The Cost of Body Image in the Modern Age

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Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole

This year’s mental health awareness week zeroed in on body image. We live in a heavily image-based society where outward appearances count for everything. It is no wonder that there is a severe strain on mental and emotional well being as many strive to achieve the unattainable “perfect”. The presence of this strain is overwhelming as it pervades social media meaning that younger people in particular cannot escape these expectations.

It is easy to attribute this pressure to the use of social media, but such standards have been present within image-based advertising for much longer. Many of the advertising posters in the 1950s promoted the ideal female as a woman with a tightly tucked hair-do, rouged lips, neat brows and a domesticated demeanor. The employment of celebrities and famous faces to promote products enhances this pressure and has increased in recent years as a result of the status given to many with social media careers. These pressures exist everywhere you turn.

The rise of online stores has allowed customers to purchase the latest fashion trends after a few clicks. The desire to be part of the current fashion isn’t anything new, but seeing beloved famous faces on Instagram, Twitter, and paparazzi snaps drives that desire even more, leading to carbon copies of the same look polluting our high street. However, this love of the popular trends adds to the throw-away culture that is on the rise. Whilst fashion typically runs on one big cycle, as soon as the summer season   is over those clothes are shoved to the back of the wardrobe to be eventually thrown out, allowing space to be made for the new spring trends.

A recent article has called attention to the impact of this pressure, particularly in the work place. One of the drivers behind staff-related pressures that come from outside the office is this need to have the “perfect” body image, often coming with a cost to mental health and personal well-being. But what can employers actually do in order to combat any negative effects on mental health and promote a positive mentality?

Not all jobs have the same demands on appearance and therefore differentiation must be made. The demands on the uniform for those that work at The Dorchester differ greatly from those working on the wards of our hospitals, and these expectations are known by employers. Therefore, whilst many may disagree with the requirements of The Dorchester it is something that comes with the job and appears as a standard to be adhered to rather than a pressure between co-workers. Therefore instead of employers pushing the idea of self-confidence and minimising the comparison between those in the work place, perhaps the focus needs to be put on general well-being.

Although it isn’t a hard and fast rule, generally feeling good on the inside means that the outside follows suit. Maybe the answer is to hold well-being evenings or lunches where emotional health is put front and centre. Teachers in one school have already adopted this scheme to combat stress, raising questions as to why this isn’t a widespread strategy.

Employee well-being should be at the forefront and tackling stresses on mental health should be a given in any organisation. This seems the best course of action given there will never be a time where people aren’t spending their money on personal appearance. The public are victims; we are the audience for these advertisers and we buy into them selling us the next best thing for x, y, or z. It is one big cycle and instead of trying to stop it, the focus should be on our personal well-being in an attempt to prevent these social pressures consuming us.

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