I’m watching America’s Next Top Model reruns, and it’s curious how insistently the contestants are exhorted to “show your personality” and “be yourself.” These expressions obviously ask the women to do the exact opposite: to hide their own self and personality behind the mask of a fake persona. People don’t need to make efforts to manifest their real personalities because they already do that by default.
There is a lot more variation in the body types of the models than in the personality they are told to adopt. For some mysterious reason, “personality” has come to mean being exuberant, gregarious, effervescent, and over the top (i.e. like the way I am.) Everything else is dismissed not as a bad or inadequate personality but as no personality at all.
Here is the paradox, though. These women compete to be runway / photo models. And this is a profession where having an impassive, blank face is obviously more valuable than being super talkative and funny. So the contestants are pushed towards a behavior that will handicap them professionally. Everybody knows this but the socially acceptable definition of “personality” is stronger than any practical consideration.
P.S. By the way, here is a small exercise to determine if you have a healthy body image. Watch a couple of episodes of the show, look at the models’ bodies (female models if you are a woman; male models if you are a man). If as a result of the experience you think, “These models are beautiful. I’m beautiful”, and you feel no tension between these ideas, you have a healthy body image.