Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

There is a saying that goes “ Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. The media plays a great role on the body image of the adolescent. It has expressed that thin ideal body image been ideal hence children grow up with this image. When they reach adolescent they tend to struggle to attain this body image. Anything falling short of this always causes them to be dissatisfied with their bodies. When this continues, stress and self esteem issues set in that normally leads to several unhealthy habits. Unhealthy habits include smoking, alcohol or even drugs. There is also unhealthy eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.

Mass media are believed to have pervasive force in shaping physical appearance ideal and have shown negative impact on both males and females body image. Recently, mass media has always been present in the lives of youth through the following; television, movies, messages and advertisements. According to media theorists and researchers, they observed that the media tend to have set the unrealistic expectations on the boys(Kilbourne,1996). As it has been observed, there has been a connection that has been concluded between media influence and the negative psychological impact on the adolescents for example eating disorders(Waller et al,1994),body image issues(Henderson-King,1997), and gender stereotypes(Currie,1997).

Mass media for example internet, television etc. expose adolescence on what ideal body should be in the form of advertisement, music, magazines etc. “Body image disturbance often viewed as a continuum of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with one’s physical appearance” (Thompson et al, 1999). Satisfaction and dissatisfaction of physical appearance in adolescence has been linked to low self-esteem, depression, stress and social anxiety.

According to Twamley and Davis, body dissatisfaction has been recognized as a precursor to dieting and often leads to eating disorder (Twamley and Davis,1999). “The media especially music videos, magazines, films etc. emphasizes that the female self worth is based on the appearance, and is currently the most powerful ideal of female beauty that tends to be unattainable” (Richins 1991).

As media has depicted as the ideal body, many adolescences have therefore been disturbed psychologically on how they look hence leading to body change disorders and behavior. This often leads to stress and self-esteem issues. The disorders normally come about because of restrictive food practices especially in females so that they may attain the ideal body as shown by the media (Keel, Fulkerson and Leon,1997). With all these, there is very little information on the impact the media has on males on eating habits and excessive exercise (Middleman, Vasquez and Durant,1998). In particular, social media has had more negative impact than any other form of media and therefore plays a very big part in the daily lives of adolescents. Adolescent girls more often deal with objectification of popular female celebrities in the media, their own bodies and those of their peers where images are posted in form of” selfies”. In the media, there are also online pages, groups, and the hash tags which tend to promote disordered eating for example the pro-anorexia or pro-bulimia websites.

Social media is dangerous because it tends to increase persons exposure to body shaming and also promote body obsessions, comparison and competition resulting to eating disorder. In addition, disturbed eating and exercise patterns normally results to very significant health problems. Males with poor body image may develop psychological problems such as depression, low self-esteem and anxiety disorders (Braun et al, 1999).

The media influence was perceived to be greater in adolescence girls than boys and has generated clear image of societal ideal females which is consistent in various forms of media outlets(Cusumano and Thompson, 1997). To contradict this, the ideal body type for males is not clearly presented in the media; hence there is no much pressure to conform to the ideal body?

“Sociocultural theories of body image suggest that body dissatisfaction results from unrealistic societal beauty ideals, and one way of transmitting these ideals is through mass media” (Hargreaves and Tiggermann,2004). As Hargreaves and Tiggermann found out, exposure to idealized body led to increased body dissatisfaction especially for girls and not boys. It therefore leads to increased negative moods and appearance comparison in both boys and girls(Hargreaves and Tiggerman,2004). Sommers and Davis, puts it that, music television programs tend to concentrate on the physical appearance of female, and they are commonly depicted as thin and attractive (Sommers- Flanagan and Davis,1993).

It was suggested that the process of social comparison provides mechanism by which exposure to media images contribute to negative effects (Catarina et al, 2000). Festinger (1954) on social comparison theory suggests that individuals drive for self-evaluation can be met by comparison with similar others. “The motive for self-improvement leads to selection of a superior target, that leads in an upward social comparison, which have negative effects on mood and self-esteem” (Major, Testa and Bylsma,1991).

