Mixed messages

As well as purveying unrealistic beauty ideals, the mass media send us a slew of contradictory messages as if to confound us further. It is common for a single magazine cover to promote both the latest miracle crash diet and a quick and easy recipe for Double Fudge Overload Brownies. That same magazine might pair an image of a scantily dressed woman in a sexually provocative pose with an article on The Rewards of Abstinence. The contradictions are obvious: restraint and indulgence, seduction and chastity, “good” girls and “bad” girls. How can we possibly live up to such mixed messages?

Of course, the answer is we can’t. Such contradictory messages ensure that we will always feel inadequate and insecure. And our insecurity is good for those who want to sell us quick-fixes in the form of such things as diet plans, exercise videos, anti-cellulite lotions and steel-reinforced undergarments.

There are some perspectives, contrary to popular belief, which we can take to become critical viewers of the media and its messages and to protect ourselves against the unrealistic and unattainable body ideal. 

  • Understand that the content that is being put out does not reflect reality whatsoever. There are certain images and messages being sent out for specific, destructive reasons.
  • Advertisers are displaying what they want you to see and they want to sell you a service. If that is a shared understanding of all consumers, the emotional response will not be as effective as the creators would have hoped. Therefore, the effectiveness of the ad will decrease.
  • Choose to view the media with a filter that protects your body-image and self esteem. We are the only ones who can control this and the media should not get to decide this for us. (NEDA 2018)

last update:  8 April 2021