You Need to Change Your Mindset About Beauty Standards and Body Positivity
In this digital era, photos and videos that aim to flaunt beauty and the concept of its importance are ubiquitous on the Internet and in daily life, whether it be visuals of models advertising the brands that they work for or beauty products intended to keep skin spotless. They’re also in abundance on social media such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Due to how often we are exposed to these types of media, it is undoubtedly easy to feel insecure about how people perceive your external looks and whether you live up to certain beauty standards. You may feel the need to have ‘clear skin’, to be a certain weight, or change something about your appearance to appear acceptable to society.
However, I propose that as a collective society, we need to change our mindset about beauty standards and body positivity for the betterment of all, and here are a few reasons why:
1. Your impact is larger than you think.
To an extent, all of us are people-pleasers, because humans naturally seek to conform to the social environments that they happen to be in. People-pleasing puts you in a tough position if everyone voices an opinion about your appearance. Obviously, the formation of thought or opinion is inevitable, but saying it out loud is a different story. You’re not responsible for the first thought that you have (for example, “they have so many pimples) because of the environment that you are raised in. However, you are responsible for the next thought and action that you have (for example, “as long as they’re comfortable in their skin, it’s none of my business”).
‘Beauty standards’, which are what are deemed ‘socially acceptable’ ways of presenting your skin, body, clothing, and other appearance-related concepts have evolved over the years. The problem with attempting to conform to beauty standards is that they are, and always will be ever-changing. Therefore, changing yourself to fit a stereotype takes a lot of effort and energy. Normalising certain appearances while condoning others is, ultimately, just mean – if you have nothing to say, don’t say it, because your words or even a subtle disgusted expression may leave a bigger mark on a person’s self-esteem. This is especially so in a digitalised and globalised world where your words can reach so many people and hurt them.
The takeaway from this is that if you have nothing to say, stay silent – more on that in the next point.
2. Societal norms can be damaging to your mental health.
Societal and peer pressure can provoke intrusive thoughts and insecurities. Personally, on multiple occasions, I experienced disheartening situations where the first thing that some people close to me had pointed out upon seeing me after a long time is whether or not there is a pimple on my face. Believe me, more often than not, people are already aware of the state of their facial features and whether they have acne, stretch marks, and so on.
Pointing it out to others may do more harm than good, and this is evidenced by a United Kingdom study on UK adults, where citizens had indicated that 35% of them felt depressed and 34% felt anxious about their body image. Constant reminders about their appearance, especially if they are feeling insecure about how they appear to begin with, may cause some people to fall deeper into mental health struggles and trigger eating disorders (ED).
With that in mind, how do you fend yourself against perpetuating these ‘beauty standards’ and negative thinking about appearances?
1. Do it for yourself.
Ironically, unnecessary external stress and pressure for skincare or weight can make it worse. Putting yourself in a position of constant stress if ‘flaws’ don’t disappear and obsessing over eliminating flaws, unfortunately, leads to unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life. Your body is yours, and not anyone else’s – therefore a healthy relationship with your skin and body starts with yourself. The happiness you receive from your appearance should not be gained from external validation and people-pleasing.
This sounds a lot easier than it truly is, but you need to learn to accept your scars, acne, stretch marks, and other so-called ‘imperfections’ that you may have. Realistically, they are not ‘imperfections’ at all –bodily flaws and extra weight are simply a natural part of you and your life. Try to hopefully learn how to love yourself for how you are presently and remember that you cannot change your appearance dramatically overnight. However, this does not mean that you should abandon all thoughts of clear skin or less weight completely. Keep in mind that your mind and your body coexist and both need space and time if you do have the goal of improving any part of your appearance.
Being content with your appearance is not equivalent to disregarding it completely, and does not mean you must look unkempt all the time. Intrinsically remind yourself that your aim is to have healthy skin or a healthy weight, because inevitably, ‘beauty’ really comes from staying healthy.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Now, I know that this, too, is a lot more difficult than it sounds, particularly when advertisements are constantly pressuring you that the main reason to purchase their skincare products is so that you can attract a significant other or get accepted into your dream job. This basically perpetuates the idea that your external appearance is the main indicator of success in life – something that simply is not true.
Everyone has different skin types, skin colours, different hormones, different genes, and different living conditions, therefore it is crucial to remember that what is easy to achieve for one person (such as glowy-looking skin) may not be as easy for another. Social media filters or digital retouching often found online and in the media that we consume create unrealistic beauty standards that we, unfortunately, look up to. Of course, it is alright to consume social media content, but with caution. We must remember that people usually post their ‘highlights’ where they are looking polished and neat, rather than their so-called ‘bad’ sides, like when their face is breaking out with acne or when they are having a bad hair day.
3. Celebrate individual beauty – it exists even in the plain moments.
This article has asked you to remember a lot of things, but this one is definitely equally as important. Remember that how someone chooses to display their external experience, or how their appearance naturally looks, is not for you to judge. This is inclusive of, but not limited to how much makeup they wear, whether they are wearing false eyelashes, what clothes they wear and how they wear them, how their weight looks, and how their facial marks look like. ‘Beauty’ is not a concept exclusive to the female population, either – we should celebrate individual beauty regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or nationality – essentially, without discrimination or marginalisation.
It is time to unlearn the stigma that it is alright to perceive people negatively for how they look. As a society, we must help to eliminate the fears and unhealthy obsessions with looking perfect and to decrease the mental health toll caused by appearances. Self-love is difficult but such a rewarding concept, so try to learn to love yourself for who you are. Your spirit shines brighter than your external appearance. Someone’s appearance is not all there is to a person, so if you want to ‘look good’, do it to stay healthy, for yourself, and not for others. Never feel like you need to look a particular way to be accepted in society. My last message to you is to uplift others and spread the message – you never know who needs it