Beauty Standards

Are they a friend or a foe?

Sienna Parmelee | Demo 64

Written by Amelia Reed

How many times have you looked in the mirror and wondered, “am I attractive enough?”

Why is it that when we look in the mirror we suddenly wish we had a slimmer waist, more muscle definition, a stronger jawline and more curves on our chest and hips? These are the beauty standards that we compare ourselves to. Not only are these standards unrealistic, unachievable and toxic, they’re also the baseline for how we view other people and ourselves. Why is it that we tell ourselves that perfection is the only option when we all know that perfection will never be achievable?

Why do we tear down women for having a flat chest and destroy a man’s confidence just because he doesn’t have a clearly defined six pack?
Evolutionarily speaking, one could argue survival of the fittest. We could have evolved to have these standards so that the healthiest adults would bear the healthiest children. However, we must remember that beauty does not equate to health. In my personal experience, it’s the opposite. For myself and many others, beauty standards cause harm to both our physical and mental health.

For many men and women, the need to fit in is so strong that we will greatly alter ourselves and the way we think and feel about our bodies. These narratives that we tell ourselves about whether or not we’re good enough are known to lead to low self esteem, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and even alcoholism.

Eating disorders, among many other issues that can be caused by low self esteem, are not only harmful to your physical health, but also to your mental health. “Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses,” states the National Eating Disorders Association. “National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.”

So if beauty standards are so damaging to society, what is their purpose and why do we still continue to worship them?

Professions such as modeling, fashion, acting and performing not only make a living off of conforming to these beauty standards, they also create them. Such impossible ideals have become the foundation and the greatest selling point for the fashion, makeup and weight loss industries. Industries like these manipulate the photos and videos you see to help instill these harmful values. No man, woman or child can compare or compete with the alterations made using photoshop.

What would society be like if we stopped comparing ourselves to the actors and actresses that we see on screen? Why do we compare ourselves to people that have been placed so high up on their own pedestal that their influences on our cultures and values have been coined as phrases like the “Kardashian Effect” and the “Kylie Jenner Effect?”

Our baseline view of society should have never been placed at impossible standards. So next time you look into a mirror and wonder if you meet beauty standards, ask yourself who you’re comparing yourself to and why. You might find that once you discard that need for perfection, you start to love the person you see in the mirror more than you ever thought you could.