So often we see individuals, mostly those in their teenaged years, turning to celebrities in order to determine the “perfect” image of themselves.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with looking to others for inspiration, falling into the comparison trap can be detrimental to one’s mental health.

Every day we see celebrities with “perfect” bodies and “perfect” teeth living glamorous and seemingly effortless lives. While it can be so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of glamour, it’s important to understand that celebrities are people too.

Body image, in particular, is being highly influenced by celebrity image – especially at very young ages. It’s important to understand how to avoid the negative effects of celebrity influence and teach our children the same.

Celebrity Influence on Body Image

It’s natural, albeit unhealthy, to compare yourself to other people. However, when celebrities are placed on a pedestal as the ideal standard of body image, not being able to achieve that level of “perfection” can make people feel ashamed and defective.

Research has been well-documented in regards to how viewing celebrity images affects body image, especially in women. In one study, elementary-school children were shown pictures of thin celebrities and asked how they could look the same.

The boys didn’t take the question all that seriously but the girls’ responses included tactics such as not eating or eating and then throwing up.

Even our children are not safe from the negative influence celebrity culture can have on body image.

How to Avoid the Negative Effects of Celebrity Influence

With our widespread access to social media, it’s hard to avoid celebrity influence when it comes to body image.

Even though the celebrity social media landscape is changing, with more celebrities sharing open, honest, and “imperfect” aspects of themselves, it’s still important to know how to consume content in a way that protects you and your body image:

  • Media Literacy: Understanding that what you are seeing is not necessarily reality is an important first step in avoiding the negative effects of celebrity culture. Many images are manipulated or highly prepared for, creating an “ideal” that is not normal.
  • Turn Comparison Into Appreciation: You’re allowed to look at a celebrity and appreciate their image – you are not obligated to want or need what they have.
  • Stop Shaming Yourself: Catch yourself whenever you feel you are criticizing yourself and change the language. You can retrain your brain to think positively about yourself with practice.

In fact, this is called cognitive dissonance and it means experiencing thoughts or behaviors that are not consistent with your beliefs. You can work against cognitive dissonance by saying things you like about your body every time a negative thought creeps in.

For instance, the next time you see a celebrity and start shaming your body, ask yourself questions like:

  • “Why is my body bad? Where did I get that idea?”
  • “Why is my physical appearance so important?”
  • “Is this person’s body a realistic standard?”

Stay Out Of the Vanity Trap

A lifetime of aesthetic believes can’t be unlearned overnight but questioning the status quo can help you move away from the comparison and vanity trap and toward a healthier body image.

Remember that nobody is “perfect”! What you see on social media is oftentimes an unrealistic construct aided by makeup, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and photoshop.

If you can’t stay away from celebrity culture, turn to those who are open and honest about their imperfections. Checking out #NoFilter or #NoMakeup selfies of your favorite celebrity will quickly undo your perception of their perfection.

They’re just people too.

About the author

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Dr. Bola

Family physician. Works for the "man" by day, wife & mom 24/7.
Loves the work of translating "medicalese" to plain english.

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