Roth Clinic


The impossible to reach beauty ideals

Beauty ideals can be impossible to reach. We don’t just have a body. In our body we display our self-feelings, our understanding of who we are and how we are placed in the world. Social ideals of beauty are not set on stone. There is a cultural dispersion in which people speak different languages and practice different styles. Thus, the ideas of beauty and virtue differ. They are constantly being reformulated and transmitted through three essential agents: parents, peers, and the media.

Parents can influence directly or indirectly. Direct influence is done by commentaries regarding body shape, child’s weight or food rules; while indirect ways involve unintended parental modeling of their own weight and dieting concerns. Peers can influence through comments or teasing regarding body shape or weight, perceived norms of engagement in peer groups, and the belief that popularity is conditional to one’s compliance with a given ideal.

Mass media such as children’s toys, fashion magazines, TV soap operas and music videos are considered the most pervasive transmitter of socio-cultural ideals of beauty both, for women and men alike. For instance, studies found that the more time men and women reported watching television, the higher their reported drive for muscularity (Boyce, Kuijer & Gleaves, 2013). The internalization of the thin ideals has been related to body dissatisfaction and eating disorders in adolescent, adult and elder adults both men and women.

Indeed, throughout history beauty has been a measurement of virtue. Beauty is what separate lesser developed human beings from those that have achieved higher rank. Unfortunately, beauty is associated with wisdom and rational thinking; as opposed to the impulsivity of animals that strive for survival. A scar, a limp, being out of shape, any distance from beauty ideals can be a source for stigma. If beauty is a virtue, any distance from beauty ideals can be a challenge to our self-esteem.