When I was twelve, I downloaded an app to edit photos. On this app, there are features like “reshape” where users can make themselves look slimmer, “patch” where users can patch over their blemishes, and “smooth” where users can smooth out their skin. Users can make their eyes bigger, their lips puffier, and their noses smaller. The results are scarily realistic, imperceptible to anyone that hasn’t seen the original photo. Instead of seeing the initial photograph with all the person’s imperfections, teenagers are seeing the edited picture, and believe that it is what somebody naturally looks like. Unrealistic beauty standards haven’t done anyone any good.
As social media becomes more prevalent, younger and younger kids are getting exposed to edited, filtered pictures. They grow up alongside such images, believing that they are real, and that men and women actually look that way. Young girls see Kim Kardashian, who has admitted to getting plastic surgery, and desperately try to get their bodies to look like hers when it is all but impossible to do so naturally. They see celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Jennifer Lopez, who have their own private chefs that cook them foods ideal for losing weight or for maintaining muscle tone. According to health.com, “a full-time private celebrity chef earns an annual salary of up to $150,000 plus health benefits.” This isn’t an expense that ordinary people can pay. Nor do most of us get customized meals every day that have an ideal amount of proteins and sugars for our particular bodies.
Constantly chasing model-like figures leaves teenagers more depressed than ever. According to pewresearch, “The total number of teenagers who recently experienced depression increased 59% between 2007 and 2017.” Science Daily also shares how, “Dislike of one's physical appearance, formally known as body dissatisfaction, affects up to 61% of teens worldwide. It has been identified as a risk factor for eating disorders, unhealthy behaviours, and poor mental health.” Teens might take to starving themselves or purging in order to achieve skinniness, developing eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Bullying kids who don’t fit the ideal body type has also become more prevalent. Comments like “ur fat” or “ur disgusting” or a wide variety of other nasty comments can also make teens think they aren’t beautiful and need to change the way they look. Sadly, it’s not surprising that a larger population of teens are depressed considering most teens don’t fit today’s beauty standards.
Barbie and Ken dolls have also instilled an idea of what an ”ideal body” should look like. No human being should have the same body proportions that Barbie and Ken have. While they have gotten better about making the dolls more inclusive, when I was a little girl I could only play with the ripped Ken dolls and stick-thin Barbies. It was the same for most teenagers.
Teens have curves. Teens have a stomach. Teens have stretch marks. Teens have acne. Teens have scars. Teens have crazy curly hair. Teens have crooked yellowing teeth. Teens have body hair. Teens have a hard time gaining weight. Teens also have a hard time losing it.
Teens are of all different shapes and sizes and colors. Teens are of all different ethnicities and nationalities. Teens are beautiful!
In Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance, sculptures and paintings of women that were meant to showcase beauty were mainly of women with tummies. The Goddess of Love and Beauty, Aphrodite or Venus, is depicted as a woman with a bit of a belly. She used to be the beauty standard, but two-thousand years later she is not.
It’s normal for beauty standards to change, but they really shouldn’t have to. They should include all body types and all different features and characteristics, that way everyone fits the beauty standard throughout time.
While many teens might be happy with their body, clearly many are not. It’s great that those people that fit the beauty standards love their appearance, no matter how they got there. But more honesty is needed in the media. You got plastic surgery? Great, don’t lie about it when people ask. You edited your face or body before posting it? Great, just say that. It’s sad that people think that they need surgery or to be edited in order to be beautiful, but if more people were honest about what they truly looked like, more teens probably would think that their natural is perfect too. Teens wouldn’t feel such pressure to spend money on surgery, injections, gym memberships, eating disorder rehab, or antidepressants. Teens wouldn’t feel the need to change how they look, however drastic that may be.
How many more teens have to be depressed in order for beauty standards to include everyone?
Amy Spencer Updated May 16, 2013. “How the Stars Get and Stay Slim: Private Chefs Dish up the Goods.” Health.com, https://www.health.com/celebrities/how-the-stars-get-and-stay-slim-private-chefs-dish-up-the-goods.
Borreli, Lizette. “Plus-Size Barbie Gets Slammed for 'Inaccurate' Portrayal of Curvy Women: Doll Has Triple Chin, High BMI [Photos].” Medical Daily, 24 Dec. 2013, https://www.medicaldaily.com/plus-size-barbie-gets-slammed-inaccurate-portrayal-curvy-women-doll-has-triple-chin-high-bmi-photos.
Geiger, A.W., and Leslie Davis. “A Growing Number of American Teenagers – Particularly Girls – Are Facing Depression.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 23 Dec. 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/12/a-growing-number-of-american-teenagers-particularly-girls-are-facing-depression/.
“Spectacular but Occasionally Sagging: Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art at the British Museum.” Museums - The World Museums Network, https://museu.ms/article/details/108928/spectacular-but-occasionally-sagging-defining-beauty-the-body-in-ancient-greek-art-at-the-british-mu.
“Teen Dislike of Physical Appearance Strong Predictor of Depression in Early Adulthood.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 7 Dec. 2020, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201207195131.htm.
Vkim. “5 Celebrities Who Have Been Open about Steroids.” Muscle & Fitness, 30 June 2020, https://www.muscleandfitness.com/athletes-celebrities/news/5-celebrities-who-have-been-open-about-steroids/.