how to opt out of media messages that hurt

We know the mainstream media doesn’t do us any favors when it comes to how we feel about ourselves. Especially in regard to the way we look. But besides sequestering ourselves indoors and never listening to the radio, watching TV, or reading anything, what can we do about it?

We can develop critical media awareness. We can know what’s going on when we consume media and, instead of automatically internalizing its messages, make a choice about whether we’d like to integrate those messages into our lives.

Today I’m sharing a series of questions that serve as a set of filters. Whenever you see an ad, article, or piece of entertainment that causes you to feel poorly about yourself, you can run it through these questions, which will help you to look at it objectively and critically.
Here we go…

When you start to compare yourself to someone you see on television or a magazine, ask: Is it this person’s full-time job to conform to mainstream ideals of beauty?

Most of the people we see represented in the media have the full-time job of maintaining an appearance that conforms to the mainstream ideals of their culture, ideals that are unrealistic for the vast majority of people. 

This means that these people must maintain their appearance in order to pay their rent. It also means that they might exercise several hours per day. With a dedicated personal trainer. They might also eat in a very specific way and perhaps have their own chef cooking specialized meals for them. In addition, they’re in this business in part because they happened to be genetically predisposed to fit today’s beauty ideals, which are decided by our culture, not reality.

In addition, these people have aestheticians that help them look the way they do. Their appearance upkeep might include plastic surgery, chemical peels, Botox, liposuction, tanning and body contouring, makeup artistry, hair styling, eyelash extension (yes, that’s actually a thing), and wardrobe styling. They most likely also have specially designed lighting and high-quality lenses trained on them if you’re seeing them on screen or in print.

To say the least, most of the people you see in the media aren’t in their natural state, by any stretch of the imagination. It’s entirely unfair, and actually, absurd, to expect yourself to look like them.

When you start to feel down while reading an article or watching a movie, ask: Does this piece of media make me feel good about myself?

If an article you’re reading makes you feel like an inferior human being, you have the right to stop. If watching a particular commercial leaves you feeling ugly, you can change the channel. It doesn’t matter why you feel badly. If you do, you always have the choice to remove that piece of media from your life.

Whenever you’re consuming any form of media, ask: Are they trying to sell me something?
Many companies, especially those that sell beauty products, manufacture problems for us to feel badly about so that they can “solve” them. If a company is trying to sell you something, they’re thinking, first and foremost, about making a profit. Not about you and your welfare. To them, you’re one consumer among millions. You’re not required to buy anything from them or even listen to what they have to say.

When a piece of media just isn’t sitting right with you, ask: Does this message match my own system of values?

What is important in your life? Friends? Family? Leaving a legacy of charitable giving? Kindness? Whatever your values are, you can pay attention to media that support those values, and leave the rest. You live in a culture that values appearance and wealth, youth and whiteness. That doesn’t mean you have to value those things. Feel free to dismiss anything that doesn’t support what you, yourself, value.

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