Self-image can take several different forms, especially in the media. Self-image can be determined through the body, perceived social status, and material possessions. There are of course other factors for self-image, but in terms of what young adults (and people in general) are exposed to are often found in these three categories.
Fat-shaming and Body-shaming are one in the same when it comes to self-image. In the United States, a truly individual does not possess the ideal body that American standards hail as perfect. In fact, bodies that are thrown at us in the media are often unrealistic, unhealthy, and in many cases the images are altered. For men, the image is about lean muscle and features deemed “manly” (strong jawline, trendy hairstyle, and certain fashions). These features create an unrealistic standard for the average man. This can cause young people to fall in with steroid use and supplement abuse as well as exceptionally unhealthy dieting trends, like MLB Right-Fielder Bryce Harper.
For women, body image is often about how thin a person can be. Women and young girls are met with unrealistic and literally unattainable standards for their bodies that are constantly and consistently thrown at them. This creates a serious issue of self-worth. In recent months, several very famous athletes and celebrities have sworn off of having their images altered and some have even refused to wear make-up. This is a refreshing and surprising twist in a culture that seems to value unrealistic vanity over natural beauty and value.
Social Status & Material Possessions
Another serious issue facing self-image is how popular culture obsesses over the connection between material possessions and social status. Often times the lacking in certain material goods (designer clothes, new smartphones, trendy shoes, gaming systems, et al) will result in bullying. Young adults unable to afford certain possessions will be on the receiving end of harassment, to no fault of their own. In fact, according to a recent survey, over half of all school girls are harassed or bullied because of their appearance. This could relate to make-up, clothing, or certain factors (e.g. religious garments) that make them appear to be an outsider.
In fact, the material bullying does not end at high school. It is entirely too common that adults are looked down upon due to their perceived social status related to their wealth. In a recent Time Magazine article, the author addresses common causes of bullying of adults over financial matters. One particular section of the article relates perfectly to the same types of insecurities and fear of shame that students often face: “Shamers aren’t just trying to put you down. They’re trying to convince themselves that nothing bad will ever happen to them because of their superior acumen. Bad luck, bad economies, and bad health happen only to others — or so they desperately hope.”