Beauty Survey

I created a survey pertaining to beauty and the media which was completed by a total of 38 participants. Click here to view the survey. 

Survey Questions (I have included some responses, as well as my analysis of some of the responses):

1. How do you define beauty?

– A beautiful face and body A beautiful personality

– Beauty is in the eye of the beholder….it is subjective yet at the same time there are certain things people find beautiful as a whole. Take certain celebrities for example, like ScarJo or Ryan Gosling. Many people find these people “beautiful”. Other things like blue oceans and painting by Monet are also considered beautiful by many. Furthermore music, tastes and smells can also be considered beautiful. “Beautiful” I’d define as a deeply intense yet tender reaction to empirical information. It is when our senses our pleased to the point of something elevated beyond our regular world.

– Beauty is something that is truly defined by inner beauty. Outer beauty does exist, but the inner beauty is what really matters.

– A lovely essence. I think you need to have a connection to something for it to really become beautiful. You can see someone who is pretty but it is only when you connect with their personality or character that they truly become beautiful (…or not)

– beauty is just a characteristic of a person. It could be the looks of a person but it could also be their personality.

– someone who is pretty

– shapes and qualities that form a branch of aesthetics

– Confidence and the way someone feels in their body

– science says symmetry, I say it’s how you act (nice actions = beauty. ugly actions = not so much beauty)

– personality hair skin freshness outlook on life

– being able to have confidence in everything that you do, and being pretty of course.

– what others define as imperfect

– How others look at you and what they see.

– Beauty is the rare moments when despite all of the ugliness in the world, there seems to be happiness and purity about something or someone that makes all the bad things worthwhile.

– Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some might find this beautiful, while others find that beautiful. Also, beauty is skin deep. A pretty face with an ugly heart is just ugly.

– Beauty is what society considers beautiful. In our society, the prevalent form of “beauty” seems to be the airbrushed model look.

These responses make it clear to see that beauty is no longer solely about being beautiful mentally, but also many people define it as what they see in the media: being thin, having a pretty face, and being “perfect”. These responses exemplify the influence that the media and magazines have on our perceptions of beauty. Although the influence of the media is heavy, many people still base their perceptions of beauty on that of inner beauty, as opposed to outer beauty. 

2. Do you consider yourself beautiful?

– Sometimes. On my good days…when I am successful…or feel like I look good in the mirror I might. I think self beauty comes from mood more than anything. If you are happy with yourself you look more beautiful to yourself in the mirror…rather than more objective things like how you’re hair looks. If you are having a bad day and you look nice enough to go out but you look in the mirror and see garbage something such as a…university acceptance might make you feel confident and beautiful. Beauty is all about confidence. However there is a downside to beauty. Girls “wheel” or “hook up” sometimes to feel needed or desirable. Every once in a while though this might lead to feeling like shit if you wheel too many times…but sometimes it makes you feel good if it raises your confidence…today I feel alright..not beautiful but not awful. Some days I feel like I’m at different parts of the spectrum.

– Yes i do. i know im beautiful on the inside, but its sometimes hard to know i am on the outside also. I am beautiful in my own, unique way

– No. Nor do I think most people in our culture consider themselves beautiful. We tend to see only the imperfections about ourselves.

– Sometimes. My Self Image varieties, but the human body is wonderful, and I am part of this amazing world, I have no reason to not feel beautiful.

There was a wide variety of responses to this question. The majority if people felt as though they were beautiful “sometimes” but not beautiful in terms of what the media sees as beautiful. 

3. Do you compare yourself to models and celebrities in magazines?

– Sometimes…but I think we all have to realize that they are celebrities for a reason. No matter how much make up we buy, how much time we spend on our hair or how much we DIET and work out..we’ll never look like them. They are airbrushed and made to look “desirable” or beautiful. However beauty isn’t always measured that way. Take Julianne Moore for example…she is kind of plain…but once you see her act she emanates this beauty…some woman are just beautiful when they sing or act and show some sort of desirable talent. When an okay looking guy sings he becomes exponentially hotter! As I said empirical information becomes beauty……so even if looks aren’t “beautiful” auditory information may create desire. Pheromones…excreted chemicals from our bodies actually create sub-conscious attractiveness between people. Studies show you are attracted to people with the opposite immune systems to people! sorry as I said…as beautiful as you make yourself you must remember celebrities are made to look beautiful and are in a different “league”…we should just strive to look our best!

