New Year, New Image

By Sean Collins
January 17, 2012

With the dawning of the New Year comes, of course, New Year resolutions. Yet in truth, do we really make any effort to keep these “resolutions?” Of all the ones I personally made this year, there is one that most Americans have difficulty in keeping. This is learning to appreciate myself for what I am and what I am not. The reason  I say this is hard for almost everyone (particularly Americans) is because of what is so often portrayed in our media images. It seems like every few years, we as a mass audience, are presented with a certain image. This image is what many of us are tricked into believing. It is an illusion of what we have to look like in order for us to be considered attractive, beautiful, popular, etc. We let ourselves be tricked even though a sensible, authentic part of us knows this is not the case. This sane part of us knows that the media mirage couldn’t be farther from the truth. This media message is nothing new. In fact, there’s been talk of such things as “consumer manipulation” or “subliminal messaging” in the media for decades. The reason why I think now is a good time to address it is because it has spun entirely out of control.
All around us are various advertisements; movies, shows, and Internet pop- ups seem to stress this message until it ultimately makes an impression on us.  What is really essential in this situation is the impression that these “messages” have on us. Do we feel insecure about our physical appearance after we see a certain ad that features a beautiful model? Is it the way the message is crafted or is it just how we connect that image with beauty?
It’s not a matter of what the product  is. It is the means that most advertisers will go to in order to separate a consumer from his hard-earned dollars. Along with the mixed messages, it is obvious to see what they are doing to us in the process. They are lowering the self confidence of people everywhere. This is why so many people have such a bad sense of self these days. All people want to feel they are accepted. Unfortunately, instead of realistic standards based on character and perseverance, many just look to the examples and trend-setting of the rich and famous. In our media-driven world, we look to these celebrities as our “role models.”  But do we really need these kinds of role models? As we grow and learn as college students, aren’t we old enough to discern the difference between right and wrong? Do we really need celebrity role models at this point in our lives?  This may sound minor, but it is a real part of our maturity problem today. A failure to select the right role models is part of what leads us to the loss of our self confidence.
Our self-perceived flaws seem the dominant factor in how we see ourselves in today’s society. They are often prominent enough to control the way we think. It seems to me that most of the people I know concentrate only on their negatives and forget their good features. This is where we start to doubt ourselves. This is why we begin to forget our best qualities and our talents. Instead of making an effort to improve what we can do, we become  so surrounded by our own doubt that we forget our strengths. We feel like our best is never good enough. We feel goals are impossible.
To some, January is just a month; to those of us struggling to improve, it is more. It is the beginning of a new tomorrow. It’s the first page of the new calendar.  It’s the first page to a new chapter in our lives. It is a time of year for high hopes and resolutions. Let us be both fair and honest with ourselves. Let’s not let these resolutions be unattainable, or be unresolved and forgotten. Let us set resolutions we know we can accomplish. We need to take the first step in a long journey. We need to know ourselves, believe in ourselves and do what we need to do to improve the real us.

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Sean Collins

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