The Current Beauty Standards And How Teenage Girls Are Affected by Them5 minute
As of today, media that adolescents are exposed to on the regular has been reported to cause dissatisfaction with their bodies, low self-esteem, and eating disorders. When teenage girls spend hours and hours on social media, they begin to wonder why they don’t have an hourglass figure, or a snatched face with sharp cheekbones, or perfectly toned thighs with a gap in between. The problem with this is the fact that at the end of the day, there is just one kind of body type that gets the most screen-time. Up until the very recent body positivity movement, media has been propagating beauty standards that send across unhealthy messages to teenagers.
Constantly having been subject to these beauty standards, young girls often find themselves questioning whether they look “normal” or not. Photos posted by female celebrities are quite often either Photoshopped or Facetuned in such a manner, that they are barely recognizable. A senior reporter for Insider at London recounts her experience as she asked influencers to edit her selfies and turn her into a completely different looking person. “It just reminded me how damaging it is to chase an unattainable ideal of perfection”.
Recently, a celebrity posted a picture of herself in which she looked almost entirely unrecognizable - a plastic surgeon commented that for her to look that way, she must have had to get a nose job, filler injections, and fat removal in her face to make such dramatic changes. On the flip side, it is that much easier to attain such a “face” by using applications available online - the difference is hardly perceptible.
The problem with this is that the more this culture is appropriated, the more these beauty standards are propagated, the further it drives the young girls - who are bombarded with such picture-perfect faces on a daily basis - to somehow try and achieve unrealistically high standards of beauty. The photographs on social media about the so called “influencers” that young girls know nothing about become their own benchmarks, and having a doll-like face with full lashes, high cheekbones, and plump lips thus becomes the most sought-after commodity.
A root cause for this is a lack of diversity shown in the media, which idealizes white, tall, and slim women. Not only is it a surefire way to drive teenage girls towards eating disorders, this eurocentric standard of beauty also incites certain conflicting thoughts about their ethnicities in their minds. They are exposed to a society that just doesn’t provide enough representation to their culture. This has a massively negative impact on their self-esteem and body image.
In order to achieve this perceived notion of “perfection” brought about by the current standards of beauty, teenage girls have been known to go to impossible extremes so that their bodies can look a certain way. In addition to all the existent challenges of being a teenager in the 21st century, adolescents also need to deal with needing to look impressionable, just like the “perfect” models they see everywhere.
According to research, around 3% of teenager girls are reported to experience some sort of eating disorder in the span of their life. Wondering what’s to blame? The rigid beauty ideals, obviously. They are correlated with taking drastic measures to modify one’s appearance to suit the idealistic beauty standards.
Indisputably, females have been the primary target for criticism regarding weight. At any point in time, globally, there is an estimated 40-50% of women who are in the process of shedding weight. During the pandemic, several people took the opportunity to try and achieve a “glow-up” before the lockdown was lifted, so that they could emerge with flawless skin, toned limbs and that enviable hourglass figure. This led to a surge in fitness programs that got popularized on platforms such as TikTok, and adolescents were quick to jump onto the bandwagon without having carefully done any research regarding the type of workout that is suitable for their body type. This was highly detrimental to both the mental and physical health of impressionable young girls.
Thankfully, off late, there has been a push towards the diversification of current beauty standards, in terms of both body image and ethnicity. Brands have taken up vows to not Photoshop their models, and several celebrities have come forth and spoken about body positivity and loving their real selves. Find out about some Instagram Influencers like Jonelle Lewis (@jonelleyoga) and Artika Gunathasan (@arti.speaks) propagating the acceptance of all bodies, regardless of body type or looks, who you can follow this year.
Celebrities like Demi Lovato, Chrissy Teigen, and Lizzo are the well-known, highly beloved champions of body positivity in Hollywood.
In 2018, Lovato revealed to E!News she needed to show her fans that what they see when they look at her account “isn’t always what’s real”. On embracing her flaws, she said, “I don’t even like to call them flaws, it’s just a part of who I am — and show the world that I’m imperfect, but that’s what makes me beautiful.”
In 2019, Billie Eilish spoke her truth in a Calvin Klein ad by telling her fans the reason behind her baggy clothes. She had then explained that she didn’t want the world to know everything about her, or the way her body looked underneath those clothes - so she relied on her fashion as a crutch to protect herself. But make no mistake, she has come a long way. Her remarkable progress with the struggles she faced regarding body image can be seen clearly. On Sunday, the 2nd of May, the 19 year old vocalist appeared on the cover of the British Vogue dressed in a stunning corset and latex skirt co-ords. The cover line quotes the singer, who says “It’s all about what makes you feel good” and then goes on to expand on this very idea in the magazine interview.
More and more influencers are shedding the notion of a perfect body-type. A trend that erupted on Instagram in 2018 had girls posting their “before” and “after” photos - and the difference between them is a mere 10-seconds, and not months, as viewers might believe.
Ultimately, it is important to recognize that media literacy will help shed the standards that enforce ideals of beauty. Learning to identify messages that are being sent across through the media, and pointing out unrealistic ideas and imagery is the first step in this process. Eventually, you will find yourself being able to distinguish marketing efforts and advertising tactics from what is genuine and authentic.
Being insecure about your appearance is normal, and quite common. But it is important to understand that everyone around you is, too. While beauty is a word that has been used to describe anything that is pleasing to the eye and the mind, it does not need to lie in the confines of the beauty standards enforced by society.