What’s the Link between Your Self-Esteem and the Media?


There are many ways that the media can cause you to doubt yourself and lead to lower self-esteem. If you’re a woman looking for love, media influences can lead to second-guessing in two major areas that are critical for your success: your appearance and your decisions about intimacy.

How the Media Influences Your Feelings about Your Appearance

Did you know that filters and photo-editing tools have become popular on social media platforms like Instagram? You can use these tools to make your photos more flattering. Why not look like you have smoother skin or change some of your coloring? You can even change your facial features if you’d like.

What could possibly be wrong with a little harmless photo alteration? It’s a good thing to want to look your best, right? On the other hand, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Although it may stroke your ego to see an idealized and perfected image of yourself, the more women in the media look perfect, the more we doubt our natural appearance and may feel pressured to use filters to conform to unrealistic beauty standards. Unfortunately, perfect images on social media promote comparisons to others, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy. People often think, “why don’t I look that good?” Body shaming makes this problem worse.

As you know, women are most affected by these pressures. And the younger we are, the more harmful these media influences on women can be. It’s easy to be swayed by cultural trends when you’re young and impressionable, but older women don’t escape, As we age, we can feel invisible and worry about what it means to lose our looks.

Although we know the image of an “airbrushed, Botoxed, back-lit bombshell sex goddess” isn’t the best role model for women, we often can’t resist the temptation to want to look perfect. After all, we’re constantly bombarded with perfect-looking, Photoshopped models and celebrities everywhere we turn. These media pressures can leave us with negative opinions about ourselves, hammering in the harmful idea that there’s something wrong with our bodies. “My thighs are too big. My breasts are too small. Do I need plastic surgery to achieve that flawless look?” The beauty ideals and body image standards crafted by these outside forces become normalized to a point where we buy into them.

How the Media Tells You Not to Trust Your Instincts about Sex

For years, TV shows and movies have shown couples hopping into bed when they hardly knew each other. Whether or not the relationship worked out wasn’t the point; the bottom line was the new norm it created. First it was the Three-Date Rule that said you should decide about a potential sexual partner within three dates. Later it became 5 dates. The message was the same: you should let an arbitrary rule make one of the most personal decisions you can make. A trend that creates cultural pressure about an intimate personal decision either requires you to be brave enough to buck the trend, or it can make you feel insecure about any discomfort about jumping into sex. Working to overcome your sexual inhibitions in a relationship is often helpful. Doing it with a stranger may be asking for too much. Wanting to make sure you can trust your sexual partner is reasonable and healthy. If you’re a single woman looking for a relationship, being able to trust your instincts is critical. Being your own person and making the right decision for you seems like the ideal approach.

Break Free from the Tyranny of Beauty and the Three-Date Rule

Women navigating these societal norms may be unaware of the pressures they face, or it can feel like an unending battle to maintain a sense of self-worth and authenticity. Believe it or not, it is possible to break free from these media influences on women and embrace your true self while challenging the status quo.

Here are the steps to take to liberate yourself and be the real you:

1-  Realize you have a choice.

The awareness that our culture creates these pressures can help you. Take a step back and recognize that you aren’t required to meet someone else’s arbitrary standards. You’re a free agent.

2-  Determine whether media and peer pressure solutions are right for you.

Only you can decide which of these norms works for you or not. Are there some beauty standards that you find helpful? Or do they create unnecessary stress or make you feel bad about yourself? If the pressure to be thin causes you to make healthier food choices, but you don’t overdo it or expect perfection, then maybe that works for you. Too many women find fault with their bodies as a result. Don’t expect to have the answer right away. You may have to chew on these questions before you find the answers.

Casual sex may work for some women. Others try it and find themselves attached and either heartbroken or regretful.  You don’t have to try it to find out. If you’re not comfortable, it’s easy to wait until you are. A man who’s really interested in you will stick around until you are ready and comfortable.

3-  Your voice matters.

Making the right choices for you puts you on the path to getting what you want. This is the heart of what it is to be authentic. I call it being your own Brand of Sexy. Learning who you are and what you really want from men or from a relationship is what will lead you to success.

4-  If others don’t respect your voice, you can move on.

Not everyone will agree with your choices and decisions. Being authentic is doing what’s best for you whether others like it or not. This is the toughest step, because women are raised to be people-pleasers. It can hurt when people don’t like our choices. We may be afraid someone will be angry with us or won’t like us anymore. We can be afraid to lose them. In some cases, a relationship may end. But the most enduring and satisfying relationships are the ones where your partner wants to be with you, even when you disagree. He loves you for who you are. When one relationship ends, you’re probably moving on to someone who will love the real you.

Bottom Line

Breaking free from cultural pressures surrounding beauty standards and sexuality is an ongoing journey of embracing your authenticity and recognizing your worth. You can empower yourself and others to live free from the constraints of unrealistic expectations. In doing so, you can improve your self-esteem.

Please leave us a comment. This conversation requires everyone’s opinion. I know you have one!

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