– i try not to, but yes! every girl does at some point

– sometimes

– yes (x15)

– Yes. I try to not be touched by it, but I always find myself comparing to those girls.

– Yeahhhh.. It’s hard not to when the media portrays this flawless and perfect image of women. And men, too.

– I would be lying if I said no complelty but I realize that alot of the time celebs are photoshoped or have had hours upon hours of work with professional stylists and makeup people so I dont beat myself up about not looking like them

– absolutely not, they’re all fake.

– no

4. Do you think your life would be “better” if you better fit your definition of beauty?

– Yes, I do feel that if I change the parts of my appearance that I don’t like that I’ll feel better. (i.e. my weight, losing some weight over the summer boosted my confidence)

– I wish I could forget about the models and stuff, beauty as something magical and unique would make everyone’s life better, they wouldn’t be focusing on the superficial stuff.

– My life wouldn’t necessarily change, but I would be happier and less self-concious

Almost every response to this question was positive. Making it evident that the media and images in magazines have a negative effect on those who see them because it lowers their self-confidence and makes them wish they looked like the images they see. Thus, magazines contribute to leading one farther away from the good life because it leaves them discontent and unhappy. 

5. If you had the option to undergo plastic surgery to “correct” a part of your body, would you go through with it? Why?

– As a teen, i have always been teased about my big nose. for the longest time, i wanted to get nose surgery and my mom said she didnt blame me because i got the nose from her side of the family. but then i thought to myself, im beautiful the way i am, why change for other people?

– Yes

– No

– NEVER! You’ve got to embrace who you are. Changing one aspect of your physicality will not alter your perception of yourself in the long term. You will always find something “imperfect”.

– i think there are times when it is appropriate to undergo plastic surgery. i think the most important thing about beauty is comfort, and if it will help you feel more comfortable in your own skin, then why not? it’s a personal choice

– Yes I would. I feel so insecure about one particular part of body and having it “fixed” would mean I would have to worry about it.

– I would because sometimes the pressure to be the “ideal women” or have the “ideal body” is too great. Also it seems to make people more successful.

6. How does one become content with their appearance?

– Other people have to accept your appearance first, then you slowly see it from their point of view

– Confidence..raise your confidence…I guess we are harder on ourselves than we should be (especially me) Working on outer beauty is important…but it alone will wont make you feel beautiful. You have to succeed and feel good about yourself in other realms to truly feel desirable.

– Be happy with how you look! dont listen to other people! they are either haters or are jelous! make sure you love yourself on the inside also!

– It is a mindset. I think once one does not compare themselves to others it’s easier for them to be confident in their appearance and in who they are as a person. Everyone is beautiful. One needs to recognize their own beauty, both physical and metaphysical.

– you have to recognize your flaws and try to fix them and if you can’t, you just have to learn to love them.

7. What’s your favorite magazine?

All participants read magazines…therefore, I can quite confidently say that all readers are susceptible to the influence of the messages conveyed in those magazines, whether they be negative, or positive. 

8. Do you edit photos of yourself before posting them online? If so, why?

– very very rarely. if i do ever edit them, i only get rid of some of the breakouts on my chin.

– no

– sometimes because i want good pictures of me on facebook? but i also know anyone i really care about that i have on fbook knows what i look like no matter what so making yourself look hotter doesnt really help you out in the end..

– just bags under my eyes, so i don’t look dead

– here and there. i think people do it because they see themselves one way in a mirror and then they see a photo and it isn’t what they expected to see. photos can distort the way you look, it all depends on angles and lighting. i think people change the photos to create the person they see themselves as because i think they just want other people to also see them like that. i don’t think they purposely change the way the look knowing that they don’t actually look like that.

– Nope. I generally don’t post photos of myself on fb or anything, but when I do, I figure there’s no point pretending I look any different thatn I actually do.

– sometimes I whiten my teethe because I’m insecure about them

– nopeeee. my flaws are what makes me me!

