Self image of a person is as important as his/her mental health, behavior and perception of others and the world around. It plays a major role in the life of every human being. This issue has been addressed by many scientists, and multiple researches have been conducted on this matter. However, the question weather self image is predetermined genetically or weather it is conditioned on by cultural heritage remains unanswered. Some scientists believe that self image has much to do with genes, which are inherited from parents to children. Indeed, this hypothesis has the right to live, because self image is tightly connected with mental health of a person, thus, if one of the parents experienced certain mental problems, a child will possibly inherit these problems, which will later affect child’s self image. Usually, people with mental problems possess negative self image, thinking that they are not like others, that they are not so attractive, smart or communicative. At the same time healthy children, who were born from healthy parents, are more likely to possess stable positive self image until adolescence. However, during this period of life teenagers tend to reconsider their views on life together with the views on themselves.
Adolescence is often characterized by low self-esteem in teenagers due to multiple reasons, while the major reason influencing teenagers at this period of time is society they live in. Family, friends, school and television impact the developing minds of young people, stimulating further development or harming it. Under the influence of above listed factors self image of teenagers alters, becoming normal, too low or too high. Culture of any society has a dramatic effect on self image of people belonging to it. Thus, self image is not predetermined by genes only.
The current study was designed to explore such phenomenon as self image, to identify its meaning and factors that influence its development. The main goal is to find out what impacts self image of a person more, genetic material or cultural heritage, and to prove that culture does really script one’s self image.
Before analyzing the term “self image”, it is necessary to give a definition precisely describing its meaning. Person’s self image or identity is a set of characteristic features, by means of which a person is able to describe oneself. It is a mental picture of a person, showing one’s perception of self, which is very difficult to change. Such characteristic features include not only person’s weight, height, color of hair or eyes and other features that are visible to everyone, however, they also include features, which a person learned about himself from personal experiences and communication with other people. Thus, it is very important to realize that self image depends not only on how people perceive themselves, but also the way people are perceived by others. Speaking about genetic impact on person’s self image it is necessary to state that genes predetermine the way a person will look. Genes influence how tall or short, stout or slim, attractive or unattractive a person will be in future, however, self image of a person also depends on other factors. Only in cases of certain mental disorders self image will be affected mostly by genes inherited from person’s parents, in all other cases self image is formed under the influence of society.
The development of self image is a very challenging process, which will have a dramatic effect on the whole life of a person. Family, friends or community may develop positive or negative self image in a person, and the consequences of the development of negative self image are very serious. A person might become self-hatred and dangerous not only for himself, but also for the society. People with inaccurate self image may become lonely, embittered and dangerous for other people in terms of the display of discontent and malice, which can be in the form of abuse or violence. Influencing person’s self image other people cannot see what happens in the soul of a person, thus it is hard to notice weather this or that action had a detrimental effect on a person.
Self image is the way a person perceives oneself in relation to other people. Such perception always happens while comparing oneself with others. For example, women always look at other women thinking that they look better or worth than them. Obviously, the first ones possess positive self image, while the second ones possess a negative self image. Sometimes people may possess self image that is too high, meaning that a person evaluates himself much better than others. Such phenomenon is certainly better than negative self image, however, it is not considered normal either. When a person possesses positive self image it means that he/she feels good about oneself. This means that a person is confident and optimistic, which is normal. Negative self image makes a person focus on his/her drawbacks. In this case a person becomes pessimistic, self-pity or even self-hatred. Such people are always in bad spirit, they are unable to accomplish any planned actions and to reach success, because they think that they are not worth anything, that nobody likes them and needs them. In contrast, people with too high self image consider themselves superior in comparison with other people. Very often such people become too self-confident, overbearing and selfish. It is very hard to communicate with such people, as they always wish to be better than their interlocutors.
Self image is very close to self-esteem. While self image is the way a person perceives himself, self-esteem is the way a person feels about himself, weather he/she is proud of himself, worth of love and respect . Being so close these concepts correlate with each other. For example, if person’s self image is negative, he/she will surely possess low self-esteem and vice versa. Self image is like a coin with two sides. From one side, person’s self image is being influenced by other people, while from another side, self image influences other people’s perception of a person, meaning that if a person has positive self image he/she is more likely to be recognized and respected by other people than a person with negative self image. Thus, it is very important to have a positive self image.
