Opinion: Societal beauty standards distract people from what really matters


Despite what “White Chicks” has taught us, beauty is not restricted to blonde hair and fair skin. In fact, it has no restrictions at all. The standard of beauty is derived from mass media, environmental factors and—most prominently—a region’s culture. In Iran, women wear the bandages from nose jobs with pride. In Kenya, women wear elephant tusks in their ears in order to stretch them. In South Korea, women revere pale skin and double eyelids. Although there is variation in the standard of beauty, another nation’s idea of perfection is no less pernicious than ours.

From unrealistic Barbie dolls to anti-aging cream, we are conditioned from a young age to believe that our biggest enemy is our own reflection. The paucity of inclusion in media has only perpetuated this damaging, preconceived notion. Researchers at the University of Southern California found that, despite being the largest ethnic minority in the United States, Hispanics made up a mere 5.8 percent of Hollywood actors in 2016. Furthermore, a study conducted by UCLA in 2016 demonstrated that individuals of Asian, Native American and biracial descent together made up just 6.6 percent of Hollywood actors in films. Social media and the entertainment industry prevail at categorizing those who interact with it into the two subsections of “physically appealing” and “not,” and the results are catastrophic. We spend the entirety of our lives chasing this unattainable ideal of perfection, reaching like Icarus for the sun, and ultimately falling back to Earth as we invariably fail.

However, this is not to insinuate that makeup or plastic surgery are inherently bad. How an individual chooses to express themselves is, quite frankly, no one else’s business. It becomes an issue when the individual uses makeup or plastic surgery as a vice to mask their own lack of self-esteem or confidence. Low self-esteem is not derived from appearance, but rather from the failure to realize that a rose and a sunflower are equal in beauty, despite looking nothing alike. This dissatisfaction is not innate, as we are not born hating our reflection; it is learned. From adolescence onward, we are subjected to a ceaseless bombardment of restrictive societal norms. The misconception some people have before they go under the knife is that a surgeon can “fix” the mistakes made in their genetic code—when, in reality, nothing was broken, to begin with. When you “fix” one perceived error, you will uncover a million other mistakes. Beauty products and plastic surgery may enhance the external appearance, but it will never grant self-esteem where there is none. Confidence is not a commodity that can be bought off a shelf or sculpted on an operating table.

The beauty of another is not the absence of your own. We get so caught up in being pretty, we forget to be pretty kind, pretty strong or pretty smart. Life is neither a game to play nor a competition to win, it is merely an experience—a lovely one, at that.

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