I was sixteen years old when I finally decided to confront the horrible body image issues I’d been fighting for the last ten years of my life.
I was tired of looking at advertisements, music videos and magazines that never reflected my body type or features. I was even more tired of being depressed about it. That’s when the idea for BeUtiful came to me, and that’s when I started to release myself from those impossible beauty standards.
I tried to educate myself on what was behind those picture-perfect images, but this was before the body-positive movement had taken off and there wasn’t enough information available. It wasn’t until I went to college for graphic design and took my own Photoshop class that I started to realize what I had really been killing myself to look like.
It was fake. Everything was fake. And I was PISSED.
Thanks to retouching boutique Rare Digital Art, there’s a fantastic video showing just how much goes into making those pictures you see in glossy fashion magazines.
Imagine how upset I was, sitting in that classroom with Photoshop tools in front of me – and finding out that I’d just wasted 10 years of my childhood and teenage years trying to shrink myself, when the body type I was trying to get wasn’t even attainable. Someone was actually erasing parts of those models. What I had strived for wasn’t even real. Over the next three years, I learned how to cut, smooth, color-correct, cinch, erase – how to basically create a new human from what I had started with (I talk about this more in a Psychology Today interview). Despite how comforting it was to learn that there was nothing wrong with my body and I was free from the (literally) impossible standards I once held myself to, I couldn’t help but be saddened that a large part of my life had passed without ever having enjoyed it. I could have been playing outside with my friends instead of exercising every day after school. I could have created memories at the beach instead of being pre-occupied with comparing myself to others. I could have had fun at social gatherings instead of worrying about calories. I felt lost for a while, but I eventually accepted that real life doesn’t come with Photoshop and I couldn’t just press a few computer keys and redo my childhood. I couldn’t get those self-hating years back, but I could make sure other girls wouldn’t feel what I did. So my need to create Beutiful – a magazine that actually makes girls and women feel GOOD about their bodies – only deepened. As a graphic designer who was taught the dirty tricks that had once manipulated her, it is my mission to ensure that the unhealthy mindset I picked up during my childhood doesn’t ravish another young life. This starts with education and spreading this message as far as possible, with as many people as possible. Will you help me? [Tweet “Everything you believe about beauty is fake – here’s why”] If you’d like to deepen your knowledge about how the advertising industry manipulates the way you feel about yourself and your body (or perhaps help educate a niece, sister or daughter), I highly recommend these books and films:
- Miss Representation: As the most persuasive and pervasive force of communication in our culture, media is educating yet another generation that a woman’s primary value lay in her youth, beauty and sexuality-and not in her capacity as a leader, making it difficult for women to obtain leadership positions and for girls to reach their full potential. The film accumulates startling facts and asks the question, “What can we do?” Writer/Director Jennifer Siebel Newsom interwove stories from teenage girls with provocative interviews from the likes of Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Lisa Ling, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Rosario Dawson, Dr. Jackson Katz, Dr. Jean Kilbourne, and Gloria Steinem to give us an inside look at the media and its message.
- America the Beautiful: The critically acclaimed campus phenomenon exposing America’s ugly obsession with beauty. Every year Americans spend an average of $12.4 billion (yes billion!) on cosmetic surgery procedures. Why are we being conditioned not to like the way we look? Award winning filmmaker Darryl Roberts goes on a five year journey to unearth the origins and deadly risks of our nation’s quest for physical perfection.
- Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel (Jean Kilbourne): Many advertisements these days make us feel as if we have an intimate, even passionate relationship with a product. But as Jean Kilbourne points out in this fascinating and shocking exposé, the dreamlike promise of advertising always leaves us hungry for more. We can never be satisfied, because the products we love cannot love us back.Drawing upon her knowledge of psychology, media, and women’s issues, Kilbourne offers nothing less than a new understanding of a ubiquitous phenomenon in our culture. The average American is exposed to over 3,000 advertisements a day and watches three years’ worth of television ads over the course of a lifetime. Kilbourne paints a gripping portrait of how this barrage of advertising drastically affects young people, especially girls, by offering false promises of rebellion, connection, and control. She also offers a surprising analysis of the way advertising creates and then feeds an addictive mentality that often continues throughout adulthood.
- So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids (Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D.): Recognized experts in, respectively, early childhood development and the impact of the media on children and teens, offer parents essential, age-appropriate strategies to counter the assault. Filled with savvy suggestions, helpful sample dialogues, and poignant stories from families dealing with these issues, So Sexy So Soon provides parents with the information, skills, and confidence they need to discuss sensitive topics openly and effectively – so their kids can just be kids.
- How to Love Yourself: A Guide to Building Your Self-Esteem When You Don’t Know Where to Start (Lakeysha-Marie Green): You may think that if you’re a little more confident, a little more social, and a little more successful, you’ll find happiness. Real happiness comes from within. You can love yourself without breaking the bank or putting on a show. This book breaks through the fear that keeps your authentic self under lock and key.
I hope you find those resources helpful. If you know of any others, post them in the comments! If you’d like to get on our mailing list to receive more body-positive info like this, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can add you! In the meantime, check out our previous Swimsuit Issue!