Photo Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images Sport
Olympic gold medals, a successful modeling career, the body of someone who swims for a living. The world thought that Amanda Beard had it all. But on the inside, it was all falling apart.
Like so many of us, Amanda felt the pressure to live up to a media ideal. That pressure led her to depression, which led to cutting and disordered eating to deal with the stress.
Beard says that it started at the age of 14 after she won her first Olympic gold medal and had to try to return to a normal life. “I think the pressure really started then,” Beard told TODAY.com. “Like all the other high school girls I wanted to be perceived as beautiful and thin and perfect. And that was magnified by the media. I wanted to live up to what the media was saying.”
I think that sometimes we forget that the media’s idea of beautiful and thin and perfect is literally unattainable -- even by the people in the pictures.
And, if multiple gold medal-winning Olympians aren’t safe, then none of us are. Unattainable perfection sells products -- the kind of products that are advertised in the magazines that push unattainable beauty. So the media has no incentive to stop promoting a standard of beauty that is impossible to achieve. That’s why we have to advocate for ourselves. A Glamour survey found that women have, on average, one negative body thought every waking hour. We need to stop attacking each other and criticizing bodies – both Olympian and our own -- and start seeing and talking about the beauty in all bodies. We need to take the shame and stigma away from depression, cutting, disordered eating, and the like, so we can start seeing how big of a problem it is.
When someone like Amanda Beard is confessing to having body issues, it’s time for a shift. And we can create it.