Having spoken about the meaning and importance of self image it is necessary to speak about the influence which is exerted on self image by culture. In Western developed countries the majority of people have an ability to possess positive and healthy self image due to high standards of life and opportunity to visit hair-dressers, cosmetologists and other specialists who help people to be beautiful. The reason for saying that they only “have an ability” is the following. In reality self image cannot be determined by wealth, as wealthy people can also possess negative self image. And mass media plays not the last role at this point. It is very hard for people to possess positive self image when the whole society emphasizes the idea of perfection. This idea of perfection is everywhere. It glares from the TV screen with millions of advertisements promoting health and beauty with the help of young perfectly but unnaturally looking models, whose natural beauty was made unnatural by means of an airbrush. Indeed, nobody is perfect, but the standard became just too high for ordinary people. Seductively looking young girls wearing tiny bikini, who are published almost on every cover of a glossy magazine leave no chances for ordinary women to feel beautiful and desired. Indeed, today’s standard of beauty is impossibly high. Even top models, when they are unable to lose weight, resort to eating disorders. So, what should ordinary people do? Or maybe it is up to society to reconsider the standards in order to make the life easier?
Being one of the driving forces of progress advertisement plays an important role in the life of people, influencing their mind and behavior greatly. The main goal of any advertisement is to attract consumers, while the main goal of mass media is to deliver viewers to advertisers by showing TV programs that would be interesting to the majority of people. Teenagers are influenced by advertisement in the first place. Creating stereotypes, “Advertising creates a mythical, mostly white world in which people are rarely ugly, overweight, poor, struggling or disabled, either physically or mentally (unless you count the housewives who talk to little men in toilet bowls)” . However, the real world has different appearance. People can be too tall or too short, they can be fat and possess unattractive appearance, however, that does not mean that they do not have right to live normal life. Advertisement on TV and in the press makes people feel low self-esteem when comparing themselves with the supermodels advertising cosmetics, fashionable clothes, expensive cars and etc. “Adolescents are particularly vulnerable because they are new and inexperienced consumers and are the prime targets of many advertisements” , thus teenagers are more in danger to possess negative self image under the influence of mass media. Nowadays, young girls tend to think that they fat and unattractive, when indeed they have normal weight and they look nicely. This happens because of the stereotypes created by mass media. Of course it is more pleasant to look at an attractive person advertising a certain product; however, such “terribly nice looking people” are on every TV channel and in every magazine. Scientific researches showed that “women experience distress (in terms of anger, anxiety and depression) when viewing media images that reflect the current societal bias towards thinness and attractiveness” . There had been a distinct borderline created between attractive supermodels, who are treated only as sex objects, and housewives, who are “pathologically obsessed by cleanliness”  and “feel guilt for not being more beautiful, for not being a better wife and mother” . Thus, mass media creates people with too high and too low self image, leaving no possibility for existence of the happy medium. For some reason, in our society “attractive people are perceived as smarter and friendlier than unattractive people, whilst people who are obese or overweight are often thought to be lazy, sloppy or stupid” . Indeed, this is not so, but vice versa. Sometimes people possessing attractive appearance may be mean and unfriendly towards other people, thinking that they are superior, while ordinary and unattractive people are more likely to be kind and friendly, because they want to make friends with other people.
Standards of beauty and stereotypes created by mass media in the majority of Western countries are not a characteristic feature of the whole world. For example, in Muslim countries, a woman is treated as daughter, wife and mother in the first place, but not as the sex object. In such countries as Morocco, stout women are more likely by men than slim ones, and such traits of a woman as obedience, origin and knowledge of Koran are as important as her appearance and character. Thus, self image of people in Muslim countries is not harmed by mass media, because Muslim people are more religious and possess totally different culture.
Having spoken about self image and the factors, which influence its development either in positive or negative way, it is necessary to make a conclusion. Despite of the fact that person’s appearance is predetermined genetically, one’s self image is a result of communication between people, which forms under the influence of one’s experiences and perception and the influence of the society. Self image closely relates to self esteem, which shows a person’s attitude to himself, weather he/she deserves to be loved and respected. Self image has a lot to do with culture, in which mass media plays a determinative role by creating various standards that are too hard to correspond with. For this reason ordinary people feel that they are not so beautiful and worthy of happiness than gorgeous supermodels advertising various products. And teenagers, especially young girls tend to be influenced much my mass media, showing tall and slim models on television and in magazines. However, it is necessary to realize that beauty in mass media is somewhat artificial, due to the use of super effective makeup preparations and air brush to correct all defects.
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