It’s become increasingly clear to me that magazines and many publications, television shows, and other forms of pop culture are not good for my mental health. When I was a young teenager (around 14-15) I was subscribed to at least three magazines: Teen People, Seventeen, and Girl (I think that’s the name of it?); and later we also received subscriptions to People StyleWatch and US Weekly, plus Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly. I would also buy copies of Cosmo and hide them under my bed. This was peak media consumption. I was bombarded with media telling me what is hot and what is not and what I should like. Specifically, Seventeen, Us Weekly, and People StyleWatch taught me a lot: Importance of skin care, importance of dressing for your body type, and of course, how to talk to boys. But after the ages of 17/18/19 it became problematic for me to keep reading these things. I was adopting the preconceived notion that I would be successful if I followed their advice. And I had to recognize that while some advice may be helpful, I still had a brain and I still had opinions that mattered. And these things did nothing to help my self-esteem.
In recent years society has become more body positive, and I’m all for that. It’s just that we have this counter-culture telling young girls and young women how they should interact with their bodies. I don’t think I’m going to be 100% happy with my body. I wonder if it has anything to do with growing up with magazines telling me how I should be. However, I can accept my body for what it is and what it can do.
I don’t own a full length mirror. I don’t read magazines like Cosmo or Us Weekly. I don’t own a scale. And I’m better for it. My self-confidence is in a better place now than it ever was in the height of my obsession with all things TV and magazines. There are a few reasons for this.
- I don’t care anymore. I think there’s a certain point in everyone’s life where they stop caring about certain things and how people perceive them (to an extent).
- Once I stopped nit-picking my body by taking away the full-length mirror, I was able to focus my mental energy on other activities.
- Seeing Photoshopped bodies is not realistic. Acknowledging this and understanding that my body does not have to look like that was a big step.
I do still wear a lot of make-up and I like to watch make-up tutorials on YouTube. I still take care of myself by having a skin care routine and going to the gym on a semi-regular basis. I still use mirrors and look in them (i.e. in bathrooms and fitting rooms), I’m not a freaking vampire! Body positivity works differently for everyone. For me, removing negative influences from my life helped a lot. But I didn’t realize the negative impacts magazines were having until I took a break from them. Part of this “break” was simply growing up, I stopped seeing myself in magazines and I outgrew the content.
What I have learned from rejecting magazines and mirrors is that my opinion matters. How I take care of myself can be influenced by media like magazines, but I know what’s best for me and I can live my life without it.