What is the meaning of perfection? “Perfect” is commonly used to denote a state of being free from all blemishes and flaws, but from person to person, perfection can mean different things and be displayed in different ways. It has been said that “Perfect is in the eye of the beholder, so perfect for you isn’t perfect for me. Which is why it’s impossible to achieve perfection, but to find what’s perfect for you.” What makes an individual unique is the gamut of imperfections and perfections that manifest themselves across the human genome. Unfortunately, the media’s sphere of influence has amplified throughout the world, drastically impacting society, especially women. The percentage of women in the United States who express discontent with their body’s appearance has more than doubled in the past 30 years from 23% to over 56%. For years, the media has been depicting the ideal, or model, body type of women; the media’s portrayal of female “perfection” negatively affects women. Perfection and beauty come from within a person and should not be based on one’s exterior; however, the media’s representation of “perfection” changes women’s ethics and beliefs, as well as their attitude towards their perception of beauty. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” “Don’t judge a person by their physical appearance,” and “It is what’s on the inside that counts,” were all clichés drilled into us as little kids by teachers, parents, and other role models. But with the dominance of media on the rise, girls and women turn against themselves, centering their idea of self-worth around their physical appearance. The “self-helping” mantras taught quickly fade, going in one ear and out the other, when judging and belittling oneself. “Stereotypes regarding physical attractiveness are much stronger when applied to women” and “‘what is beautiful is good’ stereotype amounts to perceiving attractive women as having socially desirable traits”. Women are often deceived into viewing themselves through the media’s lens, changing their priorities from striving for an attractive personality to desiring an attractive face, body shape, and other physical features.
Moreover, as a woman becomes more and more involved in her looks and appearance, her focus on “perfection” in the eyes of the media can spiral into the lowering of her self-esteem and confidence. Women feel as if they must emulate this distortion of “perfection” and follow the media’s standards and guidelines of beauty to be deemed desirable by society. On a daily basis, women compare themselves to “the voluptuous figure of Marilyn Monroe…a thinner ‘waif-like’ look of Kate Moss”. As a result, women develop insecurities about their figure, weight, and overall appearance. When women look in the mirror, they picture themselves as the total opposite of the photos of models publicized by the media, which are often digitally altered to correct the models’ imperfections. Young girls compare their figures to “size-zero, ultra-thin” models and perceive themselves as being bigger than they truly are (Das). Women and girls cannot escape exposure to the media’s portrayal of flawlessness; therefore, they continue to struggle and wrestle with their self-image, as well as their self-confidence.
The media’s presentation of the “perfection” of a woman’s body often leads to health risks for young women. The prevailing idea that is communicated to women and girls is that skinny and thin is the most appealing body type. As the struggle for confidence progressively worsens along with a negative body image, females, predominantly during young adulthood, are at risk for developing serious and possibly life-threatening health disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or a binge-eating disorder; they believe that self-induced vomiting after binging or intentional starving will make them look more perfect, healthier, and skinnier than ever. All a woman in this state of despondency sees are pretty models, and she wishes she had the perfectly thin body of one of them. She all too often thinks to herself, “I am too fat, too ugly, too defective to ever be loved or accepted.” Every time she glances at the mirror on her wall, a feeling of dissatisfaction weighs on her, almost as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders. She decides to starve herself, and as the days and months pass, she becomes dangerously skinny, finding her ribs protruding against her skin. Despite being extremely malnourished, the burden of feeling overweight never diminishes. The media’s characterization of the “perfect image” of women can be a serious threat to the health of women and female adolescents whose body types do not fit the media’s ideal description.
Why is the media’s definition of perfection so widely accepted? In today’s world, the media easily relates to women in all walks of life. Consequently, women often find themselves monopolized by mass media, snowballing to the manipulation of their own thoughts, opinions, values, or principles. Even though a woman should not let other people or the media affect herself, the pictures in advertisements and magazines still have the presence to sway a woman’s perception. Women commonly focus on the media’s views and judgments, forgetting that their morals and ideals present importance to themselves and people around them. With the media portraying its version of “perfection,” women fall into the media’s trap by forcing themselves to make destructive physical, emotional, ethical, and psychological transformations. Nevertheless, society must remember that the media should not be given the authority to define oneself or one’s standards for themselves. Perfection is subjective, unobtainable, and nonexistent, as everybody has their own unique imperfections, their own flaws, their own defects. But these flaws, scars, and weaknesses should never be frowned upon, as it is those that make people exceptional. They are the dissimilarities that help shape and mold people into the extraordinary individuals each one of them can be in the eye of the beholder.