by Afiqah Sumayyah

Women and girls are being given the wrong message about beauty. Beauty today is associated with one’s body shape, weight, height and facial proportion, and relies entirely on marketers’ idea of what it means to be beautiful. This definition of beauty by advertisements and social media has created unhealthy expectations in society today. As a result, billions of people are trapped in a culture of superficial beauty.

With beauty comes attraction and desire – that’s the message advertisers and social media feed us. And who wouldn’t want to be popular, or feel desired? Women everywhere pay dearly for this unrealistic standard of beauty: Beauty that’s intoxicating. It consumes you. Cages you. Corrupts you with vanity.

Millions of teenagers all over the world now struggle with poor body image. Eating disorders among teenagers are on the rise and have become the norm. Between 2018 and 2019, over 5 million people were affected by eating disorders – mostly caused by dissatisfaction with one’s own body. This is due to rising social media presence, and with Instagram promoting the idea that the ideal body type is to have a flat stomach.

The falseness of photos on social media also causes people to begin to have a negative body image. Photoshopping of images and use of image filters on mobile apps to make one look flawless create a faux world of beauty that can be psychologically harmful. Taking and then editing selfies is harmful towards both the audience as well as the person taking these pictures because it directs focus to their flaws and imperfections. These then can possibly lead to body dysmorphia, low self-esteem, depression, etc.

Social media ads also propagate impractical and inappropriate beauty messages. Wrinkle removers ads make one think that wrinkles aren’t normal and should be removed because they are not aesthetically appealing. Some ads verge on insult and racism – eg: ads for skin whiteners which encourage the stereotype that having white skin automatically makes you prettier than a black skinned person.

Alongside social media, the modelling industry continues to this day to set an incredibly unrealistic standard for beauty. Models tend to be malnourished and underweight. The average model weighs just 113 pounds/51 kg. This corrupts the minds of young children as well as adult women as it teaches them that to be pretty you have to be skinny. Being underweight can cause fragile bones, weaker immune system, hair loss, dry skin etc. However, this is rarely spoken about because the industry has influenced society to have the mindset that the skinnier you are, the more beautiful you’ll be.

By the modelling industry’s standards, women as small as size 6 are considered to be plus-sized. This causes women to have even deeper body issues; a “plus-sized” woman may think her body is not beautiful and that she is unacceptably “fat”. The proliferation of all sorts of cosmetic surgeries adds to the severity of body dysmorphic disorder in society, and leads to further addiction to unrealistic beauty.

Don’t be trapped by false beauty ideals. Beauty is more than perfect physical features. True beauty is versatile. It can be simple. It can be “ugly”. It can be pale and “sad”. But it’s beautiful nevertheless. Be confident and accept yourself for who you are because everyone is beautiful in their own way.