Self-esteem has key role in the mental health of adolescence. Adolescence girls have lower self esteem compared to boys (Block and Robins,1993). It is believed that girls have lower self esteem to boys in early adolescence, and the boys in the late adolescent have lower self esteem than younger boys. Most adolescent girls have negative body image and the media influence in comparison to boys in late childhood and early adolescence. It has been established that there is direct connection between self-esteem and various correlates. “Physical appearance corresponds positively with adolescent self-esteem” (Abell and Richards,1996). As Triplett(2007) puts it, overweight is seen as a stigma, and considered to be a condition that can be prevented.

It is also believed that sexual harassment is a form of self esteem issues in adolescent. The common form of sexual harassment is “gender harassment” which normally involves non physical actions such as sexual comments, gestures and looks(Stein et al,1993). As it is suggested, there is gender difference in emotional expressions as boys become more restrictive while girls become more expressive(Nolen-Hoeksema,1994). Peer and family relationships are also associated with adolescent self-evaluations. The peer influence such as social acceptance(Harter,1989), peerrelationships (Moran and Eckenrode,1991), and peer popularity (Harter 1989, Miller,1990) contributes to adolescence evaluation of the self.

According to Jones, social comparison theory has been very useful in exploring peer influence on body dissatisfaction. If women embraced the mediated thin-ideal but do not meet that standard and they have friends that do, they may engage in upward comparisons and potentially experience body dissatisfaction(Jones,2001) There is a connection between media’s influence and negative psychological impacts for adolescent. Impacts such as eating disorders (Waller et al,1994), body image problems (Henderson King,1997). Media messages such as on what to wear, what to weigh and how to build muscles, leads to adolescents worrying about the physical appearance and self-evaluation. Both adolescent boys and girls have the desire to change their shape and weight as commonly expressed in the media(Ricciardell, and Mc Cube,2001). All this brings about the emotional distress which is stress(Johnson and Waddle,2005). The strong influence on both adolescence boys and girls, brings certain sociocultural messages such as thin ideal body image for the girls ,and hypermascularity for the boys which is taken as a factor to success.

The messages as put forth by the media, often internalizes the social ideals. This puts the adolescence in a position where they make upward comparison that so often leaves them with unsatisfied bodies ,low self esteem and unhealthy eating habits/behaviors. The family has influence early in childhood and adolescence and will determine body dissatisfaction and disorders among the adolescence. Parents and siblings have a greater role for body image and eating habits found in adolescence because of what they transmit as social messages. Krcmar, Giles, and Helme noted that parental comments about their children’s physical appearance normally could lead to negative associations with the body shape. As suggested the parental influence has a primary influence on body dissatisfaction in adolescents. Personal characteristics also do have influence on body dissatisfaction and influence on media images. It is believed that the self schema s individuals tend to compare between the actual body type and ideal body which in return brings about body dissatisfaction and negative media messages(Benefits-Fredericks et al,2012).

“Movies, magazines and television programs all portray thinness as the norm for women”(Fouts and Burggraff,1999) and thin character are overrepresented while overweight are underrepresented(Fouts and Burggraf,1999) As per social learning theory, its believed that the media depiction of thin ideal leads women to see this ideal as normative, expected, and central to attractiveness(Brown,2002). The ideal leads to decreased satisfaction with one’s body(Levine and Harrison, 2004). The body image disturbance predicts eating pathology(Stice and Shaw,2002),and also interventions aimed at reducing body image results in bulimic pathology(Bearman, Stice and Chase,2003).


  1. Waller, G., Shaw, J., Hamilton, K., Baldwin, G. (1994). Beauty in the eye of the beholder: Media Influence on the psychopathology of eating problems. Appetite 23:287Henderson-king, E., and Henderson-King, D. (1997).
  2. Media effects on Women’s body esteem: Social and individual difference factors. Journal of Applied Social Psychology.27:399-417 Miller. (1990).
  3. Adolescents same sex and opposite sex peer relations: Sex differences in Popularity, perceived social competence and social cognitive skills. Journal of Adolescence Res 5:222-241
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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (2021, May 12). Retrieved October 7, 2022 , from

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