The Unrealistic Beauty Standards
How unrealistic beauty standards shape the mindsets of entire generations.
From the very start, when we are born, we are all told to believe in some unrealistic standards of beauty considering slim as beautiful and fair as lovely. Those standards are taught as the qualifications that we are expected to meet to be called “beautiful” purely based on the societal construct. But today, where everyone is growing in our society with the upsurge of social media, those beauty standards are fading and evolving by throwing a reflection on the new definition of beauty which comes in every shape, size, and colour.
Now, the word ‘beautiful’ is used in a much wider sense, and its existence is deemed more towards its values and beautiful thoughts which stay perpetual. But still, when we go towards the huge platform of media like movies, TV, magazines, and commercials we see them all so pervasive of old standards of assuming what our culture told us to believe was: smooth, symmetrical, clean, thin, traditionally feminine, delicate and young.
The word ‘beautiful” has meant hundreds of different things throughout history, if we go through it in a deep, we see that our culture's current beauty standard is only about 60-70 years old. It turns important for us to go through it as it paves down the lane for understanding how subjective beauty can be and also for breaking the ongoing stereotypical views with a hint of a new idea of beauty. When we understand how subjective beauty could be, it opens a new room for us where we realise there are just as many ways to be beautiful as there are women in the world.
How beauty has changed throughout history?
The beauty standards for women have been changed countless times over the years. Though we know that each body type is beautiful, regardless of some societal standards. The world is constantly been changing its mind on which look is considered to be the “best”.
Let’s take an example from Ancient Greece (c. 500-300 B.C.) where an ideal woman was celebrated as plump and fair-skinned. The sculptures from Ancient Greece are the best evidence for this, where we see women were built curvy. If the woman seemed bigger, it was meant she was wealthier as she had more access to food. Plus, they even considered uni-brows to be the ideal brows for women, their focus was more towards the two hair threads above the eyes which they even used to measure.
In the Han Dynasty, (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) the first definition of the same came was from the feet. Small feet were all the rage during this era. Young girls had their feet wrapped in tight binding to prevent their feet from growing, causing extreme disfiguration. The aimed result was to have feet no longer than 3-4 inches. To this day, women are still favoured to have small feet, though the practice of foot binding has been illegal for over a century. Some older women continue the practice in secret as a tradition.
The era of Corset began in Victorian England (c. 1837-1901). The beauty was inclined towards the size of the waist. And in the Golden Age of Hollywood (c. the 1930s-1950s) Marilyn Monroe was the prime golden standard of beauty. She brought the end of the slim figure trend and set the new parameters that emerged during the roaring twenties. Stars such as Lana del Rey still look to the Golden Age for beauty inspiration.
Do societal beauty standards cause mental health problems?
Barbie dolls and Victoria's Secret’s angels are just a few icons that have shaped the outer appearance of the women to be portrayed. The media have spent billions of dollars advertising beauty campaigns such as “easy breezy beautiful Covergirl,” “maybe she’s born with it; maybe it’s Maybelline” and “kiss your thin lips goodbye” to promote the sale of makeup and skincare products to young girls. Television commercials, female movie actors, and fashion magazines have taught the young generation the importance of dressing style as an idol image for their social acceptance.
“Children and teens are exposed to over 25,000 ads in a year, and companies spend over a billion in a year on marketing towards children and teens” this leads to the majority of bullying in school which is mainly related to the physical image. Kids are often teased for being overweight which makes a prominent effect on their mental health. Even in our country, many girls apply lightening material that has bleaching products in it because society always taught that being dark is sort of a nightmare.
It has been seen that people with negative body image are more depressive, anxious, and suicidal which even leads to eating disorders. According to the research, by the age of 6 girls start to get anxious about their weight and by elementary school, about 46% of kids want to be on diet.
What can we do about it?
The standards that we see around us are socially accepted and nearly unrealistic to attain. To overcome this we need to understand that we all are genetically different, we need to appreciate those differences and stop comparing ourselves to someone else. We need to even believe that what we see online is controlled and what someone wants to show. We should always consider our health first before taking any steps and put it on the top of our priority list. And lastly, we should understand these standards are set by society and we are part of it, which we need to change.