Popular media, culture often distort standards of true beauty

“All that glitters isn’t gold” is a quote that we are all familiar with. And it’s exactly what many college students need to keep in mind when comparing themselves to those perfectly framed bodies on

“All that glitters isn’t gold” is a quote that we are all familiar with. And it’s exactly what many college students need to keep in mind when comparing themselves to those perfectly framed bodies on television and in advertisements.

I have seen far too many of my college counterparts react in a jealous rage when comparing themselves to celebrities. I have to admit that I have fallen victim to this a number of times. You know, looking at BET, MTV or VH1 and wishing that my body looked like “hers” or “his.”

Celebrities we see in magazines and on television are not as perfect as they appear to be. The pictures of people in magazines have often been digitally retouched, and those on television and movies have spent countless hours with hair and makeup specialists. Yet tons of pop culture outlets have college students believing otherwise.

Pop culture has always been known for setting standards of beauty such as flawless bodies, big muscles, perfect hair, great clothes and a little ‘bling.’ Now more than ever, these condescending beauty standards are becoming more prevalent.

Pop culture has a major influence on our lives; it dictates the guidelines of our culture and is a large component of our history. But its power has not always been positive. The media’s influence on young college students has been linked to low self-esteem, negative body image concepts and eating disorders.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, media images that help to create cultural definitions of beauty are often acknowledged as being among factors that contribute to the rise of eating disorders, which includes the 19 percent of college-aged women who are bulimic, according to a study by Rader Programs.

This false portrayal of beauty is leading us to devote our time and money to plastic surgery, obsessive exercising, dieting pills and other beauty enhancing remedies that many think will bring us closer to “the perfect version of ourselves.” But how are we exactly defining the “perfect versions of ourselves?”

I Want a Famous Face, a popular MTV reality show, focuses on “average” people who are dissatisfied with the way they look and want plastic surgery in order to resemble their favorite celebrities. Most of these show participants are young male and female college students making life-altering changes to their bodies that they may never be satisfied with. This desire for change is mostly – if not totally – a result of pop culture’s influence.

This show is definitely sending the wrong message. It causes students to waste much needed time and energy; time that could be better spent stimulating their minds and enjoying college. Learning is something that can last a lifetime. Unlike style, pop culture and even “beauty,” these things are transient and to most, they won’t always be important.

Instead of allowing pop culture to tell us how to become the “perfect version of ourselves,” let us look at what really matters when examining our worth. Let’s start by always standing up and fighting for what we believe in by maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul and by appreciating what we already have.

Now please do not think for a moment that looking or feeling “beautiful” is not important – of course it is. Those feelings, however, should not be measured by the designer brand you have on or the “perfect” body you have.

Being beautiful is all about loving and appreciating who you are, and not allowing yourself to be categorized by standards established by the media. Altering your life to fit the standards of other people is a sign of weakness and vulnerability. This is not what the strong-minded college student ought to be like.

Jennifer Ogunsola can be reached at dip@temple.edu.

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