The pressure of living up to society’s expectations of beauty is real and a widespread epidemic. It doesn’t matter if they are stay-at-home moms in their 40s or 20-something runway models—it’s irrefutably apparent that every single woman, at some point, struggles with accepting her physical appearance, overcoming self-doubt and feeling comfortable in her own skin, due to the shallow and appearance-focused standards of beauty espoused by the media.
Starting from a very young age, little girls are inadvertently brainwashed into believing that being “pretty” is their ticket to popularity and social acceptance. As a result, it has become perfectly natural for a young girl to question her attractiveness and develop a lifelong quest for aesthetic perfection that often lasts well into her adult life.
Women leading real lives, which usually involve having a busy career, maintaining relationships, child-rearing, paying bills and juggling multiple household duties, find it challenging to meet these ideals for beauty because they lack sufficient time, energy and financial resources. Even the women who earn a living from their looks, such as models and actresses, have to withstand the pressures of staying attractive because of exposure to the beauty and fashion industry’s ruthless standards.
Given this dismal portrayal of our social reality we need to figure out what we can do to empower the contemporary woman so that she feels whole, complete and accomplished even if she doesn’t measure up to the perceived ideal of beauty and own her unique brand of beauty, even if it does not fit within the conventional mold. I believe that we need to tackle this by igniting a beauty revolution that addresses the issue on both an individual and collective level.
Dealing with it on an individual level involves making a concerted efforts towards bringing about an internal shift within young girls and women, educating them on how they can maintain a strong sense of self-worth and develop an identity that is independent of outward appearances.
We can make that possible as a society by changing the entire paradigm of beauty. We need to take measures to moderate or alter the messages and images propagated by the media and other key influencers in our society so that they align with a healthier ideal of women’s beauty that draws the focus from physical attractiveness to her accomplishments and her character.
Parenting workshops should be established in communities where parents are taught how to raise children to develop a clear sense of identity and a healthy body image. In conjunction with that we need to conduct mandatory high school and college self-improvement programs where kids can learn essential life skills that give them the mental and emotional tools to become psychologically healthy individuals. Hosting support groups specifically for girls and women dealing with self-esteem and body image issues will provide them with a community where they can honor each other’s experiences and support them on their journeys.
When it comes to the media I recommend several shifts, some of which have already come into play. There needs to be an equal representation of women from all races, colors, ethnicity and body types. We also need to give more exposure to women who accomplish impressive feats outside the world of glamour such as in the fields of business, education, philanthropy, sports and science. Another important step would be regulating TV commercials and print campaigns that capitalize on the vulnerability and insecurity of women to make a profit.
We have reached an ideal time in history to add momentum to the looming beauty revolution. The old paradigm, which consisted of forming opinions about women based solely on appearances, is antiquated and needs to be done away with. As a civilization, we need to move towards more progressive ways of being and thinking so that we can empower girls and women to feel comfortable in their own skin and fulfill their highest potential.