Society has the power to influence opinions on body image, and the way people perceive themselves can result in false implications unless their identities are found in something much greater.
Because of the standard the world has set, it may be easy to give in to a societal definition of what it means for both men and women to be considered beautiful. People and media images seen today can influence students into the belief that being beautiful is simply defined by outward appearance.
Dr. Satara Armstrong, director of the social work program and professor of social work at California Baptist University, said additional pressures regarding body image and overall health come with being a college student.
“Both college-age men and women feel like they have to conform to the standard of beauty that is really external and has nothing to do with their faith, intellect or their spirit,” Armstrong said.
The superficial standards and subliminal messages projected through media can play a critical role in shaping peoples’ lives, causing them to potentially follow one idealized path to beauty. Those who find their identity purely in the opinions of others may experience emotional, physical and spiritual damage. Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders often arise in an attempt to live up to those expectations.
“If there’s any way we could resocialize people to think of beauty as inner-beauty, that’s where I think we would see some significant change,” Armstrong said. “We can show people what beauty really is through trying to be like Christ.”
Karina Ruelas, junior sociology major, said it is easy to get caught up with worldly standards because it seems everyone is following the newest and most popular trends, particularly because of the rise of social media.
“Everyone wants to fit in, which means conforming to the patterns of the world,” Ruelas said. “Social media also plays a key role in this matter. People used to only deal with society and its standards at school or at work. However, now they are still being exposed to it at home through use of technology and social media.”
Armstrong also said in finding the balance of being healthy and succumbing to society’s view of beauty, people need to view themselves in a holistic way, making sure they are taking care of their mind, body and spirit. One way Armstrong said this could be achieved is by finding a support group or mentor to help in all three areas.
Armstrong said when a person’s identity is in Christ, she finds beauty as defined by God.
“When you have a strong faith or even a budding faith, everything kind of falls into perspective,” Armstrong said. “Your ideas of love change, your ideas of beauty change, your self-confidence changes — everything changes with Jesus.”