Ever since childhood, you are shown expectations of beauty and how you should look. Little girls look up to the Disney princesses and believe that is what you need to look like to be beautiful, that you need to find your prince charming who looks just as handsome so that you can both grow old together with your nice, happy, and perfect family. But in reality, this doesn’t happen so the ideas you created in your head as a little girl sticks with you and when your life doesn’t turn out in the same way this affects you and your mental health.
So where do the images come from?
It is not just Disney princesses creating this image in people’s heads. Everyone has someone they look up to and aspire to be like whether that is a famous person or someone they know personally such as a parent or family member, they are creating this image already in their head of how they want everything to be. But it is not always that simple it can be hard to achieve everything you want to achieve perfection in the time frame you want to do it in and when the expectations you have set for yourself don’t end up aligning correctly, this can massively affect your mental health.
Even once you are grown up and you are no longer looking at Disney princesses there are new influences around you. One major influence people experience daily is the presence of social media. The introduction and quick rise of social media in the 21st century has been massive and many people nowadays check social media multiple times every single day and more often than not compare themselves to people they see. Young women see celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and believe they should look like that, but in reality, she doesn’t look like that all the time as photoshop is commonly used. The unrealistic images created on social media make it harder for people to be confident in themselves. When you see someone who has the perfect body, with the perfect house, living the perfect life, it is made to seem realistic for everyone. This makes people strive to look the same by getting cosmetic surgeries and decorating their house in the same style so the interior looks the same, all so that they can seem to also have a perfect life.
But doing these changes, what does this do to someone’s mental health? You get the cosmetic surgeries to look like who you aspire to be, but does that make you happy or doesn’t it? You decorate your home to look like an exact copy of someone else’s but does that feel like home to you, is that how you would really decide to decorate and are you really expressing yourself. You do all this to make your life seem perfect from an outside perspective but at what cost has this caused you? Most likely the most significant cost has been losing yourself to fit an ideal image and that is not good for your mental health. You shouldn’t be striving to be like someone who has created unrealistic expectations because for this to happen you have to put aside yourself and your mental well-being to create the perfect life from other people’s perspective.
But how as a society can we change this?
We need to stop the ideology that everything you see online is real and that is what is actually achievable for everyone because the reality is, this isn’t true. We need to stop turning and looking at people whose living situations are so completely different that it will be unrealistic to try and achieve this. These are all things that we can do now to help our mental health now, but this needs to be done far earlier than now. There are things you could do to stop unrealistic expectations from a young age. Big brand corporations need to move on from the idea of skinny girls and muscular guys are normal and create characters and toys away from this. Why isn’t there a plus-sized Disney princess or a skinny short Disney prince, why does Barbie have to be skinny, and Ken has to be muscular because this is just creating unrealistic expectations from a young age on how young children should wish to look when they are older. These ideas of what you should look like lead children at a young age to create images in their heads of what they should look like when they’re older, creating more mental health problems later on in life.
Mental health is a growing concern for many in the UK and at the moment is something as a society we need to do better with and improve. This starts first with reducing the influence media portrayals have on individuals. We need to move away from the idea that how things are presented to us now are viable options for us in the future. We need to understand that children’s tv shows and characters also create unrealistic expectations for people from a young age. Mental health is something that affects many people every single day and we can start to change this by changing the way people are portrayed in the media and on shows, this will help to reduce the number of people suffering from mental health issues.