I’m starving but I just need to lose a few more pounds as I look at the number on the scale: 165. Yet the number fluctuates in the mornings, 170, 167, etc. because some weeks I eat more and more and other weeks are less and less. Words swirl in my brain: I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, darling, the words your boyfriend says are lies, lies lies. He doesn’t love you, no one does because you are repulsive. I’m still a mess, always a mess. The thoughts of a teenager- who is addicted to looking attractive.
The cosmetic industry target teenagers because insecure teenage girls are the prime prey for the corporate loophole which evidently, causes eating disorders, and mental health problems. The magazines, the pencil-thin models wearing an xx-small top, the ads that you get about a tea that will help you lose twenty pounds in a month, the mascara that is supposed to increase your lash length ten times, or that concealer that makes all your blemishes disappear and is sweat and waterproof, these are all examples of the beauty industry profiting off of your insecurity, its all apart of the game. Society values and worships beauty and attractive people, making it hard not to take your looks into account daily.
Unrealistic expectations of how your body should look brought on by a poor body image can result in disordered eating patterns and harmful eating habits. According to The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “In the United States, as many as 10 in 100 young women suffer from an eating disorder… anorexia nervosa and bulimia, are on the increase among teenage girls and young women and often run in families.” (The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) Teenagers in today’s society are more likely than ever to worry about their weight, shape, size, and body image. Most can agree that a lot of this is due to social media, in fact, a study done in 2015 declared that social media use, particularly Facebook, is widespread among young women. Body dissatisfaction is very common, and the findings indicated a favorable correlation between Facebook use and body image issues, which was mediated by common appearance comparisons, the frequency of comparisons to near friends and distant peers, and upward comparisons to celebrities and famous people. Young women who spend more time on Facebook may thus be more self-conscious about their bodies since they evaluate how they look in comparison to others (particularly peers) on social media platforms (National Libary of Medicine) Now replace Facebook with other media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, etc. all media can lead to unrealistic body standards, which in turn can lead eating disorders.
Establishing eating disorders there are also mental health problems caused by the addiction to looking attractive. For example, body dysmorphia often initially manifests around puberty, with symptoms starting around the age of 12 or 13. In the United States, BDD affects roughly 2.2 percent of females. Approximately 80% of people with BDD report having had or are having suicidal thoughts in the past or present, and roughly one-quarter had tried suicide; successful suicide was documented in 0.3% of instances every year. Approximately one-third of patients with BDD report violent conduct, which may be motivated by rage about seeming “deformed,” an incapacity to correct the “fault,” or delusions of reference. Furthermore, many people with BDD abuse alcohol or drugs. One research found that 48.9% of BDD patients had a lifetime substance-use problem, with 42.6% having an alcohol-use disorder and 30.1% having a cannabis-use disorder (National Libary of Medicine) Not only body dysmorphia but depression can also be accounted for beauty standards, More than 27% of girls were unhappy with their bodies at 14, and those who were unhappy with their bodies had mild, moderate, or severe depressive symptoms, “‘Body image encompasses feelings and thoughts about many aspects of appearance beyond weight,’ said…Anna Bornioli, a senior researcher in transport and urban economics at the Erasmus Centre for Urban, Port and Transport Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam…” (CNN) According to the National Libary of Medicine, “body image dissatisfaction consistently has been associated with more concurrent overall anxiety symptoms and, specifically, more symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (PD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and separation anxiety disorder (SEP) in community samples of adolescents… Conversely, adolescents with better body image satisfaction report lower anxiety symptoms” (National Libary of Medicine). Overall, the addition to looking pretty can promote a severe decline in mental health for teenage girls.
As stated, society places a high emphasis on appearance, which can lead to eating disorders and other mental health issues in adolescent women. There is little being done to change this, however, there has been a lot of support for positive body image in recent years. Many companies have begun to use models of all sizes, and social media has helped to promote healthy body choices and support. Although there is still a long way to go, it is clear that a better future is on the horizon.