In our digital world, images of beautiful, skinny celebrities are everywhere you turn. These images can make teenage girls believe they must have a perfect body to fit into society. It’s beliefs like these that leave teens with feelings of self-consciousness and low self-esteem.
Yet, it is widely known that the very celebrities and models girls strive to look like often have unhealthy body mass indexes. BMI is a height-to-weight ratio that is used to indicate obesity or weight that is too low.
The average runway model has a BMI of 16, which the World Health Organization considers low, severely thin, and unhealthy. Meanwhile, the average American female has a BMI of 26.5.
That information is overlooked, however, when girls see images of their favorite celebrities and models on Snapchat, Instagram, magazine covers and TV shows.
Teens and younger girls want to look like the successful celebrities they constantly see. But when they look in the mirror, they think they are too fat.
"I do think ‘Why are they that thin when I’m not,’ " says Alexis Kruzicki, 14. "At first glance people say, ‘That’s probably what I’m supposed to look like, why don’t I?’ " she continues.
In fact, girls are not supposed to look like the average runway model.
According to the Women’s Center at Southern Connecticut State University, only about 5 percent of American women naturally have the figure that is favored and desired by so many women.
However, when young women ask themselves that question of "Why don’t I?," they don’t think about their natural figure. Instead they think of ways they can quickly get that "perfect" body.
Unfortunately, young women can be so desperate that they take unhealthy approaches to weight loss like starving themselves or purging.
When young women starve themselves, they are putting themselves at risk for anorexia. Anorexia, which is an eating disorder in which people obsess about what they weigh and often refuse to eat, causes many health issues, including a weakened heart.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association website, between 35 to 57 percent of young women use dangerous approaches to weight loss, including crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, laxatives or diet pills.
Furthermore, 20 million women in the United States have been diagnosed with a significant eating disorder at some point. These eating disorders include bulimia, anorexia, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder that cannot specifically be categorized as anorexia or bulimia.
Why do so many people suffer from eating disorders?
Why are so many people unhappy with their body?
One answer to these questions is pressure. Young women feel pressured to look as perfect as celebrities.
Girls are surrounded by influences that apply this pressure. Young women have nearly constant access to social media, and this is where so much of that influence is found.
When asked about where she sees the pictures of celebrities, Molly Smith, 14, said, "I would say social media, because I am always connected. I think social media affects me more than magazines and movies."
Alexis also said she is influenced by social media. She said that she notices images of celebrities other places too. "It’s TV commercials, definitely magazine covers, but also articles online, and all over the internet," she said.
It is these influences that have many people believing that young women face greater issues with body image than males. Although there are young men that face similar issues as young women, many girls, like Molly and Alexis, believe that females face more body-related insecurities.
This is mainly due to the fact that magazine covers are constantly splashed with images of female celebrities, accompanied by headlines about how to be as beautiful as them.
The magazine Girls’ Life is an example of this.
The September 2016 issue of Girl’s Life bore the headlines, "Your Dream Hair" and "Wake up Pretty!" while the Boys’ Life September 2016 issue’s main headline was "Explore Your Future."
These differences are not subtle and make girls believe that being beautiful is the most important thing in life.
"On the front of magazines it’s mostly girls, and girls care more about appearance than boys," Molly said. "It just affects girls more."
Furthermore, magazines like these make girls feel like they must look perfect to be successful.
Young women constantly read about how their favorite celebrities do their makeup and hair. This leads teenagers to believe that they must follow the same procedures, and have the same body shape, to be as successful as actresses and models.
In a study by the University of Washington’s Teen Health and the Media website, it was found that at the age of 13, 53 percent of American girls are unhappy with their body. This number increases to 78 percent by the time girls reach 17.
At this age, girls are increasingly aware of the looks of others around them, and the appearances of celebrities.
Many young women feel that a precedent has been set, and now success is based not only on ability, but on looks, as well. Young women often feel that in the real world they are constantly being judged.
Although it may be subconscious, many people do look at those labeled beautiful as being better than those labeled otherwise.
As teenage girls look around themselves and into the digital world, they often can’t help but feel too fat, or too ugly, or just not good enough. It is important for young women to remember that everyone is different. Whether they look different, or act different, everyone is unique, and that’s a good thing.
"Everyone is extremely different in how you look, how you act, and I think that’s what makes our society," said Molly. "Being unique is something that can add to whatever you choose to be."
Sarah Crawford is a freshman at Nardin Academy.