– I used to, but not anymore. it made me feel better about myself, worried about how many “likes” I had. at this point, if you don’t like my picture or how I look, don’t look at it.
– Yeah. It makes be feel prettier. I often feel not good enough. Its part of the weight thing.
What’s wrong with having blemishes and teeth that aren’t perfectly white? Why do we think that these characteristics aren’t acceptable? IT’S BECAUSE OF THE MEDIA!!!!

9. Do you think the media showcases women in a negative or derogatory light? Explain.

– yes (derogatory) because they only showcase what makes us a ‘woman’. e.g. boobs, legs, waists, butts.

– I think sexual freedom is important in media however sometimes I think that all the woman are too skinny and I know they’ve been active in keeping me thin. I know staying healthy is important but I’m pretty sure I could gain tons of weight and still be healthy. I feel these days with some really revealing adverts are just as objectified as woman…but this is more recent in ads

– in a way, yes and no. There are lots of powerful, inspirational women out there who are great role models. but the media does tend to try to persuade girls to dress or look a certain way. they defin beauty for everybody

– I think that the media has a very specific idea of female beauty which is incredibly narrow-minded: skinny,perfect skin, perfect hair. Its frustrating that this is the image that we are bombarded with because beauty is so much more. Its hard to come to that understanding when you are younger and these are the only images that you are exposed to. Because the “beauty” of the women we see in magazines or ads is only physical and we don’t know who they really are besides what we see, beauty itself is objectified. Beauty becomes a set of features, a guideline or manual, when really beauty is incredibly variable and there is no one definition.

– yes. in magazines you seem women practically naked & they are photoshopped until no end. i think it’s wrong.


Every single participant agreed that the media showcases women in a negative light. Because of this, is it ethical for magazines to do so? Is it ethical for magazines to negatively influence women thus affecting them psychologically? 

10. Do you ever feel pressure to look a certain way? Explain.

yes. magazines and movies only ever use model-like actresses and they are used to portray things like students, daughters, sisters, and we start to believe that that is what we are suppose to look like

– Yeah. I feel like we always feel like we need to be a certain size, wear make up and wear certain types of clothes when I’m out. Social pressure is huge.. and we all want to be “popular” and “desirable”. However success in life does make you look better in the mirror than any number of missed out starbucks drinks makes you feel!

– i do feel pressure, but i don’t give into pressure.

– Yes, as much as I try to accept who I am and be confident, it is very hard in a society so preoccupied by beauty. And it is definitely more challenging at an all-girls school.

–  always. everyone feels the need to look “perfect” as represented on tv, in magazines, movies, etc.

Dove Campaign – Stoicism

This video is a visual representation of how the media alters models in order to better cater to their definition of beauty. 

When people see ads simliar to the one in this video, it encourages them to strive to appear more like them. Not only would this lower one’s self esteem, but it can lead to utter unhappiness. What is a solution to this problem?


(An excerpt from “Questions Asked by Philosophers): “The Stoics advocated exercising control over things that people can control, such as emotions and intent, while remaining indifferent to things, such as consequences, that cannot be controlled. They said that trying to control the uncontrollable leads to frustration and disappointment”

If one lived their life as a Stoic, that person would not be concerned with their body image as, for the most part, it cannot be changed. In doing so, one would achieve “the good life” and reach happiness by living in harmony with the universe. Instead of trying to change what cannot be changed, such as one’s face or body (for the most part), then they will be closer to living the good life.

The Evolution of Beauty – Twiggy vs. Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe (right), pop culture icon, was a size 12. Twiggy (left), model, was a size 0. Up until Twiggy came on the scene, curves were seen as beautiful. It was Twiggy’s lack thereof that sparked the desire within young girls to be thin. Despite Twiggy blaming her skinny-ness on genes, many girls feel both pressure and desire to be thin, like she was. This leads to discontent, unhappiness, and can even lead to eating disorders. In today’s society, people who are involved in appearance-oriented professions or activities often are those who face some of the most tremendous image pressures, and are extremely vulnerable to developing eating disorders.  Those at risk include ballet dancers, models, gymnasts, wrestlers, runners, and those in the public eye: such as actors and musicians. This is visibly evident in today’s media, where many artists such as Demi Lovato have felt pressure to look a certain way. As a result, Demi, along with thousands of other teens, engage in bulimic practices  in order to lose weight and achieve a look that they consider more desirable to the public.

