When it comes to well-being, pop culture is like junk food and should be consumed in moderation. Like a big bag of greasy chips, pop culture can be hard to resist so sometimes we go on a bender. However, like junk food, pop culture is in the short-term pleasure-game and will likely leave you feeling dissatisfied in the long-run.
From television to movies and magazines popular culture is filled with images of hyper-thin, conventionally beautiful, and seemingly flawless women. This is a world where femininity is simple. Sexiness comes in a pink package from a local lingerie store. Confidence comes from knowing your type: the professional, the fashionista, the chic bohemian, etc. It's hardly a radical insight to note that popular culture has a limiting view of femininity. Despite how toxic the images of popular culture may be to a woman's self-image, there are lessons we can learn about how to enjoy pop culture while avoiding the bloat.
Here are the top 4 ways to turn pop culture on its head and build a strong self-image.
1. Body beautiful. Television, movies and magazines are filled with images of women who all look the same -- they're tall, thin and conventionally beautiful. Repeated exposure to the idealized image of the body-beautiful can take its toll on women's self-concept. In short, these images make it hard for many women to feel good about their own bodies. Turn these messages inside-out. There's nothing more beautiful or endearing than the features that make us unique. Our bodies don't come from cookie-cutters like little gingerbread people and that's a good thing. If you're not happy with how you look, instead of comparing yourself to images in pop culture use those images to find motivation. Find something you admire and work on that one aspect of yourself. For example, if you find yourself looking at other women's hairstyles then consider a new do or if you're unhappy with some aspect of your body take a small fitness step in the right direction. Instead of letting images in pop culture make you feel like you fall short, use them as motivation for becoming your best version of yourself.
2. Sexy confidence. According to most commercial pop culture, sexiness is something that you buy from a lingerie store or a costume you wear when you want to impress your man. But we know better. There's nothing sexier than confidence, and what's more, there's nothing less sexy than someone who doesn't feel good in their own skin (or their own underwear!). If you look more closely at pop culture you may find you admire the strong women who feel good about themselves no matter what they do or what they look like. You're probably less-impressed with the reality show women desperately vying for the attention of some man they hardly know or those who end up on tabloid television for the equivalent of publicly defecating on themselves. It's doubtful any of us really admire these women because irrespective of what they may look like, they clearly don't feel good about themselves. Learn the lesson: when you feel sexy you are sexy.
3. Multiple personalities. Pop culture is filled with images of women who clearly fit into categories. Each woman has a clear and one-dimensional persona. But instead of following one of these "types" we can learn from each of them. Don't fall prey to the ease of boxing yourself into a "look" or "persona" because hey, it's easier if all the looks in your closet are interchangeable. Think about exploring the different sides of yourself. Even if we have a certain look that we gravitate to, we all have different sides to our personalities and they should be expressed. So embrace the different parts of your personality and have a closet full of looks to compliment them. There's no point in typecasting yourself in your own life.
4. Enjoy the present. Pop culture is about short-term pleasure. While it's important to work towards long-term contentment, we can also take a nod from pop culture and learn to live in the moment. Yes, you can try to improve the things that you're not satisfied with but not at the expense of living your life today. If you're waiting to change your hair, buy a new outfit or start dating until you change your body, you're making a mistake. Embrace the body you have now and don't avoid life waiting to change your waistline.
Patricia Leavy, PhD is an acclaimed pop-feminist author and expert commentator with a dozen books to her credit. She is the author of the new book, Low-Fat Love and host of the weekly internet radio show Low-Fat Love 101 on PWRTalk radio. Please visit www.patricialeavy.com