The Unhealthy Obsession with ‘Perfection’

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KatieColumn

I take a look online and the photos that bombard me are those of women with “perfect” figures. Many young women seem to have an overwhelming desire to change their appearance to fit society’s standard of beauty. The craving for a flatter stomach, bigger breasts or an overall lower body weight demonstrates the unfortunate body pressures placed on women by the media.

The constant barrage of digitally altered photos slammed in front of us showcase famous models and celebrities. These photos, which are advertised as beautiful by the media, do not help those who are already struggling with low self-esteem and body issues.

The new obsession for these young women? The “thigh gap.”

A recent article on National Public Radio (NPR) raises the concern about the trend of extreme dieting to achieve a perfect thigh gap. The “thigh gap,” which refers to the empty space between one’s thighs when their feet are together, is the ultimate goal.

Social media sites such as Tumblr, Twitter and Pinterest have given rise to blogs and pages made by average people that are dedicated to perpetuating this unhealthy obsession. For many, these blogs support their goal of obtaining an “ideal” body, even for the creators of those blogs. Through constant photo manipulation and the selection of particular photos, people are getting a glimpse into a very small portion of body types. “Thinspiration” blogs and posts are ignoring reality and are instead praising unattainable body images.

According to specialists interviewed by NPR, “the spacing between a person’s legs is based mostly on genetics. And even extraordinarily thin people may not have a body type that can achieve a gap.”

Simply put, if the pelvis is not wide enough, a person cannot achieve a thigh gap. Yet many people struggle to attain this look.

For some, thinness and thigh gaps come naturally, but for others, this goal is unattainable and just another of the many extreme fantasies that can lead to an obsession. In order to achieve this look, women are experimenting with extreme diets and other unhealthy practices, resulting in anorexia or bulimia nervosa, which can shut down their bodies and potentially cause death.

The thigh gap craze is just another standard of thinness to obsess over, and another diet that can cause extreme damage. These social media sites contribute to the same harmful “thinspiration” communities that established this thigh gap trend.

Unfortunately, the thigh gap issue is only one tiny aspect of an entire realm of eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorders that plague the minds of individuals in today’s society. Claire Mysko, overseer of the National Eating Disorders Association, told NPR that experts believe that “exposure to online images of extreme beauty standards and the drive to compare does increase the risk of developing eating disorders.”

I always knew that the media perpetuated an unrealistic view of beauty, but these “thinspiration” sites are dangerous, inconsiderate and insensitive. Social media has a responsibility to promote healthy concepts of beauty instead of constant attention to the size and shape of celebrities, especially women. Social media sites need to do more than just put a small print policy condemning these “thinspiration” blogs and instead focus on preventing these types of messages.

Social media magnifies a person’s opinion by broadcasting it across the masses. The individuals posting these photos and making claims about how wrong a body can look lack an awareness for the struggle people have with their own bodies.

Rather than perpetuating false ideals of a perfect body, bloggers should support others in self-acceptance and in turn, accept themselves — no matter their body type, size or shape.