I had a paper due in class this week (one of many, so it was definitely a hellish week), about a problem that exists in our world. I had to present the issue and then propose a solution that is both feasible and effective. Now, finding a problem that I was passionate about was (unfortunately) easy. A better question would be: where do I start? But finding a solution–that was harder. Whatever problems exist, they’re obviously problems because there are no easy (or cheap) solutions; if there were, then they wouldn’t be problems. Right? Right.
And as much as I hate to think that school is actually benefiting me in my growth and development, this paper was evidence of that. So, Mom and Dad, the answer to the question that keeps you up at night is this: yes, I am actually learning something. Quite a relief, I know (especially given the $$$).
The issue I chose was the media and its continual affects on both our own personal body images, and the way that we view–and the unreasonable expectations that we have for–other people. I’ve always been an advocate for self-confidence and being exactly who you are, mostly because that’s something that I
have struggled struggle with–everyday. But the more that I researched this issue, the more engrossed I became. Maybe it’s just me, but this statistic struck me like nothing else:
“65% of American women and girls have eating disorders, with an additional 10% reporting symptoms consistent with eating disorders”
That means that 75% of American women and girls engage in unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food consumption and their bodies. I just can’t get over that. That means that: 3 out of our 4 of your girlfriends, 7,056 of the total 18,445 students at USC, and 120,750,000 women in the United States have behaviors resembling eating disorders. That, to me, is an epidemic. And yet, no one’s talking about it. So here I go, because someone has to.
Everyday we’re told that we aren’t “enough”. And I put “enough” in quotes because we just don’t seem to be “enough” of anything. We aren’t pretty enough, thin enough, rich enough, normal enough and–ultimately–perfect enough. But who decided what makes us perfect? Because I’m pretty sure that we’re all completely human, which also means that we’re completely flawed. We’re perfectly imperfect, and to me, that’s “enough.”
We’re telling our kids that they’re allowed to be whomever it is that they want to be, but by exposing them to unrealistic ideals–magazines, TV shows, movies–we’re only giving them goals that they won’t ever be able to healthfully and realistically attain. The ways in which we communicate and the current power of the media is an incredible phenomenon. We’re able to not only communicate more efficiently, but we’re also able to communicate with more people–tons more people. But with that power also needs to come responsibility. The media is a remarkable resource, one that needs to be seen as a privilege, not an entitlement.
So let’s use this (somewhat) newly found mechanism in positive and effective ways–with intention and purpose. Let’s allow our children to decide who they want to be and what it is that makes them beautiful. Let’s give them the chance to redefine a broken society—one that we older generations have only given into and perpetrated. I’ve never had that chance, but I can assure you that that’s something that I’m striving for—for my future children, and yours.
I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in a society that is supportive of me and encourages me to be exactly who I am. And dishearteningly, neither do you. Who would I be without the constant pressure to be someone else’s idea of perfect? Would I be sitting here with my JCrew vest, lulu lemon leggings and grande Skinny Vanilla Latte as I type this? I’m going to take a wild guess and throw out a ‘no.’ I’m not discounting the trendiness of my all-too soccer mom of an outfit, but it makes me think: why do I think it’s cute? Because someone else sold the idea to me and told me it was. And that makes me feel horrifyingly powerless.
I am constantly trying to convince myself that my worth doesn’t lie in my dress size or the amount of acne on my face. I let nutrition labels dictate what I do and don’t eat, and I live in a state of panic that somehow I’m not doing everything in my power to create a more perfect me. But what if this is it? What if this Megan is the most perfect Megan that this world will ever know? Then you know what, I better get used to her, because it looks like she’s here to stay.
And with that, I’m A-OK (or trying to be). Just gotta keep working.
Keep doing you and being you. It’s the greatest gift you can give to this world.