Pushing past the pressure

Julia Bluhm, 15, is a part of the SPARK Movement blog team. She created and led the successful “Give Girls Images of Real Girls” petition, presenting more than 84,000 signatures to Seventeen magazine.

Maybe you know most of the pictures in magazines are photoshopped. You know that the majority of the population doesn’t look like Barbie. Maybe you’ve read the books, listened to the lectures, and attended the workshops, and they were probably helpful and inspiring! But chances are you still feel insecure around the billions of seemingly perfect bodies that surround you in the media. 3 out of 4 girls feel unhappy with their bodies after looking in a fashion magazine. Sure, probably a number of those girls didn’t know about the amount of Photoshop that was used, but a lot of them probably did. What’s the secret? Once we know about these issues, how do we rise above them?

Step One: Remember! I definitely know about Photoshop and how women aren’t realistically represented in the media, I helped write a whole petition about it! Yet I still catch myself feeling inadequate, and wishing I looked like a girl in a picture. This happens because I’m not readily thinking about all of the deception weaved into the media’s images while I’m just sitting at home watching TV. To try and stop this from happening, I’m trying to question the media more, and catch myself before I let a negative thought slip into my head.  Whenever I find myself feeling inferior to a model in a makeup ad, I ask myself: “Why?” What is causing me to suddenly start doubting myself? Often, I find that I can’t come up with an answer besides just realizing that I’ve just fallen into the dangerous trap of our money-making-obsessed society.

Step Two: If step one isn’t working, just take a break. Certain things can just be really triggering and upsetting, no matter how hard we try to push past them. I find that nothing good comes from TV shows or publications that constantly degrade women, fat shame or glorify eating disorders. Generally, I don’t even let my eyes graze over those things because I know they will only make me mad. It may be impossible to completely shut yourself off from the rest of the world, but it’s fine to monitor what kind of media seems to be triggering to you and cut it out.

Step Three: Replace bad media with some enjoyable, encouraging alternatives! Even if you don’t hear about them as much, there are plenty of healthy media outlets about recovery such as this blog and Proud2bMe. There are also blogs and organizations that focus on a wide variety of girls and women’s issues ( like SPARK Movement and Hardy Girls), and stories and advice about how to deal with life in general from Rookie Mag.

Step Four: Share your feelings. Chances are, you’ve heard this one before. I know it’s easier said than done, but freeing some of your emotions is essential to freeing yourself. If you have a hard time opening up to people, start with a journal. I find that seeing my feelings written on paper not only helps me understand them better, but also feels like a weight lifted off of my shoulders. Also, don’t underestimate the advantages of having a good, trustworthy friend. Sometimes spilling your guts to someone who has gone through the same sorts of things as you have can make you feel a lot better. That’s the first step. After that, if you are still having problems, talk to a doctor of guidance counselor.

Step Five: Remember that you can rise above societal pressures. You are better, stronger, and smarter than the messages that are sent towards you. I often find that a lot of the pressures that come from society don’t make any sense at all. Unhealthy food is cheap and glorified, and yet we’re constantly told to lose weight and be thin. Tanning booths are popular all over America, while in many countries whitening creams are trendy and white washing is extreme. The media is not some holy book that we all have to try and live by, because it’s impossible to live by! We are smarter than the magazines, movies, and TV shows. We can rise above it all.

As you journey up past all of these pressures, remember that it’s not as simple as “5 Easy Steps.” This may be a basic guideline to help you get where you want to go, but your journey is unique and full of bumps and obstacles. We all have times where we feel different levels of vulnerability to society’s messages. That’s fine. Sometimes we stumble and feel like we’ve slid a big backwards. That’s fine too. But if you take steps like these you will start moving in the right direction, growing more free from the chains of our judgmental society.