“The Beautiful People”- The Dangerous Impact of the Media By Shari Rhodes

Our culture favors the young, beautiful and stick-thin people. Images abound of “artfully sculpted” air brushed models and actors.   Gorgeous cosmetic socialites and musicians cover the magazine headlines.  Youth and sex sells.  Young sexy models are used in commercials and music videos to accentuate youth and vitality to stimulate sales. These images drug our culture into believing that fashion and skinny people are the archetype of happiness and popularity.  They have become the cultural icons representing role models we should aspire to. Plastic surgery is commonplace, (Botox, a face-lift, collagen injections, fillers, lipo-suction, tummy tucks, breast implants.)  What next?  If something drops, bulges or sags, let’s lift it up, cover it up or cut it off. More young people are going under the knife. Some women are even having their vaginas surgically sculpted and their backside dyed the colour of their skin.  Why does society place so much emphasis on being eternally young, flawless and prepubescent thin?

What drives us to want to be more beautiful? Beauty equates power. Beautiful people get attention and people want to be around them. More doors open.  It is easier to get a date. They get more jobs. Research shows that beautiful people are perceived as happy, successful and intelligent.  However it is a transient presentation, not reflective of the person’s true self. A disfiguring accident and all that beauty would be gone. Would that person be treated the same even by their peers?  How much attention is based on appearance rather than true caring? When we are so image based, it blocks us from connecting on a deeper level. It’s an obsession to be perfect.  We can get a cosmetic procedure done, but it is only a temporary fix. On a deeper level, we remain the same.

But who are we underneath? Sometimes we get lost in the image and avoid our inner journey. It distracts us from delving deeper into the heart of who we are. “Happiness is not a cosmetic mask”. Some of us think it is. If the foundation of a relationship is based on appearance, that will be challenged.  The eye is fickle. If it is focused on that direction, it will always be seeking more. There will always be younger, more beautiful people in the room and in the media. And the insecurity of not feeling good enough. 

What is wrong with a few curves?  Why isn’t it fashionable to grow old?  Aren’t we allowed to experience the natural maturational processes of the body?  Why isn’t more photography featuring people of all ages?  Aren’t the 50’s or 60’s just as important as the teens, 20’s and 30’s? In modeling, you are considered at the peak by age 23.  In acting, if women are past their prime around age 32.

The younger actors are cast for the main roles. Sex appeal is equated with youth. It is not fashionable to see older or curvier screen actors being intimate.  On film and in the tabloids, older men are favored sexually to older women. In the media, it is common to see an older man with much younger and beautiful women.  We are just beginning to see it the other way around.  It’s ok to choose cosmetic surgery.  People have a right to decide what makes them happy. However many of us are becoming self-conscious and self-effacing, not feeling good enough to be seen.  The mirror has become the antagonist. We are critical of our bumps, bulges and flaps.

Life is precious. We need to make the most of it. It is important to look deeper and accept ourselves regardless of the flaws. We don’t have to be perfect.  We need to stop beating ourselves up through comparison.  In this week’s issue of Women’s weekly, Lorraine Downs is on the cover in the article called “Lorraine Downs' all natural cover shoot, “I am not afraid to look my age”. She is presenting herself naturally with crow’s feet and wrinkles, rather than being airbrushed.  She is beautiful!! She is making a statement that “women don’t have to cover up their blemishes and age spots to be ok.”  Reported on Close-up, Lorraine’s picture received the most feedback out of any feature article published in New Zealand.  She is making a powerful statement for the innate beauty of women. It should not be hidden.   We know professional photographs are digitally manipulated. Models and actors are rarely presented as they really are!  Lorraine’s picture was a breath of fresh air.

