The Pressure To Be Perfect

Today we live in a world where body image is everything, unfortunate but it seems unavoidable. Everyone cares too much about the way they look and what everyone else thinks about them. According to Sheldon the average American woman is “5’4’’ and 140 pounds, whereas the average female model portrayed in the media is 5’11” and 120 pounds.” The images that we are constantly faced with in magazines, advertising and other media is bound to affect the way we view ourselves.


In her article Pressure To Be Perfect: Influences on College Students’ Body Esteem Pavica Sheldon surveys 224 college students to identify how the pressures constantly being bombarded with images of the perfect woman affects them. Sheldon is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Louisiana State University. Through her study she discovered that perfectionism was not directly related to the media they consumed but rather “higher family and peer pressure and a high score on perfectionism influenced women to compare themselves to the models in fashion magazines and on television.” (Sheldon, 2010)

Although men’s self esteem was also influenced by similar factors it is a lot less common as research by Connor-Greene (1988) shows that 88% of women wish to lose weight whereas 37% of men who are unsatisfied with their body image. Sheldon (2010) projects a feminist view, suggesting that women should view magazine models as photoshopped and women should be empowered to act together with men to eliminate different media outlets which negatively effect their self esteem and condemn healthy eating.

In the article Sheldon discusses eating disorders and factors that contribute to low self esteem. Throughout the article she references many past studies which provide a depth of research and legitimacy to her reportings. Sheldon also constantly discusses the body image of men although she primarily focuses on women. Several social theories are discussed which relate to body image and self esteem. The article focuses on a few different aspects which lead to self esteem issues, namely, family pressure, peer pressure and perfectionism. With questions focused on these areas Sheldon interviewed 224 students; 122 women and 102 men. Additionally, she discusses in detail the different variables which were investigated about each student which may also give some reason for their responses. Some variables included magazines they read and what type of TV they watched, this gives an idea of what sort of media has a greater negative effect on individuals. The article found that women who compare themselves to images in magazines and are under high family and peer pressure have worse self esteem than those who don’t suffer from family and peer pressure. Men’s self esteem is not related to reading magazines but is also related to family and peer pressure.

I found this journal article to be very well researched and very descriptive. Sheldon conveys the whole process of surveying and what it included which gives readers an indepth idea of all the issues and aspects surrounding the pressure to be perfect, especially relating to media. By surveying both women and men it allows us to analyse the different media consumptions between genders. The article also compiles tables which show survey results, furthering the readers knowledge.


Sheldon, P., 2010. Pressure To Be Perfect: Influences on College Students’ Body Esteem.Southern Communication Journal, 75(3), pp.277-298.  


8 thoughts on “The Pressure To Be Perfect

  1. This article addresses some very serious, and very common issues within the technologically consumed, and self-indulgent society we live in today. Women, in particular, are bombarded with very confronting images of ‘beauty’ in the media and are at limbo trying to deal with these seemingly unrealistic images of beauty. You have done an excellent job at analysing the article, and discussed a variety of critical points that should be addressed more clearly within society. It is very interesting that family and peer pressure are just as crucial, with regards to a woman’s self-esteem issues, as what their media consumption is. It has definitely informed me, as a woman in a society as self-indulgent as today’s, to redress my current thoughts on women’s self-esteem issues.

    1. Thank you 🙂 Hopefully the more women who realise that it’s affecting them, the more we can come together and protest and cause change so that magazines start portraying more realistic expectations. Family and peer pressure are often the main source of low self esteem, which is really sad.

  2. Body image is an issue that is enhanced by mass media. This article has effectively researched the immense pressure experienced primarily by females who try so hard to replicate this ideal body depicted in mass media. I think that it is quite distressing to think of the impact that various forms of media, such as magazines, can have on our health and wellbeing to try and replicate a certain image in order to be “perfect”. I have also analysed an article that focuses on the issue of body image, with a particular focus on the impact of using thin female models in music videos on young females’ body dissatisfaction. Your analysis of this article is well structured and you have highlighted significant points from the article. You have provided me with a deeper insight into the negative aspects of media consumption on body image. I will definitely be more careful of the type of media that I am exposed to, as well as not conforming to the media’s depiction of an ideal body!

    1. Thanks 🙂 It’s definitely interesting just how great the extent is that magazine models have on young women. I think it’s sad that more magazines and other media outlets don’t change to show more realistic bodies, I know some magazines are starting to but for the most part they still only publish models with unrealistic body proportions.

  3. I can really relate to some of the things you’ve spoken about and this is why this post is really effective. I love the topic of body image, because there are so many different views that one can have. I personally have always thought that body image and perceptions were shaped by magazines and billboards that are everywhere. Even stars that we look up to seem to have a really ‘perfect’ look about them which is what we (as humans) strive for within ourselves. I find it really disheartening to know that women are still portrayed as a generic ‘very tall, ridiculously skinny’ when most of the time, their faces and features are photoshopped so much, there should be no reason for us to feel that way. I love that you used that article, it seems so articulate it providing analysis and that is ideal.
    Doves campaigns seem to highlight this and you should have a look because they like to focus on that beauty isn’t what we seem to be fed through in the mass media..
    thats a link to the Dove Evolution campaign, so powerful in changing peoples perception. Don’t you think theres so much more that can be done to change these perceptions and how young women grow up feeling about themselves? Great job with this one.

    1. Thanks for your great feedback! I’m familiar with the Dove campaign and I think it’s wonderful that more large businesses in the beauty industry are beginning to portray realistic expectations! More companies definitely need to get on board 🙂

  4. I loved how not even two sentences into your post you mentioned the average women compared to the average model. I feel like straight away we see how morphed our perceptions are. Also how wrong the media is to display images that are socially incorrect in retrospect to what the average women is. I think you’ve done a great job at analysing the text and how you’ve mentioned that not all problems people face with beauty and body image are related to mass media but a lot closer to home such as family and peer pressure or how we compare ourselves to other everyday women. I would have loved if you linked to the other research studies you mentioned to get a closer look into the topic but I think this is a great post about a serious issue that men and women alike have had to face for so long. Well done 🙂

  5. I found your blog very interesting to read. Body image is a big problem in the world these days and doesn’t only affect women which I love how you payed attention to males in your blog. The media definitely doesn’t help with body image in society today which is sad. Women and men should feel comfortable with their appearance. I look forward to reading more blog from you. Great blog again! 🙂

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