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When I see actors, musicians or other celebrities on TV or in magazines, I always wonder, how do they look so good?

Good question! The images we see on television and in magazines and movies send messages about what’s beautiful and what makes someone successful. People often try to imitate those images, changing their clothes, haircut or style to be more like what they see in the media.

The problem is, what’s shown in the media doesn’t usually represent reality. The media likes to show people who have rare body types—people who are very skinny or very muscular, for example. But these kinds of body types are actually pretty unusual. Still, these images can make many teens feel like their body type is not good enough.

When we don’t look like these images, we may feel inferior or less successful. Our best defense is knowing that the media uses tricks, such as airbrushing or digital enhancement, to make people look “better” than they really do. Most of the pictures we see are distortions—if not outright lies.

And anyway, people come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. We are tall and short, thinner and heavier, lighter and darker. We have straight and curly hair. We have thin penises and thicker penises, small breasts and large breasts, lots of body hair and very little body hair. Every body type should be respected and celebrated.

Here are some tips for viewing the media with a smarter, more critical eye. (They come courtesy of the Peel Health website).

  • The media uses props, lighting and computer technology to make actors’ and models’ bodies look like the so-called “perfect image.”
  • People’s shapes and sizes are often changed in the pages of magazines.
  • So-called “imperfections”—acne, freckles, lines, wrinkles, skin folds and other things—are airbrushed out.
  • Splicing together body parts from several different photographs can create the media’s “perfect image.”

So, what we often see in a magazine is a lie. Everyone is different.

There is a lot of information available about the media and body image. We’ve listed some websites in our resource section, so check it out. Get media savvy. Don’t let the media tell you how you should look or how you should feel about your body.

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