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Don’t get me wrong. Physical attractiveness is a very important aspect of life. Animals that conform to the society’s idea of beauty, are perceived to have more positive character traits. What has come to be known as the ‘Halo Effect’, supports the hypothesis, that people believe “what is beautiful is good”. This is why we draw our angels as fair maidens, and our devil as an ugly, little toad. But, I digress. What I really want to discuss is the circus of beauty standards. Beauty is a fluid concept, that changes with the variation of spatial, and temporal co-ordinates. What was considered ‘beautiful’ in medieval Europe is starkly different from the standards of beauty in post-Truth America, for example. But, almost always and everywhere, the standards are set by those who have something to sell us. In their bid to roll in the gold, they have created an epidemic in the wake of the beauty industry – the Beast of Self-Hate.
Tyranny of Beauty
The media is constantly projecting an unattainable idea of what is beautiful. Even the perfectly gorgeous models are airbrushed, slimmed down, or ‘bootied’ up further. They are made into examples of beauty, that do not exist, beyond the pages of glossy magazines. These absurd norms are making their way into the social consciousness. Celebrities, who go under the knife, or crash diet, to attain these ideals then, reinforce the inanity. A vicious cycle of oppression by beauty is consuming our fragile egos.
The psychological impact is significant. Eating disorders, like anorexia or bulimia, are on the rise. Depression, steroid use, and obsessive plastic surgery are also rampant. In its most benign form, these standards of beauty are messing up the self-esteem in people. Everyday, youth across the globe are struggling with weight, fat, or skin tone. Older men and women are hiding their worry lines behind injections of plastic skin. People of color are undergoing skin lightening treatments. Those who can’t afford any of it, are trapped in the filtered Instaworld, loathing themselves for their minutest imperfections. This is not everyone, but, this is a lot of us!
What does it take to Fight the System?
Earlier in 2017, a gorgeous girl, Zoiey Smale was crowned Miss United Kingdom. She was slated to represent UK in the Miss United Continents pageant in Ecuador, in the near future. Zoiey, who is a UK Size 10 (India Size S, for comparison), was told by the pageant organizers to lose considerable weight, to become a serious contender. The 28-year old struggled with the feedback first, before deciding to return her crown.
Now, this act of renunciation is not as easy to accomplish, as it may sound. It is easier to succumb to the pressure, resort to any means possible, and attain the expected size of XXS. Because, at the end of that road, lies a pot of gold. It took immense courage for Miss UK 2017, to stand up to an organization full of people, who toy with the self-esteem of young girls, to keep up the charade of the impossible standards. And, we are sitting up to take note.
Brave people, like Zoiey Smale, or Ashley Graham, are rays of hope. These role models are quietly, but firmly, giving the world, and us, a lesson in self-love. They refuse to let the free market decide their worth, basis their body parts. And, they refuse to feel not beautiful, because some manual said so.
Changing the Narrative
Small events sometimes gather enough momentum to become an avalanche. Zoiey’s example has the potential to snowball. There are little practices we can undertake to change the conversation in our lives:
- Find that thing that you love about yourself – is it your eye, your voice, your taste in books? Celebrate that everyday. Tell yourself how kickass you are, because of your singularity.
- Move, exercise. Even if it’s a just a stroll, everyday. Exercise releases endorphins, that makes us feel good about ourselves. Let’s use all the resources we have inside our beautiful bodies.
- Think of five diverse, real people in your life, who you think are beautiful. Appreciate their differences. Notice what you love about them. Almost always, you would find, they have no similarity to the crazy ideals that beauty industries sell.
- Do not compliment the ‘beauty’ in children. Compliment their personalities, their kindness, their zest for life.
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