When teenagers are gawking at famous people on the tabloids, they are seeing a fantasy picture and not the actual person.  Often lives of the rich and famous are glorified, highlighting the latest romance, scandal or drama. However many of their experiences are disastrous, fraught with pressure from the paparazzi, drugs, alcohol, scandal, and affairs. Often they are misrepresented through fictitious stories. The propaganda can be a feeding frenzy for that big break and the most expensive shot.  The stories are sensationalized to capture the public’s attention to increase public appeal, ratings and sales. Some of us live vicariously through the imaginary and distorted lives of the famous by buying these magazines and plugging into these beautiful images and dramas.

But how do these stories support impressionable young people building self-confidence? There is peer pressure to compete and match the pictures in the media.   I think that is why eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, are rampant because kids are idolizing these distorted images of beauty.  They are feeling not ok in comparison. There are websites teaching kids dangerous behaviors on how to be anorexic to look like the models. How it is cool to starve themselves, take diet pills and over exercise.

The media doesn’t highlight the intrinsic beauty of the different body shapes. (I.e. Rectangle, pear, hourglass, apple).  Some women don’t have the physical build to have the shape of these women.  The body build is genetic. For example if a women has the pear shape (small breast and upper torso with a larger bottom and thighs), no matter how much diet and exercise she does, she will never have the body shape of an hour glass which is equally proportioned with a tapered waist.  The apple shape which is thicker in the waist with larger breast and thinner legs will never have a synched in waist regardless of diet and the number of push ups. In New Zealand, the pear shape is the most common.  Most women in New Zealand and Australia are a size 14.   With hormonal and metabolic changes, it is difficult to hold the shape and size of a pubescent girl. But the models and actors in the tabloids are often a size 0 which is a size 4 or 6 here.  We feel the pressure.  If we make a role model of someone else, we are undermining ourselves.  It is ok to be different and have the body shape we have. We don’t have to fit size 0 skinny jeans to be beautiful.  It is learning to be comfortable in our own skin.

Creases indicate a seasoned life.  Facial etchings are a map of our genetics, life style habits and physical health.  Looking good is eating well, drinking lots of water, exercising, not over-working or abusing addictive substances. It is managing our stress, dealing with our emotions, expressing ourselves in our relationships and honoring our own needs.  It is also about being creative and having fun. Our wrinkles reflect our experiences and hard earned lessons, the grief and disappointments, our fight to survive the challenges of everyday life.  They build character and reflect the tenacity of the spirit to endure and grow wise with time. Our wrinkles show our true colours reflecting our individual story.  We should be proud of our laughter lines and dimples!   Life is a journey. The focus is not about appearance, but rather our inner development and creative expression, what kind of person we have become. Life is about the choices we make and what we have learned about ourselves from these choices.  Beauty comes from the inside. “A beautiful soul shines from a beautiful heart and mind.” It is about loving and accepting ourselves regardless of our appearance or what society deems beautiful.  It doesn’t matter what other people think. 

In ancient times, the tribal elders were revered for their life experience and wisdom. It was never a value to think about their appearance.  The ideal physical shape has changed throughout human history. In early resonance art, the larger curvaceous women were esteemed as beautiful.  Even in the 1940’s and 1950’s the rounder feminine physique was embraced. Models such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor were idolized for their voluptuous femininity. The ideal that is being embraced for defining feminine beauty is shrinking placing more pressure on girls to be shapeless. Super thin models such as Kate Moss and Twiggy have become the norm.

It is about self-esteem and not losing our power to these distorted images of perfection, being authentic without the mask.  According to Louise Hay, “the way to love and accept ourselves is to face the mirror and affirm, I am beautiful just as I am and I am good enough.”  After all, it is the inner substance of a woman that counts. The beauty of her unique spirit will shine through anyway.

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Shari Rhodes has been an international Intuitive Reader for the past 30 years. She is currently a citizen of both the United States and New Zealand. Shari’s purpose is to support people to grow and move forward in a positive direction with greater clarity, self-empowerment and self-confidence. She offers readings, workshops and public talks. She is available for sessions in person or over the phone at (027) 6295469 You can email Shari at home@sharirhodes.com,, or visit her website at www.intuitivereadings.co.nz