Eating Disorders: Bulimia/Anorexia Nervosa

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating, followed by efforts to avoid weight gain. If a person binges on food they, as a result, feel overwhelmed with guilt. After feeling a loss of control, they tend to find various methods such as making themselves vomit, or laxative abuse, in order to rid their bodies of the food in which they consumed, so as to prevent weight gain.

Bulimia doesn’t always involve throwing up one’s food. If a person makes up for their binges by fasting, exercising in excess, or going on crash diets, this also qualifies as bulimia

People with bulimia can often go unnoticed by their peers because people with this illness are often at a normal weight, but may see themselves as being overweight.

Major Causes and Risk Factors:

Poor body image: Our society’s emphasis on being thin and equating this with beauty can lead to body dissatisfaction, particularly in young women bombarded withimages of an unrealistic physical ‘ ideal’. When young women are constantly surrounded by images of unrealistic bodies and ideals in the media it only leads them to feel as though they are not good enough, thin enough, or pretty enough. They resort to eating disorders in order to try and achieve the ‘perfection’ that they feel their bodies lack.
Low self-esteem: People who think of themselves as useless, worthless, and unattractive are at risk for bulimia.
Things that can contribute to low self-esteem include depression,and spending time in a negative home or school environment
Something that contributes in a signifcant way to low self-esteem is when a teen is unable to become “identity achieved” as observed by Erik Erikson (psychologist). As teens struggle to figure out who they are, they undergo what isreferred to as an “identity crisis”. They try out and explore various ways to discover who they are as a person, but when one is unable to do so, they are often left confused, sad, and with low self-esteem. These factors can contribute to a mental illness, which could eventually develop into an eating disorder such as Anorexia orBulimia Nervosa.


Oscar Wilde Believed that “Truth is beauty, and beauty is truth”

In order for a piece of art to be “beautiful” the artist must depict life as it truly is. This means that in order for a photograph of say, a person, to be beautiful, this photo must depict the person as he/she truly is in real life. Oscar Wilde would probably say that pictures of Photoshopped models/celebrities in magazines aren’t beautiful, as they depict a false reality as opposed to showcasing truth. Not only would Wilde probably agree that this Rollingstone cover of pop superstar Katy Perry to be unethical, but he would probably deem it as far from beautiful, as the Photoshopped version does not depict her as she is in real life. Many people I surveyed also admitted to editing photos of themselves to enhance their appearance, prior to posting them on Facebook. This also correlates with ethics because Wilde believed that it is immoral to misrepresent the subject of a work of art, as doing so is misrepresenting the truth: an unethical act.

To reiterate what was stated previously, through forms such as magazines, and television, the media influences our perception of beauty by constantly telling us that we are not good enough as we are. They promote falsified and unrealistic images of how both men, and women should look.

How does the media influence society’s perception of beauty?

There are so many magazines that constantly tell us that we need to be perfect. They encourage us to strive for this “perfection” and are always telling us through ads that we are not good enough as we are.

If people are constantly striving to be perfect, and forms of media such as magazines promote “perfection” then Plato might agree that the media is only encouraging people to be something that cannot be attained: perfect.

Plato believed in two worlds: the material world, and the world of forms. Referring to the article “Does Knowledge Begin with Doubt”, Plato believed that “everyone’s minds hold a form for concepts such as beauty. The form is separate from the concept and exists in an invisible universe known “only to the mind”. This means that perfection does not exist on earth, as it only exists in the world of forms. If perfection does not exist then why do magazines constantly promote that we attain it? It encourages people to seek a false reality that Plato would probably agree is impossible to reach.

One might believe that these magazines are unethical as many of them target young people who are vulnerable and susceptible to the thoughts of others. It could also be potentially argued by a utilitarian that magazines as a whole are good because they can be used to promote positive messages on a grand scale, but is it true that these positive messages outweigh the negative messages? I believe this to be false, as the negative effects that magazines have on teens especially are detrimental, and not only negatively one’s mental health, but also their physical health as well. After surveying 30 people, 100% of the participants unanimously agreed that magazines cause more harm that good to young people.