The Wall of (Broken) Dreams

Girls are obsessed with make-up, hair extensions, false lashes, false nails. Then there’s weight loss, sexy dresses, lip fillers and full-blown cosmetic surgery. Lyndsay Hughes explains why women of all ages feel the need to be teeny-tiny and utterly perfect. And why it’s a dangerous game.

Young girl modelThis girl is 10 years old. In her five-inch stilettos, bare-legged and gazing seductively at the camera, she looks like a model in her late teens, at the very youngest. But this already pretty little thing has been coiffed, styled and polished to within an inch of her short life. Also, she’s gorgeous, because she’s thin.

She is another victim of today’s celebrity culture. Everyday, most people visit a newsagent and either consciously or subconsciously, one section of the shop will have a lasting effect. Sometimes you may not notice it, but it’s always there- the Wall of Dreams.

magazines

The Wall of Dreams is a blessing and a curse. Magazines have long offered entertainment, advice and relaxation to billions. But what happens when this harmless looking selection of brightly coloured glossy pages leads to problems such as Body Dismorphic Disorder (BDD), anorexia or bulimia?

With the daily inundation of tips and tricks offered to young women to achieve the ‘perfect’ body, it’s difficult to develop a sense of self. Many teens try to emulate the look of their favorite celebrities; dress like them, copy their hair styles/colour, imitate their make-up, and in some cases, even their personalities. If the current trend was to continue, the entire world would be filled with size 6, peroxide blonde, heavily made-up clones.

In addition to this, the ‘perfect’ body is something that has become extremely harmful. A simple Google search for ‘quick weight loss’ leads an internet user into a dark and dangerous world. Easily-influenced, self-conscious teens can all too easily stumble upon so-called ‘pro-ana’ and ‘pro-mia’ websites and images- these are designed to encourage anorexic behaviours and eating patterns, and worship skeletal body types.

A young woman named Mary, now 28 years old, explains the impact that BDD and bulimia had on her as a teenager. 

‘I was emaciated. You could see every bone in my body at one stage. I think I weighed about six stone when I was admitted to hospital.’ ‘I was 17 at the time, and I was obsessed with fashion… still am!’ she laughs.‘I was making myself sick after every meal. Soon, my teeth started to rot and my hair began to fall out. I ended up with full dentures and was bald at the age of 19. It’s ironic how ugly eating disorders make you, even though all you’re trying to do is become more beautiful.’

Mary married her childhood sweetheart  last year, and felt wonderful in her healthy size-ten figure hugging gown. She is one of the lucky ones, having escaped the vicious grasp of bulimia. She does admit, however, that magazines and television had a massive impact on her as a teen, and agrees whole-heartedly with the concept of the very dangerous Wall of Dreams.

‘I was more influenced by models than by celebrities, but it’s the same thing. You look at them and you try to be like them. You even pose like them in photos. My boyfriend used to tell me to stop sucking in my cheeks,’ she explains.

beautiful-skinny-fashion-models--10Many teens like Mary go through this, and a trip to the local newsagent will explain why this is. A huge majority of women’s magazine on the shelf of any shop will offer tips and tricks to weight loss or quick-fix diet advice. Although some of this information is admittedly helpful- such as those articles that advise healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise- more often than not, magazines will encourage risky, unhealthy fad diets and extreme exercise regimes that would never be supported by a doctor or a sensible dietitian.

The pursuit of the adored ‘thigh-gap’ is chilling, with girls as young as 13 asking for advice on how to achieve this online. Another phenomenon is the widespread wish to have protruding ribs and pelvic bones. This is simply not healthy, and not a sustainable body-type. This look would require a BMI of under 20 at the very least, which results in a life-threatening strain on the body’s systems.

On top of all of this, it is common for weight loss to be praised (no matter how extreme, in some cases) and weight gain to be ridiculed. Celebrities are constantly monitored for even the slightest shadow of cellulite or the smallest pocket of fat on their otherwise svelte bodies. This is an impossible aspiration to real women, and a very hazardous aspiration for vulnerable teenage girls.

The Wall of Dreams can offer so much more than bad advice, and no-one should assume that they are there to mess with the minds of young women, or to make them feel inadequate. They are often a great source of fashion advice, fun make-up and hair tricks, and general gossip that can be enjoyed by ladies young and old. But they do have a more sinister side, and sometimes, it’s important to let young girls know that they are beautiful just as they are.

If you, or a young woman you know if suffering with BDD or an eating disorder, or expresses serious lack of self-confidence, do not hesitate to seek advice and support. Eating disorders are extremely dangerous. If you need support, or are worried about someone else, call Bodywhys Ireland on 1890 200444, or visit their website at www.bodywhys.ie for online support.

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